India-Britain film treaty kicks off with ‘London Dreams’ (Lead)

October 23rd, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 23 (IANS) An India-Britain film co-production treaty has come into force with British Culture Minister Barbara Follet launching it on the Trafalgar Square sets of a Bollywood movie starring Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan.”London Dreams” is director Vipul Shah’s latest venture after the mega-hit “Singh is Kinng” - and both Shah and Devgan were present at Trafalgar Square in central London Wednesday for a shoot taken from a helicopter.

The treaty will help Indian filmmakers who want to collaborate with British producers to gain access to a range of benefits including tax breaks, sources of funding and practical support, Follet said.

“After the United States, the British and the Indian film industries are arguably the two greatest in the world. The range of benefits we are offering through the treaty aims to bring our industries closer together - and I am confident that Indian filmmakers will want to take up the offer,” she said.

“Any Indian filmmaker who wants to collaborate with a British producer will find it more financially worthwhile. We can also offer a mature production infrastructure and share expertise between the two countries’ film industries,” Follet added.

Shah said more films will be made in London, primarily for the Indian market.

“Working with crews in their own cities is a great thing. They know the systems, how the shoots function in that particular city, how to get permissions, how to move things. It’s always very important,” Shah told BBC News.

Devgan said of the current trend of Indian films being made for international audiences: “I guess they are changing to adapt to the audience. We’re just trying to cater for them.” The treaty was signed in New Delhi three years ago but given Indian Cabinet approval only in April this year, after what one London-based film industry source called “inexplicable bureaucratic delays in India.”

Negotiations on the detailed annex to the agreement were completed and signed in June 2008.

The British government’s department of culture said that without the treaty, co-productions would have to pass a “UK cultural test” to qualify for tax relief, adding: “Most would be unlikely to, particularly if they were in a non-Council of Europe language like Hindi or Tamil.”

“The treaty allows co-produced films to bypass this test. This means they are granted national status in both countries. And this means they can gain access to the new Britain tax relief - one of the most generous and competitive tax reliefs in the world,” a department spokesman said.

The treaty is also expected to support a range of spin-off businesses, including British-Indian suppliers, which support filmmakers with anything from costumes to caterers, British-Indian owned cinemas which are likely to show the films and the British tourist industry.

Follet pointed to the economic value of the treaty as Britain faces a recession, saying: “The wider your base, in an economically difficult time, the more resilient you’ll be.”

Some 2.6 million people watched Hindi films in Britain in 2005, and Indian films accounted for over 16 percent of all releases, raking in 12.4 million pounds at the box office.

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