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‘Article 370’ Producer B62 Reveals Slate, Plans for East Asian Collaborations (EXCLUSIVE)

India’s B62 Studios has an early 2024 hit with February release “Article 370,” and also has an ambitious slate lined up with plans for expanding into eastern Asia.

B62 was launched by the brothers Dhar — Lokesh and Aditya — and is named after their address in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar neighborhood, where they grew up watching the best of Bollywood alongside arthouse cinema. Lokesh Dhar went on to a flourishing career in film marketing, distribution and syndication before turning to producing, while Aditya Dhar directed military action film “Uri: The Surgical Strike,” one of the biggest Indian box office hits of 2019.

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B62 has already completed its next 2024 release, “Baramulla,” directed by “Article 370” helmer Aditya Suhas Jambhale and, like that film, also set in Kashmir. “People do spy universe, people do superhero universe, we are doing Kashmir universe,” laughed Aditya Dhar. “Baramulla” is a supernatural thriller Aditya Dhar wrote in 2015-16 partially based on a real incident that took place in Kashmir. “It is going to be a genre-defining film,” Lokesh Dhar told Variety.

Also due from B62 in 2024 is caper comedy “Dhoom Dhaam,” directed by Rishab Seth (“Cash”), co-written by Aditya Dhar, and starring Gautam and Pratik Gandhi (“Scam 1992”). Gautam said it’s “a family film that you can just enjoy with your loved ones, the more the better.”

Aditya Dhar described his next directorial venture, tentatively titled “Dhurandhar,” as “a gangster film, but it has a massive twist to it,” and hopes it will do for India what “City of God” did for Brazil or “A Prophet” did for France in terms of international perception of the country. The film will commence production in July.

Going forward, the script for “Sharmila,” a comedy about the effects of social media on youth, is being finalized. The company is also looking East. “There are some discussions that we’re having with filmmakers from Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia; there are producers who are extremely interested in collaborating with us,” Lokesh Dhar said. “We’re excited about what’s happening in East Asia.”

Aditya Dhar’s long-planned “The Immortal Ashwatthama,” a futuristic science fiction VFX-laden extravaganza, is an expensive proposition and B62 will wait for the technology to become cheaper.

A political thriller, “Article 370” deals with the events leading to the 2019 revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted special status to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, some parts of which are under dispute by India, Pakistan and China since independence from the British Empire in 1947. Headlined by Bollywood star Yami Gautam, the film was made for a modest $2.4 million and has already grossed $10.2 million.

The Dhars are Kashmiri Pandits, a community displaced from Kashmir due to the conflict there. Despite having “Uri” under his belt, being from the community is precisely why Aditya Dhar co-wrote but did not direct “Article 370.” “My perspective would have been a little blurred, it would have skewed towards my experiences, and it wouldn’t have been this neutral,” Aditya Dhar told Variety. The topic of Kashmir is incendiary on the subcontinent, and the B62 team and co-producers, billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Studios, were insistent that the treatment had to be neutral.

The perfect candidate to direct was Jambhale, making his feature directorial debut. The Dhars had previously produced Jambhale’s shorts “Kharvas” and “Amritsar Junction.” “We knew that his understanding of Indian politics and his visualization of the story is actually very neutral compared to what I would have done,” Aditya Dhar said. “When your conviction is correct, your ethics are correct about your work, somewhere I believe that we also land correctly with our audience.”

On B62’s filmmaking philosophy, Lokesh Dhar says, “We want to make films which inspire and move us, so all of the films that we make are very personal for us. The ethos is very clear, we want to make very high-quality films, which compete at a global scale in terms of quality and reach.”

“These are films, which are a true expression of the artist who’s behind that film. We’re not calculating who is going to watch or what is going to be the box office. As producers, our job is just to support the makers in a way where the best form of that expression comes out. It’s the film that Aditya and I want to watch. And if we want to watch it, then I think a lot of the world will want to watch it,” Lokesh Dhar said.

Aditya Dhar added: “Whatever films we are creating, we want to leave behind a legacy, which is unparalleled in India, films which we can be proud of. So, every film that we are doing, the thought process is the same, that we are creating something which is going to last for the next 100-200 years. It cannot be something which is frivolous.”

“We want to reach that level where we are creating films like what ‘Parasite’ did for South Korea or what ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ did for China, which basically bridges that gap between what’s happening here and what’s happening in the world,” Aditya Dhar said.

Aditya Dhar, Lokesh Dhar
Aditya Dhar, Lokesh Dhar

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