The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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To Hollywood, all alone
- Girl breaks family barrier, signs up to produce big-ticket films

Calcutta, June 30: Actor Jeet is the Champion in the film of the same name, now playing at Radha cinema. But it’s one of the daughters of the Biswas family, owners of the Hatibagan movie hall, who is busy scripting a story that is the stuff of celluloid dreams.

It’s not in Tollywood or Bollywood where Anamika Biswas from Shyambazar is making a splash, but in Hollywood. She’s been all the way to Los Angeles, from her conservative Jatindra Mohan Avenue home, but it’s still the approval of the men in her family that she’s keen to achieve as a businesswoman.

“They consider a working woman as an embarrassment, because it means the family needs the money. My father was furious when I started my own enterprise, and still threatens to cancel my licence if anything goes wrong.”

She’s only 24, but age is no obstacle to ambition for Anamika. This young woman has made it from Calcutta to California on her own steam. From textiles, marble and granite exports to executive producer of Hollywood films, she has come a long way, but has set a lot more goals to achieve.

“I just love doing business,” she smiles, seated behind the massive desk in her home, which also doubles as her office. At the moment, apart from running the export side of her company, Anamika has her hands full with Hollywood offers. Having signed up with the LA-based Thistle Productions for a Rs 80-crore investment, she’s now set to co-produce three films. On the table is another partnership, with the LA-based Silvertouch Pictures Ltd, on a film called Gangster Wives, and she’s in talks with Timber Wolf Productions to make American television serials.

The first of the Thistle Productions projects is The Agenda, a thriller, to be directed by Mario Di Leo, the director of television serials like Xena and Miami Vice. The Big Sizzle is a romantic comedy, and The Caress, written and to be directed by Maurice ’Callaghan, of Broken Harvest fame, will be shot in Ireland with Peter ’Toole playing a “significant role” in the film. All three are slated for an end-2004 release.

The owner of AB Exports started off her company as an 18-year-old, in her first year as a B.Com student at Asutosh College, despite many an argument with her father, a firm believer in the woman’s place at home. But with inspiration from her mother, Anamika took the plunge and hasn’t looked back. Despite continuing resistance (“I’m not even allowed to roll down the windows of the car when we go on family drives”), she’s travelled from Singapore to Toronto to establish her identity in the industry.

Anamika is not ready to buckle under the marriage pressure either, with business as her lone love in life. Building business relations is her one true passion. “Ever since I was a child, setting up my own company was my dream. After fighting with my father for years, I finally went ahead with it. But I didn’t think it would last this long, let alone come such a long way, where I now earn Rs 3 crore a year.”

It was one such relationship with a client that turned into a golden opportunity two years ago. Vincent Panettiere of Thistle Productions, a former executive with Twentieth Century Fox, sent her a proposal and she accepted. He wanted to branch out in collaborations in other countries and she wanted to shift base from exports, because “export will become daal bhaat in India soon, so I want to try something different”.

Six months in the making, and the deal is almost sealed. She’s off to Las Vegas in July, with father Asit in tow to “check things out”, for tête-à-têtes with all her prospective partners. That’s not all. She’s ready to invest in a 97-acre studio that Thistle wants to build in California, and also has proposals from Riviera Resorts in Malta to invest in a hotel and spa complex on the island of Gozo.

So, what’s next on her to-do list' Well, to make inroads into the Indian film industry, but not on her family’s name — the owners of Radha Cinema and Co. “No one here has offered me anything so far, but I am really keen. I have started out on the top, in Hollywood, but I need strong roots, in the Indian film industry.” As for help on that score, “I’d love to,” says Panettiere, speaking from LA. “I have watched Indian films earlier, my favourite being Bandit Queen, and I really want to make an Indian film, in India. And I am open to scripts from writers there. All they have to do is get in touch.”

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