Ajith Kumar, Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, Dulquer Salmaan Feature in 28-Strong Zee Studios 2023 India Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

India’s Zee Studios has revealed an extensive 2023 slate of 28 titles across languages, featuring some of the best-known names in their respective industries.

The titles, which include 26 films for theatrical release, a direct-to-digital film and a streaming series, are Zee Studios productions, coproductions or acquisitions.

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Big ticket films include H. Vinoth’s Tamil-language heist thriller “Thunivu,” starring megastar Ajith Kumar that is due a Jan. 2023 release during the Pongal festival frame; Amit Sharma’s long-awaited Hindi-language soccer epic “Maidaan,” starring Ajay Devgn, due in February; Farhad Samji’s Hindi-language action-comedy “Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan,” starring superstar Salman Khan, due in April during the Eid festival frame; and “Gadar 2,” a sequel to Anil Sharma’s 2001 blockbuster “Gadar,” starring Sunny Deol.

Deol also stars alongside fellow veterans Sanjay Dutt, Mithun Chakraborty and Jackie Shroff in Vivek Chauhan’s “Baap.” Other Hindi-language highlights include Rani Mukerji in Ashima Chibber’s “Mrs. Chatterjee v/s Norway”; Richa Chaddha in Abhishek Acharya’s “Covid Stories”; Yami Gautam in Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s streaming-bound “Lost”; and Rahul Bose, Ishwak Singh and Aparshakti Khurana in Atul Sabharwal’s “Berlin.”

Also in Hindi, there are a brace of titles from auteur Anurag Kashyap – “Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat” that premiered at Marrakech in November and “Kennedy,” starring Sunny Leone, which is bound for an A-list festival in 2023. Fellow auteur Devashish Makhija’s “Joram” will world premiere at Rotterdam in 2023. It stars Manoj Bajpayee, who also headlines Apoorv Singh Kark’s “Bandaa.” Nawazuddin Siddiqui essays a transgender role in “Haddi” and also stars in “Love is Blind.”

Karishma Kapoor headlines Abhinay Deo’s streaming series “Brown.”

Highlights of the Zee Studios Tamil-language slate include Muthaiya’s “Kather Basha Endra Muthuramalingam,” starring Arya; a landmark film from a superstar actor, details of which are under wraps; and Kishor Pandurang Belekar’s dialogue-free film “Gandhi Talks,” with music by A.R. Rahman, with Tamil cinema stars Vijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swami and Aditi Rao Hydari.

Dulquer Salmaan headlines Abhilash Joshiy’s Malayalam-language “King of Kotha.” Marathi-language films include Paresh Mokashi’s “Vaalavi,” with Swapnil Joshi and Ashish Bende’s “Aatma Pamphlet,” while Nagraj Manjule stars in Hemant Awtade’s “Ghar Banduk Biryani” and Vikram Patwardhan’s “Frame.”

Jaggesh stars in Kannada-language “Ranganayaka” and in Telugu-language “Vimanam.” Zee Studios’ Punjabi-language films include Pankaj Batra’s “Uchiyan Ne Gallan Tere Yaar Diyan” and “Godday Godday Chaa,” starring Gippy Grewal and Sonam Bajwa respectively.

Zee Studios was established in 2012 as the content engine for media conglomerate Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, which is in the process of merging with Sony Pictures Networks India.

“As a pan India media company Zee is a leading broadcaster across geographies and languages. In 2020 the studios strategy pivoted to dovetail into the larger organization play. We were already a leader in Marathi films, we added Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malyalam and Punjabi into the regional mix. The initial response has been very encouraging with films like “Valimai” (Tamil), “Bangarraju” (Telugu), “Dharamveer” (Marathi) performing well not just at the box office but also in driving subscriber growth on the OTT [streaming] platform and delivering healthy ratings on television,” Zee Studios chief business officer Shariq Patel told Variety. “The strategy remains to make films across languages. We have a mix of tentpole and art house films and each film will have a unique marketing and release plan.”

“I am often asked by directors and producers as to what kind of films I am looking to greenlight at any point of time. My answer is always the same. First is I have no idea what will click, in this business no one does, despite claims of knowing. Secondly as a studio I have to do it all, so for every ‘Thunivu’ starring Ajith Kumar or a ‘King of Kotha’ with Dulquer we will have a ‘Mrs. Chatterjee v/s Norway’ with Rani Mukerji or ‘Joram’ with Manoj Bajpayee,” Patel added. “We need to make it all, we work with Anil Sharma (‘Gadar 2’) and also with Anurag Kashyap (‘Kennedy’). We just have to ensure each film we are working on is budgeted correctly and the economics make sense. In addition we also have a series ‘Brown’ directed by Abhinay Deo starring Karisma Kapoor which is in post production and we propose to make more such premium series in the coming year.”

“We have segmented our films according to size/scale/genre. And each film’s marketing and release strategy is crafted in a unique way. While a majority of them are for India theatrical release, we have made conscious investments in a set of films which we hope to take to the world via festivals i.e. ‘Joram’ by Devashish Makhija, ‘Gandhi Talks,’ a silent film starring Vijay Sethupathy and Arvind Swami, ‘Kennedy’ by Anurag Kashyap are a few examples. We aspire to establish Zee Studios as the preeminent studio for Indian films,” Patel said.

Zee Studios, which scored one of the biggest 2022 hits with “The Kashmir Files,” currently has Kannada-language film “Vedha,” starring Shiva Rajkumar on release.

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