It seems not so long ago, that Bollywood stars-dressed in stark white carrying bowler hats, and therefore, trying to fit in- were the darlings of Asian media in Cannes. So what if not a single film from India made it to the selections or no one really did much work? The wine, sunshine and stardust were enough.
But things have changed now. We have Big Brother Reliance ADAG not just signing on Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Nicholas Cage and Jay Roach, now they have extended the golden handshake as far ahead as Steven Spielberg. An achievement by an Indian film production company of this size was unimaginable. Reliances Big Picture, which is set up simply to establish tie ups with international film production houses, will produce films with Spielbergs DreamWorks SKG with an investment of 500 to 600 million dollars to make about six films. Talk about the dinosaur thumping down on the elephants in Indian film!
Each and every move by the Hindi film fraternity in these lines smack of the Gora sahib fascination, and not so much of a business move. An inside source from UTV says The decision to co produce films like Shyamalans The Happening has brought in money, the initial motive was not just revenues. In fact, it was a lot more about making the companys presence felt in the international film market.
Anil Ambani and Spielberg
While market leaders like ADAG and UTV are making Hollywood forays, their weekly highlights in the press, smaller, less endowed corporate too are trying to hog whatever they can on the Hollywood myth. So even if it is a tie up for a bunch of films slated to release from any American studio, its touted as Hollywood association.
And the pay off, in this case has been fabulous. The Happening has touched record box office collections in the USA and Canada in its first week. This follows in the wake of The Namesake - Mira Nairs Indo-American Diaspora tale that did above average business, and won critical acclaim across the world.
Going to Hollywood isnt just about financing and distributing films in India. It has to be a cohesive sharing of content and talent. And this is one aspect where Indian cinema seems to be lacking. One look at current day Hollywood and it doesnt take any time to realize that French, Italian as well as South American acting talent crosses over easily, as does their technical mastery. Alfonso Cuaron, to Gael Garcia Barnal, and many more in fact, scorn upon a lot of Hollywood hi-fi tricks and selectively work in their films.
But from India, even today, the names are missing from the creative credits. When cult filmmaker Danny Boyle came to India to shoot Slumdog Millionaire - all except for one technician- audiographer Resul Pookutty - were imported from Hollywood. Thats not something our film schools would be proud of. While Rajnikant, Shah Rukh Khan and even Aishwarya Rai are popular faces across the globe, not many mainstream producers are knocking down their doors from the US of A. The gap often lies in totally different cinematic approach that both the industries have. Emotions, actions and conversations in the subcontinent are like the weather here- bolder, louder and more dramatic. And this probably will never change given the nature of the Indian public. Whereas, in the West, emotions are kept under wraps as are the conversations.
Yet, their stars and style have always super fascinated Hindi filmmakers. Sajid Nadiadwalas multi-crore gamble with Kambakht Ishq, where he is signing up Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards is an example of how amongst the old school film makers even today, risking money on mega stars from the Goraland is done with pride. This doesnt mean though, that we have arrived over there. Not till we make a City of God or a Blindness - which is a story of India as local as it gets, but touches a million hearts globally.
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Hollywood film producers will warmly accept the multi crores dropped at their doorstep. After all, India is such a market with so many movie worshippers. And if tomorrow, one Indian star romances a pretty teen starlet from Hollywood, and villagers in Rajasthan weep with joy, which knows what might happen
Perhaps, this is also the time for the superrich of our dream merchants to sit back and think about putting together their own talent pool. Perhaps, with Hollywood willing to have coffee with us, we should think of setting up a coffee chain that meets the needs of the people. Only then will our fascination of Hollywood turn to actual cinema- and not just paperwork with cinema reels on the letterhead of the deal.