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Bollywood no longer Mumbai's exclusive domain
Priyanka Khanna, Sep 4  [ Sun, Sep 4, 2005 ]
Bollywood no longer Mumbai's exclusive domain
'Ramji Londonwaley' premiered in London

  • New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) The London premiere of a fully British-funded comedy about the trails and tribulations of a small-time Indian cook marks the beginning of the end of the domination of Mumbai over the unique form of cinema it brought forth.

    "Ramji Londonwaley," with an all-Indian star cast and crew and set in Britain, marks the country's foray into Bollywood. Though this is not for the first time that foreign investment has entered into the Hindi film industry, it is the first fully foreign-funded and distributed venture.

    The film is backed by British minister Patricia Hewitt's "Bollywood Initiative" policy which clearly calls for production of Britain-based Bollywood films to cater to the huge British Indian population which has its very own culture and nuances distinct from mainland India.

    "Ramji Londonwaley" producer J. Murali Manohar says the scheme was introduced by MATV, Leicester, in association with CEE (I) TV Entertainment UK. Limited and supported by Motion Pictures Partners International Limited U.K. and has made a vast difference to the perception of Bollywood in Britain by allowing investment to soar.

    Unlike the film's title character who is a small-time cook from Bihar and feels lost when he lands up in the alien western culture of London, Bollywood is on solid footing in the nation.

    South Indian star Madhavan portrays the role of Ramji and the film also has British Asian actor Ameet Chana. Written by actor Kamal Hasan, the film has
    Vishal Bharadwaj as its music director. An array of singers including Sukhvinder Singh, Daler Mehndi, Sonu Nigam, Alisha Chinai have performed for the film.

    The film is directed by Sanjay Dayma, who assisted in the direction of the
    Oscar-nominated film "Lagaan." Dayma was also awarded the AIFFA and Screen
    Award for Excellence for the screenplay of "Lagaan." He has used most of the character artists in "Lagaan" for his latest venture.

    Cee (I) TV Entertainment TV, owned by Manohar, may be a new name for Bollywood but will soon be a well-known one. The company is backing Aishwarya Rai-starrer "Provoked" which has been completed and would be released Nov 25.

    Other films include "Telling Lies, "Private Moments" and "Backwaters." The company's next venture "Infinite Justice," based on the story of Wall Street
    Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan, will be released in December.

    Continued on next page...

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    The entry of major Hollywood studios into Hindi film production has to a great extent quelled the resentment domestic players hold against them for promoting English films in the Indian market.

    The high and mighty of Bollywood have joined forces with international production houses in their entry into Bollywood.

    No longer content with Hollywood blockbusters - both dubbed and non-dubbed - cornering a fair share of Indian moviegoers, the Western movie powerhouses are eyeing to join the Bollywood bandwagon.

    At a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Frames conference, Motion Picture Association of America's Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Micheal Connors admitted Hollywood was keen to join hands with Bollywood to "bring the mystical magic of film to people everywhere through the new digital technologies".

    Hyperion Pictures India, a subsidiary of the independent Hyperion Studio
    Inc., is looking at three projects in India, including a musical directed by US director Willard Carroll, with an American heroine but an Indian hero, cast, crew and locations.

    Universal Music has announced its intention of producing three Hindi films.
    With this, Universal has stolen the march over Sony Pictures Entertainment, which was the first to get a Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to produce and distribute films in India way back in 1998.

    Though Sony is going slow on the production front, it has significantly opened up its distribution line-up through its Columbia Tristar Films arm. Some Indian production houses too have tied up with their Western counterparts for financing and distribution.

    But sceptics warn against cracking open the champagne yet.

    They say multinational entertainment houses continue to be wary of investing in Bollywood.

    Indian restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) for producing and distributing films in India were removed two years ago and those on remitting funds abroad in 2001.

    Hollywood's share of the Indian film market averages a mere five percent, whereas in most other markets it is up to 60-90 percent.

    Fox India's managing director Aditya Shastri says: "We have multiple problems in India, including unsettled tax issues for the last eight years. So we are not seriously looking at production here."