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India in focus

Many Hollywood films, helmed by veterans like Steven Spielberg and Alexander Payne, are being set in India. Here’s a look at why.

bollywood Updated: Oct 25, 2013 15:00 IST
Prashant Singh

The release and eventual success of Danny Boyle’s multiple Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (SM; 2008) immediately put India on the global map. Its success was followed by a slew of Hollywood films with stories based in India, such as the Julia Roberts-starrer Eat Pray Love (2010), John-Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi (2012).

That’s not all. Parts of the stories of movies like The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Mission Impossible: The Ghost Protocol (2011) were set as well as shot in India. Back in 2007, The Darjeeling Limited was one of the first big projects that was set in our country.

“If their (international film-makers) movies do reasonable business in India, why shouldn’t they be more interested in exploring the market? After all, not many can take the risk of ignoring over a billion people,” says trade expert Taran Adarsh.

Real-life stories
Currently, there are as many as nine to 10 Hollywood films being made, which are set in India. Alexander Payne has acquired the movie rights to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s story, The Judge’s Will, which is about an uneasy relationship between a dying Delhi judge and his young wife. “I would call it the domino effect of SM. And I am confident that this is just the tip of the iceberg. If our government becomes more pro-active in terms of permission and other formalities, the numbers will go up by 100 per cent,” says actor-producer Anil Kapoor.

Also, Steven Spielberg, who shot in India for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984), has apparently finalised the script for a film, a large part of which will be shot at the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir.

Another film is Craig Gillespie’s Million Dollar Arm, based on the true story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who were discovered by sports agent JB Bernstein after they won a reality show in India. Also, Mira Nair is set to direct Bengali Detective, a film about a spy whose dream is to dance on Indian TV. That’s not all. The film adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’s book, Shantaram, which was considered to have been shelved is back on track again. While Johnny Depp will produce the film, Garth Davis will be directing it. Film-maker Vipul Shah explains the trend. “It happened with China and now it is India’s turn. Hollywood moves towards wherever there is moolah,” he says.

Looking east
Iconic Iranian director Majid Majidi is also working on an India-centric film, titled Floating Gardens. Vikas Swarup’s (the author of Q&A, on which SM was based) second book, Six Suspects, is set for a screen adaptation too. However, film-maker Sanjay Gupta says we should be wary of being overly joyous about this trend. “Not many big studios from Hollywood seem to be inclined towards setting films in India,” he says.

Films to be set in india
Alexander Payne’s The Judge’s Will
Steven Spielberg’s untitled
Mira Nair’s Bengali Detective
Majid Majidi’s Floating Gardens