Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bollywood in bed with Hollywood ?

The party scene at this year's Cannes Film Festival is apparently buzzing with news that Indian interests, led by Reliance Big Entertainment (an affiIiate of Reliance Industries), are moving into the world of Hollywood film production. Reliance is reportedly providing substantial development financing to a number of Hollywood production entities, including the production vehicles of megastars such as Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Hanks' Playtone Productions and Brad Pitt. After MGM and Paramount, will Anil Ambani be the next dominant force in La-La Land ?

The Indian foray into film production in the USA is not new of course. Ashok Amritraj, the brother of the tennis stars Vijay and Anand, has been active in this area for several years now, with at least a score or more of TV and big screen films to his credit. The appearance of a $100 billion conglomerate like Reliance has stirred the pot to the point that even the Wall Street Journal has sat up and taken note. With more and more funds coming on to the international investment scene from India, there have been other alliances reported as well, such as a pact between the Lionsgate organization of Hollywood and Kishore Lulla's Eros International Group, for reciprocal arrangements to release Lionsgate's English language productions in India and Eros's Bollywood films in the USA.

The Reliance investment package includes plans to spend $1 billion to produce over 60 feature films in nine languages over the next two years. As a result Reliance will gain Indian distribution rights for these films.

And it's not just the area of film production and distribution – Reliance, already India's largest operator of movie theaters, are also moving ahead with plans to open a chain of 250 cinemas across the United States, according to other Press reports. Will cinemas screening Indian films be as prolific in US neighborhoods as the burgeoning Indian restaurant scene ?

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