Hollywood studios are India-bound despite teething trouble

December 28th, 2009 - 12:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Sensex By Robin Bansal
New Delhi, Dec 28 (IANS) Hollywood studios seem hell bent on carving a niche in India. Despite collaborations like “Saawariya”, “Chandni Chowk To China” and “Roadside Romeo” biting the dust at the box office, US-based production houses are willing to invest in Bollywood projects because it will help them find a firm foothold here.

“We’ve recognised that the Hollywood studios are very small in the Indian market. We are less than 10 percent in this market place,” Michael Ellis, president and managing director of Motion Pictures Association (Asia-Pacific), told IANS in an interview here.

Motion Pictures Association serves as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries.

“We’re encouraging all our studios to invest in India with co-productions with films or TV deals and it is exciting because then we’ll be making products for the Indian market; we will try to participate at that level,” he added.

It was Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures that started the trend by co-producing “Saawariya” with Sanjay Leela Bhansali Films. Warner Bros took it forward by co-producing “Chandni Chowk To China” with Rohan Sippy and buying distribution rights for “Saas Bahu Aur Sensex”.

Joining the league was Walt Disney Co. that inked a joint venture with Yash Raj Films for animation film “Roadside Romeo”.

But none of the joint ventures made money. Ellis, however, says this is just teething problem and that Hollywood studios will have to continue collaborating with filmmakers here to tap the Indian market.

“We can’t always win. This is a tough business. This is learning. You don’t get it right on day one. Many films in America don’t succeed. But the films that some of the studios have made have certainly raised the awareness that we’re doing films here.

“The Indian film products clearly dominate and they (Bollywood filmmakers) understand this market far better than we can,” said Ellis.

Highlighting the nature of such investments, he added: “Our studios are investing more into local films coming in the next year. They’ve (the studios) all got a whole slate.

“It’s not just going to be one film that they have. It’s going to be a series of films over next year and they’ve already got the scripts up and running. They are identifying the producers and will make those films in the traditional Indian way,” he said.

Does that mean Hindi content from the foreign stable?

“Everybody is looking at different products mix but, yes, you’ll be seeing more Hindi-type movies,” he said.

One such project is Karan Johar’s upcoming “My Name Is Khan”, which has been acquired by Fox Star for reportedly $20 million. The studio has also signed a two-film deal each with Vipul Shah and A.R. Murugadoss.

Hollywood screenplay writer-director Paul Schrader will also make a film titled “Xtrme City”, about the Mumbai mafia and slums, in collaboration with Bollywood director Anubhav Sinha and writer Mushtaq Sheikh.

“The studios are committed. They’ve got funding lined up, got great projects on line, great scripts and they’re also identifying the right producers (here) to make that film. There’s a terrific market here that could be explored.

“With Hollywood funding or adaptation of scripts and with some production techniques, we have to recognise that there is also a way to do Indian films here. We have to learn that as well,” he added.

Ellis, who was here to launch piracy reports released by the Motion Picture Distributors Association (MPDA), is “optimistic” about the cross-industry trend.

“The overall co-production and the cross-pollination is good for our industry in America, the Indian film industry and other film industries in other countries too,” he said.

(Robin Bansal can be contacted at robin.b@ians.in)

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