india connects

Some of the top Bollywood production houses connected with Hollywood at the American Film Market (AFM) 2008 in Santa Monica, California which saw an unprecedented level of participation from Indian content providers. According to the US India Business Alliance (USIBA), a leading business lobby working for increased US and India trade, many leading companies from India made their presence felt at this important global marketplace event. Some of India’s biggest and best including UTV, Percept, Mukta, Ultra, Kaleidoscope, Time Broadband, Nirvana Motion Pictures participated. The global distribution of Indian content has seen dramatic growth over the last several years. Recognising this important trend, the Indian Film and Television Producers Guild participated actively in AFM 2008 under the National Umbrella Programme with its American Associate, USIBA. “We are very excited by the Guild’s participation at AFM 2008. The media and entertainment sector is a vital part of India’s success story. American Film Market is a vital global marketplace for the industry and we will be seeing Indian firms actively participating more every year,” said Sanjay Puri, president of USIBA. USIBA and the Guild are working together to help the entertainment sectors of the two countries leverage their inherent strengths and establish long-term relationships. The AFM is a major fulcrum of the entertainment business for independent motion picture production and distribution. “We are heartened to note the proactive efforts of the Indian film industry to participate in this largest market for films. It is our endeavour to ensure a successful and productive experience so that the Indian film industry attracts more business not only in the US, but also globally,” said Dolly Kapoor, director of Entertainment Industry at the USIBA. Indian entertainment content is in unprecedented global demand with all signs indicating continued dramatic growth. The Indian film industry not only is making strides in conventional media but they are also embarking on major endeavours involving digital content and delivery. “The importance and potential of AFM was perhaps not being properly tapped by Indian content providers. The Guild’s initiative in collaboration with USIBA for this year’s AFM will surely be an eye opener for good things ahead,” said Ronnie Screwvala, chief executive officer of UTV and president of the Indian Film and The Indian film industry is detaching itself from the typical three-hour-long-song-and-dance epics image and emerging as one of the growth engines of the booming Indian economy. Every Hollywood studio has or is currently looking to invest massively in the vertically integrated majors that dominate the Indian media scene. While Hollywood loves to show outside investors just how the movie business really works, some of the people behind Bollywood in India believe they have something to teach Hollywood about making movies. Heading in the same way are the Indian companies, investing in everything from Soho post-production facilities to funding Hollywood stars’ production companies and films. Reliance Entertainment, part of an Indian conglomerate controlled by the telecommunications and finance mogul Anil Ambani, is in talks to finance Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in a new venture. The company also recently signed production deals with Hollywood directors such as Jay Roach and Chris Columbus and stars such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Jim Carrey. Reliance Entertainment’s chairman, Amit Khanna, a Bollywood director and producer, and the company president, Rajesh Sawhney, a former newspaper group executive, laid out plans that include creating a US$10billion entertainment company that would be one of the world’s largest. They envision nothing short of remaking Hollywood. After several good years, entertainment companies in India are finding that they have the money but not enough places to spend it. “Although the Indian film industry is having one of its best runs ever as far as cash inflow is concerned, the fact is that the top-bracket talent is booked up for the next couple of years,’ said Hetal Adesara, a founder of Business of Cinema, a Mumbai-based Internet company that provides Bollywood news. Companies such as Reliance are looking to Hollywood to expand their portfolios and ‘create a new genre of crossover cinema’ with talent from India and abroad, he said. Directors who have worked in both Hollywood and Bollywood say the Indian emphasis on autonomy and innovation could have a strong impact on Hollywood. ‘I have complete and total creative freedom to do what I’m doing,’ said Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director of Eklavya, an Indian entry in the best foreign-language film category in the Academy Awards. He recently signed