Reliance aims for the stars in Bollywood tie-up

Indian billionaire industrialist Anil Ambani has moved a step closer to building a media group spanning -Hollywood and Bollywood, this week announcing a partnership with Hindi film superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

The tie-up, which follows news last week that Mr Ambani was in talks for a similar deal with US director Steven Spielberg, covers films and television and could eventually lead to Mr Bachchan acting in a Hollywood production.

This would be a first for India’s best-known senior male lead actor and would be a milestone for efforts at the corporate level to bring the world’s two most prolific movie-making industries closer together.

“Looking at the profile of Reliance, which is rather large, we cannot do away with the possibility of being involved in some of the productions coming out of Hollywood,” Mr Bachchan told the Financial Times.

“We will be working as talent [in Hollywood] in case there are projects that require our talent.”

Mr Ambani has proposed a joint venture between his media group, Reliance Big Entertainment, and Mr Bachchan and his immediate family, who are Bollywood stars in their own right, that would start with funds of $200m-$300m.

The billionaire’s foray into the domestic and global media and entertainment industry through Reliance Big is the first significant attempt by one of India’s industrial conglomerates to penetrate the sector.

This year, Reliance Big made its first splash, announcing in Cannes that it had signed deals to make films with the production firms of Hollywood stars Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt and filmmakers Chris Columbus and Jay Roach.

Last week, it emerged that Mr Ambani was also seeking access to Hollywood directors through the talks with Mr Spielberg for a possible joint venture with DreamWorks that would start with funding of up to $1.5bn in debt and equity.

The deal with the Bachchan family, who are friends of Mr Ambani, will round out Reliance’s initiatives, giving it one of India’s biggest domestic names to add to its stable of Hollywood stars and directors.

“This is in line with our strategy to tie up with the leading Indian and international creative talent,” said Rajesh Sawhney, president of Reliance Big.

Under the deal, Mr Bachchan, his wife Jaya, his son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, would have the right to invest in projects alongside Reliance Big and may also appear in productions.

Neither side will have exclusivity over the services of the other but will agree to share project ideas.


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