Friends with Benefits

It is a merger of monies and creative ideas as Bollywood production houses strike collaborative deals.

His form of storytelling, seen in films such as Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Love Sex Aur Dhokha and Shanghai, earned Dibakar Banerjee the reputation of being an unconventional filmmaker. So when Yash Raj Films, known for their glossed-over, larger-than-life portrayals of settings and characters, announced a three-film tie-up with the filmmaker, the news surprised many. Banerjee explains that the idea was to merge their sensibilities and create something unique. "Aditya Chopra and I had several meetings and we realised that we both respected each other's cinema. Yash Raj Films was looking to expand, and not just by signing new directors, but also by getting into co-production deals with other production houses. The idea of collaborating to create something new, fits in," says Banerjee.

This merger of monies and ideas to create newer, sometimes bigger, celluloid adventures is a concept that is fast gaining ground in Bollywood. Karan Johar's Dharma Productions and Ekta Kapoor's Balaji Motion Pictures were among the first to collaborate on Renzil D'Silva's Ungli. In recent times, Johar and Kapoor have taken to more collaborative deals. Balaji is currently engaged in co-productions with Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures for Ek Thi Daayan, Sanjay Gupta's White Feather Films for Shootout At Wadala, Bejoy Nambiar's Getaway Films for Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayee and Phantom Films for Lootera. Johar, on the other hand, has tied up with Anurag Kashyap to co-produce adman Vinil Matthew's directorial debut with Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malhotra. Bhushan Kumar's T-Series has signed a three-film deal with Vikram Bhatt's ASA Productions. The company has also collaborated with Madhur Bhandarkar for his next and with Milan Luthria for his movie with Saif Ali Khan.

Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures, believes that what has started as an experiment is likely to turn into a trend, here to stay. "At a macro level, a co-production means pooling of creative and production skill sets, thereby giving the project added credibility and quality. This, consequently, means reaching out to a substantially larger audience."

The collaborative deals also draw inspiration from Hollywood, where it is common for two or three production houses to get together and make a film. Madhu Mantena, partner, Phantom, says that such mergers allow more scope for experimentation. "Today, we are experimen- ting with newer genres in cinema. To do so consistently, our filmmakers need better backing." Kumar, whose company has been among the foremost labels in Bollywood music for years, believes this is a good time to expand. "It is a win-win situation for both parties. While I am expanding my business venture, I am also making sure the profits and losses are equally distributed, thereby reducing risks," he says.

The marriage of two different schools of cinema, while expanding the audience base, also promises better quality cinema, pointed out Johar at a press conference recently. Banerjee seconds the idea, adding, "When one collaborates with a studio like YRF, one is aware of its equities with the actor and is, therefore, assured of fewer issues on that front. At the same time, as a director, it lends my ideas a larger canvas."

Of the three films he is co-producing, Banerjee will direct two while his co-writer on Love, Sex aur Dhokha, Kanu Behl, will direct the third.

Such mergers, however, can also lead to clashes between the two parties involved, with each trying to gain superiority over the other. Kumar feels this can be avoided, if both parties concentrate on their respective strengths. "For instance, T-Series is an expert in music, marketing and distribution. So when we collaborate with Vikram, we are looking at supplementing his creative talent with our expertise," he says.

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