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Now 'Britishness' test for Indian films

For tax concessions while shooting film in UK, the film will have to pass test of 'Britishness', reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 21:01 IST
Vijay Dutt

If you want tax concessions in Britain while shooting your film there, you will have to pass the test of 'Britishness'. You must also spend 25 per cent of your film's budget in Britain.

These new rules for foreign filmmakers will come into force from the beginning of next year. However, British co productions with foreign film companies are exempted.

The 'Britishness' test imposes a host of criteria including the number of British actors and crew hired, and the amount of English used in the film's dialogue.

The rules have led to considerable apprehensions about the extent of Bollywood being shot in the United Kingdom going down sharply. This year 69 Indian films were released commercially in the UK, while 14 were shot in London.

UK Film Productions, the scouting agency for selecting locations, providing extras and hotel accommodation for foreign film crews feels that there could be a 50 per cent fall in business in 2007, because of the new scheme.

However, Jagmohan Mundra, who has made films in London, the latest being the Provoked with Aishwarya Rai, does not agree. Talking to Hindustan Times, he said, "Many films in Indian languages were being made here by a few Britain-based companies. Most were never released. I think there was such an abuse of the tax break rules that the government decided to plug the loopholes."
"I do not see any fewer shootings at locations by Bollywood producers who come here because of attractive and glamorous sites and buildings. But surely this will mean loss to local crews as there will be fewer home productions."
The efforts by many companies and likes of the University of Leicester are indeed continuing to bring in more producers in London. They will be lured by the fact that overseas sales are more lucrative than their home market. The three largest multiplex chains — Odeon, Vue Cinemas and Cineworld — routinely screen Hindi films that appear in UK's top 15 film lists. Ten years ago hardly any Bollywood films were released in Britain. Lucy Jones, of Nielsen EDI, which measures box office performance in 14 countries, once said, "It's a recent development. Bollywood is not just a specialist cinema any more." 

It is true. Until only recently, India was regarded as the prime market, with overseas takings as the icing on the cake. Now the position has been reversed. Productions are increasingly being filmed in Britain and America to make them more relevant to South Asians who live there. Themes involving the Diaspora are considered a sure ticket to massive collections in the US and the UK particularly.
Any movie relating to Asian lifestyle in London is the surest insurance for breaking box-office records. Examples are many like, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Pardes.

Leicester with a large number of Gujarat-origin residents, who have done very well, is trying to become the focus for the Indian film industry for shooting, distribution and post-production. Authorities in the East Midlands town and the University of Leicester have undertaken several projects to promote the region as a destination for the Indian film industry.

One of the films shot in the city was John Abraham's first film, Is Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon.

Early this year, Dipesh Majithia, a local film promoter who opened a Raj Kapoor-themed restaurant secured the British distribution rights of Fight Club, a new film produced by Salman Khan and Sohail Khan Productions. The film will be released in Britain February 17, with premieres planned in Feltham, Birmingham and Leicester.

The East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) funded European Capital for Indian Cinema project to explore partnerships in Leicester and the East Midlands region could forge with India's film and creative industries.
A research was carried out at the University of Leicester to highlight the potential of the city and region to cater to Bollywood. Jaideep Mukherjee from the Centre for Mass Communication Research at the University of Leicester, optimistically told HT that he had contacted producers in Mumbai and Chennai to make films in Leicestershire.

Leicester MP Patricia Hewitt, when the trade secretary, had backed a funding initiative led by a group of Asian entrepreneurs to raise a reported £37 million for investment in Indian films, featuring Indian and British Asian talent, likely to be filmed in the region.

Yorkshire and Humber which has beaten New York to host India's equivalent of the Oscars — the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in the summer of 2007 has a "Bollywood Dream". It expects to boost tourism collection of over £9.5 million — with film and event industries plus overseas trade. More than 12,000 rooms are expected to be booked during the event.

Mundra guessed right when he said, "The number of location shootings will not decrease. Indeed with more subjects relating to the Asians here, more productions will focus on newer sites." Britain shall continue with its Bollywood dream, new tax regime notwithstanding. In fact it is more aimed to bring in Hollywood which has been avoiding  Britain in the last few years.  

Bad news awaits the UK Film Industry in the New Year. It has been nursing the hope of making more money from Bollywood productions in Britain. Bollywood indeed is the surest money spinner in the UK and has used dozens of locations here for many films. A UK-Indo Co-production agreement was also brokered by the UK Film Council with Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell even going to India to promote joint production of movies. 

The Government is eager to attract shooting and production of Indian films which it knows will benefit tourism and swell the coffers of hotels, councils — Westminster Council alone hosted 50 shoots in 2006 — and help local crews and extras. The British Tourism Authority brought out a Bollywood map showing locations where Indian films were shot and then gave details of how to reach them and the places to stay there. The booklet was used in a campaign to promote tourism from various countries.

But it is said that India is dragging its feet in signing the agreement. This is making the Government in London and the film industry nervous.

But apart from the non-signing of the agreement so far, new rules for cinema tax breaks which will be effective from January I, are predicted to affect the UK Film Industry adversely. A new cultural test has been introduced for rating a production as a British film made in Britain for tax concessions. Apart from Hindi films being shot on various locations here — there were 200 this year — there were  69 releases of Bollywood films and there were 14 productions financed by the Indian film industry that have been be shot in London.