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Creative tips from Britain for film industry

A co-production treaty has been signed between Indian and British film production houses to promote South Indian films.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 13:21 IST

Kamal Haasan's hit Tamil film "Virumandi" entertaining Latin American audiences? It might actually happen with Indo-British initiatives giving films from southern India a chance to be seen outside the community.

"It can be done, leveraging new technologies," said Parminder Vir, chair of the creative industries working group in the Indo-British Partnership Network (IBPN), who was here as part of the delegation accompanying British Trade Minister Ian Pearson during his four-day trip to India.

A co-production treaty was signed last year between the two countries so that Indian production houses can benefit from the IBPN and get "a global audience", said the Indian origin chairperson who has been honoured with an OBE (Order of the British Empire).

"Co-investment, co-development, leveraging skills, co-production and co-distribution" is what the South Indian film industry needs, said Vir, who had also come to Chennai in 2002 with the first IBPN initiative to look at collaboration with the film industry in the south.

She is back this year to look especially at the technical skills available and at the animation industry.

"Collaboration with south India is not about outsourcing. Tamil Nadu and the other southern states have some of the best recoding studios, animation facilities and state-of-the art studios."

After a visit to the AVM studios in Chennai, one of the biggest film production houses in the south, Vir was enthusiastic.

"What is lacking is an ambassador to reach the global market," Vir told IANS, hoping to provide a marketing platform and more for south Indian films. Vir, who is also consultant with Ingenious World Cinema, Britain's leading media investment and advisory business specialising in promoting cross-culture films, is hoping to radically change the film scenario here.

The Tamil film market extends to a diaspora spreading from Fiji to South Africa "within the Tamil speaking community", she pointed out.

But it is not a happy situation.

National Award winning films like "Pithamagan", or Kamal Haasan's "Virumaandi" or Rajnikanth's "Chandramukhi" are not even seen in north Indian theatres. "Marudhanayagam", Kamal Haasan's dream project inaugurated in 1997 in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, is stuck for lack of funds.

All this may soon change with some expert advice from Ingenious World Cinema -- Ingenious Asset Management is ranked among the top 10 British equity funds and its first investment was "Pop Idol", which eventually became the hugely popular "American Idol".

Referring to differences in perception, Vir said: "In India, the biggest budget is Rs.600 million ($13.5 million) for a studio like AVM. But to produce a film that will have a worldwide viewership, a budget of Rs.6 billion ($135 million) is what would be thought of as just about sufficient."

"The creative industries in the UK and India represent the fastest growing sectors in both the economies," she added.

According to IBPN, India remains one of the least tapped entertainment markets in the world and spells opportunity.

The size, scale, value of the southern film industry was being assessed and it was "going to be a challenge to go to the mainstream media worldwide with a dynamic strategy to promote South Indian films", Vir said.

IBPN was launched in December 2005 to increase bilateral trade, business and investment between Britain and India. It is supported by UK Trade and Investment and members of its Board head JETCO (Joint Economic and Trade Commission) working groups.

IBPN is an accessible gateway reaching out to businesses of all sizes, particularly encouraging and facilitating SMEs to do business with India.