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Tolly, Bolly and a prism of optimism

Yash Chopra chanting ‘Tollywood-Bollywood bhai-bhai’ on a recent trip to Writers’ Buildings. Planman Live and Columbia Tristar making and marketing a Joy Goswami story. Mumbai’s Triplecom Media stepping in to produce Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer. Subhash Ghai pursuing director Rituparno Ghosh, whose next film will be in Hindi. Tollygunge’s reigning screen queen padding up for a production partnership between Garia and Goregaon… The Tolly-Bolly ‘brotherhood’ is ready to talk big bucks.

Actress Rituparna Sengupta and producer Sunil Saini, with wife Nitu, have launched Prism Entertainment Pvt Ltd, with plans to go global with celluloid tales from the two cities. The production company is five shooting days away from completing its inaugural film, Alo, directed by veteran Tarun Majumdar and starring Rituparna. The fledgling firm’s second project, with director Subhas Sen, will begin post-Poila Boisakh.

“I suggested the partnership to Ritu one day over dinner, and since she, too, was enthusiastic, we went ahead,” says Saini, who has funded films like Kartavya, Ziddi, Arjun Pandit and Farz. “We are happy with the initial response from directors. Gulzarsaab has verbally committed himself to working on a Bengali film with us, Raj Kanwar is keen on a Hindi-Bengali venture and talks are on with Rituparno Ghosh.”

With Saini handling the “nitty-gritty of the production process” and Rituparna contributing to the “creative aspect”, Prism aims to “make films for audiences all over India and abroad”.

The Bolly-Tolly synergy is a sign of good things to come, feels the local industry. Srikant of Shree Venkatesh Films, producer of Chokher Bali, says: “It means more funds are flowing into the film industry here, which is sorely needed. Besides, the quality of films made here is bound to improve, since Bollywood will bring in methods and means of working which are superior to Tollywood.”

He, however, cautions that these tie-ups “have to be careful of the market of the target audiences, since Bengal is very different from Chennai or Mumbai. If you make a film for a national or international viewership, you might have to compromise on the local market.”

Arijit Dutta, president of the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association and a member of the Ficci filmi team led by Yash Chopra, explains: “This is a good sign. These kinds of collaborations exist in distribution and exhibition, with Priya Entertainment’s tie-up with Sringar and Columbia Tristar, and Inox as well. Now, it has gone a step further, into production... ‘Mollywood’ (the industry down South) is looking at Bengal as well. It’s an exchange, because we have a lot to offer, like good content.”

That’s one of the strengths Prism will play to. “Bengal is very rich in culture and art, and it has a lot to offer. We just have to take it beyond its boundaries,” observes Saini.

With Tollywood finally going big and aiming high, the Bolly-Tolly exchange programme is extending to various levels. So, the past few months have found Aishwarya Rai sweating it out in Technicians Studio, Tabu losing herself to a north Bengal forest and Rahul Bose daring the Dooars.

And if studiospeak holds true, 2003 should find the likes of Rani Mukherjee, Raveena Tandon and a man called Amitabh Bachchan braving Bengal.

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