While Chennai Express has a nation divided, Abundantia makes a quiet debut

Cineswami tells us more about ex-Viacom 18 CEO Vikram Malhotra’s new production company

Love it or hate it, seemingly all of India (except the Vijay fans who have no time for Shahrukh Khan and are bemoaning the postponement of Thalaivaa) is talking about Chennai Express. Early indications predict opening day box office collections of Rs 33 crore. While fans of King Khan go berserk, there is some heartening news for aficionados of decent, independent cinema. Vikram Malhotra, former CEO of Viacom 18 has floated a new film production company called Abundantia Entertainment. You may well ask, Abundantia who? Abundantia is the ancient Roman goddess of good fortune, the equivalent of our very own Lakshmi.

During his stint at Viacom 18, Malhotra had shepherded several path breaking films including Gangs of Wasseypur, Tanu Weds Manu, Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Shaitan, Kahaani and Special 26. In his new avatar as Abundantia’s head honcho, Malhotra has signed up Special 26 and A Wednesday director Neeraj Pandey and Madras Café and Vicky Donor director Shoojit Sircar. He has also committed to a three-film deal with D-Day and Kal Ho Naa Ho director Nikhil Advani.

All this takes money, and Malhotra is not short of it. He has raised Rs 150 crore from a Hong Kong based firm and some private investors. Malhotra’s aim is to take Abuntantia to the level of Lionsgate that started off as an independent studio and is now considered a Hollywood major. All power to him and his ilk and a fervent hope that for every Chennai Express produced by the Bollywood machine for the lowest common denominator, there are at least five great films from the likes of Abundantia.

Meanwhile, the first trailer of the late Rituparno Ghosh’s final film, the Byomkesh Bakshi mystery Satyanweshi, has been released. Though the film’s first look poster featured a tight close up of its star, the Kahaani director turned actor Sujoy Ghosh, the trailer offers only a few tantalising glimpses of him during its closing moments, choosing rather to focus on Indraneil Sengupta. Now, while it is true that Indraneil is a far bigger star in Bengal, hiding the real star of the film in the trailer is hardly going to fool the literate amongst the Bengali film audience. Dibakar Banerjee must be awaiting the film keenly. His Bollywood version, Byomkesh Bakshy for Yash Raj Films, starring Sushant Singh Rajput, meant for a pan Indian audience is due soon. Ghosh will be a tough act to follow. The late Ghosh himself is following the toughest act of all – Satyajit Ray. Though Ray’s Byomkesh film Chiriakhana is not his greatest work, only when compared to his own masterly output, it is still a stunning example of cinema at its finest.

From the sublime to the ridiculous – Katrina Kaif’s recent open letter to the media stating that the paparazzi pictures of her on a beach in nearly flagrante delicto with beau Ranbir Kapoor is an invasion of her privacy is so much bull hooey. Darling, if you wanted privacy, you should have chosen a slightly less public facing profession than acting – and we use the term loosely here. The photographer who took those pictures is not a coward as you called him. Rather, he performed a public service for those unfortunates who follow your life and career.

Photo: The Hollywood Reporter