The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Love story ticket to West for Bhansali

Calcutta, Oct. 20: His Oscar hopes may have been blacked out, but Sanjay Leela Bhansali has grabbed a brand new ticket to the West.

In a move poised to rewrite Indian film history, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) has stepped forward to co-produce Bhansali’s next film, starting February 2006.

Tentatively titled Saawariya, meaning “beloved”, the film will be a love story and the launch pad for two star children ' Ranbir Kapoor, son of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, and Sonam Kapoor, daughter of Anil and Sunita Kapoor.

“We have been distributing movies in India since 1998 but this is the first time that we are putting money on a local production,” Uday Singh, general manager of Sony Pictures Releasing of India, told The Telegraph. “In 2001, we were in talks to co-produce Bhansali’s Devdas but it didn’t work out then. So when we finally decided to venture in this field, we thought of going back to him.”

A leader in the co-production of Chinese-language films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Wong Kar Wai’s 2046, which have often made a mark in the global market, SPE is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America (SCA), in turn a subsidiary of the Tokyo-based Sony Corporation.

“We at Sony Pictures recognise the potential and importance of the Indian market and welcome the opportunity to team up with the film industry in India,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive officer of SPE. “This is a defining moment for us as a company and for film-makers, artistes and audiences in India as well.”

For Bhansali, whose last effort, the Amitabh Bachchan-Rani Mukherjee-starrer Black, lost out to Paheli as India’s Oscar entry earlier this month, the Sony nod signals the global acceptance of his school of film-making, often labelled “heavily melodramatic”.

“I will continue to make films the way I know best and would be happy if it manages to touch the heart of even a single member of the audience,” Bhansali had told The Telegraph.

The Sony-Bhansali co-production may turn out to be a slight departure, though, for the maverick director, with the US-based company having a say in the film’s process. “We will go by his vision but as per the deal, our team will produce the film with Bhansali,” reveals Singh. “And as expected, we will be handling the worldwide distribution of the film, once ready for release.”

It’s not the first time that a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film is being unveiled to a global audience. His Devdas had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, was India’s entry to the Oscars in 2003, received a nomination at the BAFTAs ' the British equivalent to the Oscars ' and won the best Asian Film at the MTV Asia Awards.

Saawariya will mark another first: Bhansali working with rank newcomers in the lead. But both Ranbir and Sonam had assisted Bhansali during the making of Black.

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