And the twain shall meet
The news of their courtship was in the air for quite some time but their marriage looked only a distant possibility. Recent overtures from both sides, however, seem to suggest that the world’s two biggest movie industries — Hollywood and Bollywood — have ultimately decided to walk that extra mile. The latest confirmation on this hi-profile knot came from the Cannes Film Festival. Hollywood top guns like Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Tom Hanks have secured up to $1 billion for their production houses from Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (ADA) Group-owned Reliance Big Entertainment. Earlier in the year, the ADA group took a leaf out of the Karan Johar book — target the deep pockets, a.k.a. the NRIs — and launched Big Cinemas, a 250-screen chain of theatres across 28 US cities that focuses on Bollywood cinema. The news from Cannes comes only months after Sawariya became the first film to be funded by a Hollywood company, Sony Pictures. Undaunted by the lukewarm response from the box-office and showing that it has long-term plans, Sony Pictures is reportedly investing more that Rs 250 crore for movies that essentially target the Indian market and the NRIs. And the market buzz has it that there are more companies at the turnstiles waiting and willing to invest in Bollywood.
Outsourcing of the technical aspects of films, especially animation, has been coming to India for a while now. But the recent big ticket financial deals are all set to push the contours of this growing synergy a little more. The reason for such cross-pollination is not difficult to seek: over the years Bollywood has become corporatised and with the sudden spurt in the number of multiplexes, the market has become more broadbased, both in terms of viewers as well as genres of films. On the other hand, Hollywood is facing a credit squeeze thanks to slow down in the US economy. So, for both industries, this is a win-win situation.
The real winners, however, are the audiences and those involved the two industries. While some Indian directors have successfully explored the ‘crossover’ route in the last few years, there is no doubt today there is a critical mass of Indian directors, actors, writers and technicians who are also keen to walk that line. For them, such global opportunities/exposure would open a new vista of international studio expertise. And, Hollywood wants to tap the growing Indian market and the middle-class, which is ready to play the entertainment stakes.
But does all this mean we will soon see a Brad Pitt prancing around in Srinagar, sorry South Africa, with a Rani Mukherjee? Or Abhishek Bachchan doing a jig with Angelina Jolie in Australia? True, the canvas is growing. But hopefully the Bollywoodisation of Hollywood is not yet on the cards.