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Anil Ambani’s next big move in the entertainment industry has finally taken shape. After months of negotiation, the younger Ambani has sealed the deal with one of the leading Bollywood production designers of India, Nitin Desai. ND Studios boasts of shooting films such as Lage Raho Munnabhai, Saawariya, Gandhi My Father, Salaam-E-Ishq and many more.

Reliance Entertainment has picked up 50% stake in ND (Nitin Desai) Studios, which is located in Karjat, on the outskirts of Mumbai for about Rs 150 crore, according to Reliance executives close to the deal. While Mr Desai will continue to manage operations, Reliance Entertainment will focus on scaling up the studio. The long-term goal: to make it the biggest studio in the world on the lines of Universal Studios in Hollywood.

A Reliance Entertainment spokesperson confirmed the development. “The move is clearly in tandem with the plans of Reliance Entertainment, which is aiming to be an aggressive player in the film production arena. We will ramp up the studio significantly and cater to both Bollywood and Hollywood needs,” the spokesperson added.

The studio for the time being will be now called BIG ND Studios. Mr Desai said, “It’s a perfect fit between ND Studios and Reliance Entertainment as both entities share the same vision. The studio size, currently, stands at 32 acres and we will ramp it up to 150 acres by 2010. We have done a lot of work for Hollywood as well, and we are looking at line production for Hollywood in a very serious way.”

In fact, the studio, currently, has two shooting floors and post the partnership with Reliance Entertainment, the plan is add 12 more floors, and town squares that mirror European locations, Mumbai, and Singapore. Apart from Bollywood, the other focus is to attract a lot more Hollywood productions to shoot in the studio, on the back of cheap labour and technical expertise.

Line production, which essentially means outsourcing of shooting operations, is an emerging concept in the Indian film industry. Reliance Entertainment sees it as big opportunity by scaling up existing studios like ND.

To transform themselves into a world class production facility, ND Studios is also building a 400/240 feet tall shooting floor, which will then qualify as the largest in the world. The largest today is the Bond Stage of Pinewood Studio which is 582/160 feet tall. With a shooting floor this size, ND Studios could shoot an entire football match indoor.

Reliance Entertainment also sees ND Studios evolving into a tourist attraction over the next few years, much like iconic studios like Universal Studios, a subsidiary of NBC Universal, one of the biggest American studios.

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