US studio offers Bollywood Rs. 500 CR for Munnabhai!


By Hindustan Times

Mumbai, Oct. 3 -- Munnabhai's charm isn't just limited to India. That's probably why a US-based film company offered a whopping R 500 crore for the blockbuster franchise to Vinod Chopra Films (VCF), owned by filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. But the offer was "politely declined."

Sources contend that the offer was made for the full ownership of brand Munnabhai, including rights to produce films, merchandising and also publishing of comic books. "Yes, we have received an offer for rights to the Munnabhai franchise," says Sameer Rao, CEO of Vinod Chopra Films. "But Munnabhai is precious to us. So, we have politely declined. It only belongs to its creators, Rajkumar Hirani (director) and VCF, and will always remain so."

Although Rao remains tight-lipped about the international company's identity, sources contend it could possibly be DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures or Warner. "We've signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the concerned party. So, nothing can be divulged right now," says Rao.

Apparently, the firm was looking for a franchise that appealed to all age groups. Their research in the Indian market revealed that the Munnabhai series was the most-recalled film franchise, ahead of Golmaal and Dhoom. "People didn't see it as just a film. Munnabhai and his goodness is a way of life," says Rao.

As far as the next film goes, there has been a lot of speculation mainly around its cast, with a strong buzz that the lead actor will be someone younger this time. In the previous films -Munnabhai MBBS (2003) and Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006) -Sanjay Dutt played the protagonist.

But sources close to VCF contend that the script of the next film (supposedly titled Munnabhai Chale Amerika) hasn't been locked yet, though reports suggest that Hirani has finally written a script along with Abhijat Joshi. Some time back, Arshad Warsi, who plays Circuit in the series, revealed that Hirani had altered his script completely, saying, "There will be no USA in the next Munnabhai film. I've been told that we'll start shooting by mid-2012."