Anil Ambani’s Reliance Entertainment has confirmed that it financed 15 per cent of the budget of Tout La-Haut, the French film produced by Julie Gayet, the partner of France’s then President Francois Hollande.
Reliance Entertainment had paid 1.48 million Euros through one of its partners, French financing firm Visvires Capital, towards the production of the film, the company said in a statement.
“Reliance Entertainment had paid the aforesaid only EUR 1.48 million to Visvires Capital on 5th December 2017, as customary only about two weeks before the release of the film on 20th December 2017,” the company said in a statement.
Besides films, the Reliance Group has made several other successful co-investments with Visvires Capital, including inter alia in Sula Wines and Grover Vineyards, prior to the film co-financing, the statement said.
VisVires Capital is founded by Ravi Viswanathan, a Singapore-based French businessman of Indian origin who is a longstanding friend of Ambani.
“Reliance Entertainment has not signed any agreement with Ms. Julie Gayet or her company, Rouge International, and nor has any payment ever been made by Reliance Entertainment to either of them in relation to the film, nOmber One,” the company statement quoted a spokesperson while giving these details.
‘nOmber One’ was the title of the film when it was announced; it was released under the title ‘Tout La-Haut’.
Anil Ambani’s company also said that it received EUR 300,000 from the film’s French producer for providing physical production services for extensive location shooting in difficult mountainous terrains in Ladakh. Directed by Serge Hazanavicius and featuring French actor Kev Adams, Tout La-Haut was shot in Nepal and Ladakh, besides France.
Last month, The Indian Express reported that Reliance Entertainment had announced on January 24, 2016, that it had entered into an agreement with Gayet’s firm, Rouge International, to jointly produce a French film. Two days later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hollande signed an MoU in New Delhi for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in flyaway condition.
Responding to that report, Hollande had told a French newsportal, Mediapart.fr, on September 21, “We didn’t have a say in that. It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani. We didn’t have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.”
In response to a question by news agency AFP on September 21, Hollande said Reliance Group’s name had appeared as part of a “new formula” in negotiations over the Rafale deal, which was decided by the Modi government after it came to power. Asked if he knew whether India put pressure for the Reliance Group to work with Dassault, Hollande said he was “unaware” and “Dassault alone is capable of answering”, as per AFP.
He had contradicted the Indian government’s claim that the deal between Dassault and Reliance was a commercial pact between two private parties and the government had nothing to do with it.
The deal for 36 jets in a government-to-government agreement was announced by Modi on April 10, 2015 during his visit to Paris, which led to the cancellation of the 126-aircraft deal being negotiated by the previous government. The deal was eventually signed on September 23, 2016 in Delhi between then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart.
Under the offsets clause, France is to invest 50 per cent of the total order cost in local contracts in India, worth Rs 30,000 crore. The offset obligations of the deal are to be discharged from September 2019 to September 2023, as per the contract.
The Rafale offset was the first project of this magnitude won by Reliance Defence, which placed it at the centre of a major political row. Opposition parties, including the Congress, have alleged that undue favours had been granted to Ambani’s firm in this deal, a company without any defence manufacturing experience.