Bollywood reveals ambition at Cannes - 21 May 2009

Bollywood has descended on the Cannes Film Festival with an array of offerings that reveal the ambitions of the world’s most prolific film industry to expand beyond India’s cinemas.

A film to be released by Eros International, the London-listed Bollywood distributor, will combine western stars Sylvester Stallone and Denise Richards with Indian hero Akshay Kumar and female lead Kareena Kapoor in a production that hopes to appeal to foreign audiences.

Rival Reliance Big Entertainment is showcasing a film that will have two versions – a 100-minute English-language cut tailored to foreign audiences and a 150-minute Hindi take with plenty of Bollywood song and dance routines.

“Cinema is changing quite dramatically,” Amit Khanna, chairman of Reliance Big, said.

“It’s going to be more about making films that are inclusive of global audiences.”

Together with its sister industries in India’s south, Mumbai-based Bollywood produces more than 1,000 films a year and makes about $2bn at the box office.

The launch in Cannes of more globalised efforts from Bollywood comes after greater interest in India-related films after the popularity of Slumdog Millionaire, the British Oscar-winning production.

“Bollywood is sexy today. Everyone wants to get into the distribution of Bollywood films in their country, especially after the success of Slumdog,” Kishore Lulla, chairman and chief executive of Eros, said.

His film, Kambakkht Ishq, one of three he is showcasing in Cannes, features Mr Kumar playing a stunt man and Ms Kapoor a model in Hollywood. Mr Stallone and other US stars make cameo appearances.

“This is the perfect Hollywood-Bollywood connection, a Bollywood film with Hollywood actors, and it’s set in Hollywood,” director Sabbir Khan said.

Reliance Big’s film, Kites, will star Bollywood lead Hrithik Roshan, who falls in love with the character of Mexican actress Barbara Mori in Las Vegas.

Directed by Mr Roshan’s father, Rakesh Roshan, and due to be released in the third quarter, Reliance’s film arm claims it is one of the most expensive Indian films with a budget of $30m.

The international setting and the global theme is expected to help it translate to audiences beyond Indian cinemas.

Mr Khanna said the concept of the “crossover” film – appealing to audiences in different countries – had changed.

“You can’t give up your domestic audience, so you have to then alter the format – do two versions, two different cuts, one for the domestic market and the other for specific international markets.”

Reliance said it was working on 20 projects with Hollywood stars, directors and producers that were at the script development stage.

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