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South-Indian films make a splash

For the first time, outfits from the south have found a toehold on the Croisette. Saibal Chatterjee has the details.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 13:08 IST

AP International, a five-decade-old Chennai-based film financing and distribution company, is making a fair splash in the India Pavilion located in the heart of the 59th Cannes Film Festival’s International Village. This is the first time in the history of India’s engagement with Cannes that outfits from the south have found a toehold on the Croisette.

AP International, which has over 500 Tamil titles in its library, including super-duper hits like Chandramukhi, Anniyan and Muthu, has now branched out into the global theatrical business.

Represented in Cannes by one of the partners, Sanjay Arjundas Wadhwa, AP International owns the overseas rights of a slew of Rajnikanth, Kamal Hasan, Vijay and Vikram starrers and has acquired screens in various parts of the world – three in Singapore, 13 in Malaysia, five in Colombo, one in Dubai and one in Canada.

“The idea,” says Wadhwa, “is to run Tamil films in these theatres all through the year.” By controlling an increasing number of theatres worldwide, AP International hopes to streamline the flow of its films into markets with a high concentration of Tamil-speaking people.

These theatres are run by players that AP International has teamed up with. “There is a huge demand for Tamil films all over the world,” says the showbiz entrepreneur. “That is why last year’s biggest grosser, Chandramukhi, not only found takers in the traditional overseas markets; it was also sold in places like Japan, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland and Austria.”

According to Wadhwa, there is no star in India bigger than Rajnikanth, the lead actor of Chandramukhi. “He charges Rs 20 crore a film and his box office power is such that producers have no issues with what he charges,” he says.

The next film on AP International’s anvil is another Rajnikanth starrer – Sivaji. Being touted as the most expensive film ever made in India, it is scheduled for release in 2007. The film is being made under the AVM banner, one of the oldest in Tamil Nadu.

Wadhwa is also excited about the late Sivaji Ganesan’s Sivaji Productions returning to the Hindi cinema domain with Delhi Heights, directed by Anand Kumar. Starring Jimmy Shergill, Neha Dhupia and Om Puri, the film is currently under production in Delhi.

Sivaji Productions also has plans to bankroll an even bigger Hindi film in the near future. Yet to be titled, this venture will be directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and will have music by AR Rahman.