Legendary Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan is to star in his first ever TV drama series. The untitled Endemol India co-production is being made for Sony Entertainment Television India. Hot writer-director Anurag Kashyap, whose Gangs Of Wasseypur and Ugly ran consecutively in the last two Cannes Directors’ Fortnight sections, is developing the project. Endemol India conceived the series that’s described as an epic drama, although details are being kept close to the vest. Bachchan’s company Saraswati Creations is co-producing. Bachchan, who has acted in more than 180 films, recently made his Hollywood debut in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. He’s previously hosted the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the local version of Endemol format Big Brother, known in India as Big Boss. Kashyap was involved in four movies that played Cannes last month. Along with directing Ugly, he helmed a segment of Bombay Talkies, co-produced Monsoon Shootout and produced Critics’ Week title The Lunchbox which Sony Pictures Classics acquired. Endemol India was founded in 2006 and is a partnership between Endemol and The Chernin Group’s Asian investment arm, CA Media.
Based on the company’s generally disappointing financial report this morning, it looks like Sony CEO Howard Stringer will have to keep waiting to see a big payoff from the strategy to meld entertainment hardware and software. For the quarter that ended in March, Sony says the industrywide decline in DVD revenues and the lousy results for its Jim Brooks film How Do You Know partly accounted for the 11% drop in movie and TV sales, which came in at $2.1 billion. But operating profits at the segment were up 8%, to $433 million, due largely to belt tightening and a one-time $325 million gain from its revaluation of its 40% stake in the Game Show Network. That will come back to bite Sony next year: The company projects that movie and TV revenues will improve in 2012, but profits will be down without the one-time benefit.
At Sony Music, the company says the continuing slide in CD sales mean that revenues will fall once again in 2012 after dropping 13% to $1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2011. But the operation’s cost-cutting efforts enabled it to report a $46 million operating profit, up from a $7.4 million loss last year.
Sony warned this week that a $4.4 billion charge to account for costs from this year’s tsunami and earthquake, as well as the recent cyber-attack on its PlayStation Network, would trash earnings for the the fiscal year that ended in March. The company says it wound up with a $3.1 billion loss on revenues of $86.5 billion, down about half a percent.
Pinkett Smith, in London on Monday promoting the launch of Sony Entertainment Television, the studio’s first branded UK channel, says the economy has made the U.S. TV marketplace even more brutal. “Shows are not being given enough time to find their feet,” says the star and executive producer of TNT’s Sony TV-produced Hawthorne. “The economy has hit the TV industry very hard; lots of people have lost their jobs.”
Pinkett Smith admits she finds both starring in and producing Hawthorne a strain. But she wanted to earn her producer chops quickly, which is why she was attracted to doing a weekly TV show. On a big movie like Karate Kid — which she also produced — everything moves slowly by comparison. “I felt that I wasn’t acquiring the skills that I wanted to,” she says. “Moving to TV, my skills got tight very quickly. On a television show you’ve got seven days to make it happen. We’re making a movie every single week.”