a two-movie deal with Reliance Entertainment for close to US$100million. Revenue from India’s movie industry hit US$2.2 billion last year, says PricewaterhouseCoopers, less than a tenth that of Hollywood. But Bollywood is expected to double in size by 2012, thanks to 13 per cent annual growth, versus less than three per cent in Hollywood. ‘There are a lot of lessons emerging markets can teach the rest of the world,’ said Rajesh Jain, head of media and entertainment for KPMG in India. For instance, Indian entertainment companies have embraced new channels of film distribution such as the Internet more rapidly than the West. That’s in part because of the Indian diaspora, many of whom are eager to see Bollywood films, but cannot find them in the local theatre. Rajshri Group, owner of one of India’s oldest production houses, was the first to tap into those millions, with the premiere of its film Vivah in 2006. It made a download of the film available at the same time it premiered in theatres in India. Thousands downloaded the film, each paying US$9.99. Still, at their roots, Hollywood and Bollywood are starkly different industries, starting with the economics. A Bollywood film costs a fraction of one from Hollywood: A small-budget film in India might be US$200,000 to US$1 million, while a big-budget film is US$4 million or more. The largest-budget Bollywood films have barely touched the US$20-million mark. As much as half of the production cost can go to fees for actors and directors. So far, getting mainstream Hollywood stars into major roles in Bollywood movies has proved difficult. Sylvester Stallone agreed to appear in Kambakkht Ishq, a move seen in the Indian film industry as a big breakthrough. But he made a brief appearance in the movie playing himself, not acting in a major role. For example, The Walt Disney Company (India) plans to independently produce four live action films. These will include The 19th Step with Kamal Haasan and Asin, to be directed by Bharat Bala, and Zokkomon with the Taare Zameen Par whiz kid Darsheel Safari, to be directed by Satyajit Bhatkal. It was Bhatkal who wrote The Spirit of Lagaan and directed Chale Chalo, the documentary on the making of Lagaan. Mahesh Samat, managing director of The Walt Disney Company (India), said this was in addition to its co-production arrangement with Yash Raj Films. On the eve of the launch of the Disney-Yash Raj Films maiden co-production Roadside Romeo, the animation feature directed by Jugal Hansraj with voice by Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Samat said the company was collaborating with Yash Raj Films for one more animation film. The 19th Step will be a lavish production with an Indo-Japanese cast. “This is an interesting film because it’s a multilingual which will primarily be in Tamil and it is one of those unique films that will potentially be a global film. It’s got some elements of martial arts. We are proud to be associated with Kamal Haasan and A.R. Rahman.” Disney’s foray into film production in India has been triggered by the size of the market. Samat said: “With 3.6 billion movie admissions a year, it’s a remarkable figure. With the value of movie admissions going up, we are talking about a US$7 billion box office. Disney has a huge amount of expertise in telling stories and building a franchise around the characters.” “We are about creating products that take the story beyond the story,” said Roshni Bakshi, regional director, Disney Consumer Products. A whole range of products that took the Roadside Romeo franchise to the consumer reached the retail market in mid-October, two weeks before the film’s Diwali release. “Film is the entertainment option for the family in India,” said Radesh Mishra, CEO/Indian operations at UFO Moviez. “India releases about 1,000 movies a year in more than 20 languages but the cost of prints, not helped by the usual two-and-a-half hour typical running time, is too high. A major film might have just 400 prints made which then trickle down to secondary cinemas. By this time however, piracy has usually kicked in, and in a big way.” The solution, Mishra argued, was digital cinema, and his organisation had already financed about 1,250 screens, and was targeting an additional 1,500 over the next two years. “We provide an end-to-end solution, sourcing the satellite bandwidth, the movies and fund the equipment. We are paid on a ‘per show’ basis, around 21 screenings a week. “Even better, some 50 per cent of our revenue comes from a brand-new source – advertising. Prior to digital distribution there was little or no interest from national advertisers in cinema ads. With 9,000 screens and about 8,000 owners this was an impossibility. Now we are generating widespread interest, and cutting down on piracy.” ASIAIMAGE

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