"State of the Union" Remade

McKeown pours US$15.9m into India

UK producer Allan McKeown, the man behind UK series such as Birds of a Feather, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Lovejoy, is to make a £10m (US$15.9m) investment in three Indian drama series.

Beginning with a pilot called Bhai, which translates as brother or "don" in Hindi, the trio of shows will be produced by McKeown's company Allan McKeown Presents. (AMP). It is written by Pulitzer-winning journalist Suketu Mehta, and focuses on Mumbai’s criminal underworld.

"I spent five months in India and when I left I was determined to return and make a drama series about modern India – the wealth, the poverty, the underworld and the enforcement of law," said McKeown. "I found the ideal writing partner in Suketu Mehta."

The second series will be a six-part drama based upon Julia Gregson's best-selling novel East of the Sun, rights to which AMP has purchased. The series will be shot on location in Mumbai and Kerala, and will be a coproduction with the BBC. Shooting is scheduled to begin in autumn 2009.

Meanwhile, AMP will also develop a pilot for a US version of its first India-based production, Mumbai Calling, for cablenet HBO, while its sketch comedy series Tracey Ullman's State of the Union will be reversioned in Germany using a local comedienne.

Mumbai Calling, a seven-part comedy set in an Indian call centre, will premiere in India on HBO Asia this Saturday and will debut in the UK on ITV in the spring.

Digital Rights Group-owned distributor Portman Film & Television premiered the series to the international market at MipTV in April, and since then it has been picked up by broadcasters in Canada, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, Asia and Scandinavia.

State of the Union is being developed in Germany under the title Lage Der Nation, starring comic and writer Mona Sharma.

Emily Brookes
6 Nov 2008
© C21 Media 2008