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It's now Hollywood outsourcing to India!

Improved telecom and state-of-the art facilities are transforming India into an attractive shooting location.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2005 12:48 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Bypassing decades of government paranoia and suspicion, Indian film studio executives and producers are quietly positioning the country as a potentially large outsourcing destination for Hollywood movies.

Helped by a "film-friendly" government, several executives and producers are snapping up deals that would facilitate Hollywood shoots in India.

In its latest cover story, respected trade journal Screen International said: "A film-friendly government, improved telecom and state-of-the art facilities are helping to transform India into an attractive shooting location for international productions."

At least nine new Hollywood films have either been made or are in the process of being made in India in a dramatic surge unprecedented in Indian history.

The movies include "Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World", "Scrolls", "The Namesake", "The Thread", "Partition", "Man from Rajapur", "Kerala", "Exclusion" and "Marigold", which stars Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan.

These movies straddle a diverse variety of themes and locations ranging from Rajasthan, Kerala and Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

"There is a clear recognition within the Indian government that after IT, India could be an important outsourcing hub for international movie productions," said Dilpeep Singh Rathore, whose company On The Road Productions has emerged as a key player in this new business space.

Rathore's Mumbai-based company specialises in line production, which entails every single requirement of a movie shoot, including scouting locations, arranging local technicians and equipment, and obtaining government permissions.

Over the past decade and a half that Rathore has been in the business, he has helped mount productions such as "City of Joy", "Queenie", "The Deceivers" and many more.

In a measure of growing interest in the country, leading Hollywood company ARRI Film and TV organised a seminar on "India: The New Frontier for International Productions".

The seminar highlighted issues like the pros and cons of shooting in India in terms of locations, crew, studio facilities, permits, weather, currency and labour. The seminar also focused on co-production treaties between India and other countries.

The panellists included Patrick Crowley, producer of the hits "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy", Thomas Nickel of ARRI Film and TV and Rathore.

"The process to clear a script, which used to be quite painful, has been made much easier. Under the new dispensation, scripts are approved within three weeks," Rathore told The Subcontinent.

The Indian government has also relaxed the requirement of screening all movies shot in the country at Indian diplomatic missions. Now only movies with sensitive content are required to be shown at the missions.

Unlike earlier, when the producer had to bear the cost of an Indian liaison officer to be present at such screenings, it will now be borne by the Indian government.

"I think even script scrutiny has become more open-minded than before, unlike in the past when the government used to view everything with suspicion," Rathore said.

Rathore recently finished shooting the movie "Man from Rajapur" in Rajasthan as well as a Federal Express commercial in Mumbai.

Hollywood and other producers who have shot in India have come back with a unanimously strong opinion of the quality of Indian film technicians.

Crowley, who shot "The Bourne Supremacy" in Goa, said India's leading key grip technician Sanjay Sami was one of the best he had worked with anywhere in the world.

Screen International's cover story quoted several others as strongly endorsing the Indian talent.

"Because of the significant cost savings, between 40 to 60 percent, India could emerge as an important destination for international productions. There is a lot of money to be made and lot of work to be generated," said Emmanuel Pappas, another young producer who has been pitching India.

Screen quoted Arun Kumar of Hyderabad-based Ramoji Film City, Asia's largest studio, as saying that producers could benefit from direct savings.

While Rathore and Pappas, who act as a virtual film commission in the absence of an official Indian film commission, said the promise is strong, they also pointed out that there are currently only two studios that meet Western production standards - Ramoji Film City and the recently launched Yash Raj's studios in Mumbai.

"Ramoji has several soundstages and approximately 50 shooting floors set on a 2,000 acre backlot. Yash Raj has three state-of-the-art soundstages and great make-up and actor holding facilities," Rathore said.

"It is our mission to keep working with Hollywood studios and independent producers to convince them about the enormous advantages that India offers. Unlike IT, which is relatively new in India, film production has been as old as anywhere else in the world.

"So we have the necessary technical and creative depth to emerge as a serious rival to Hollywood," Rathore said.

First Published: Nov 21, 2005 12:26 IST