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Bollywood All Set to Give Hollywood a Run for its Money
June, 03rd 2008

Bollywood, India's thriving movie business, is set to take on the West and will one day threaten Hollywood's control, a report said on Sunday.

"We (Bollywood) are at the inflexion point - where Hollywood was in the 1930s and 1940s. In five years there will be a lot of marriages that will shape the industry for the next 50 years," Kishore Lulla, chief of Eros International, the AIM-listed filmmaker told The Sunday Times .

Lulla expected a spate of consolidation that would boil India's 25 film producers - many of them regional players working in Tamil or Telugu - into five main Bollywood players.

The report said India's cinema scene, where 4 billion tickets are sold annually, has always been big business. Since the government relaxed rules on banks and investors lending money to filmmakers, expansion has taken off both at home and abroad.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the leading audit firm, domestic Indian film revenue would almost double from Rs 96 billion in 2007 to Rs 176 billion in 2012. In Britain, Bollywood accounted for just under 2 per cent of box-office takings last year - 3 million pounds.

"It's a rising trend," Mark Batey, chief executive of the Film Distributors' Association, said. "Bollywood is a niche, but a significant niche. Over time, we are seeing wider releases and more of them."

That figure was driven by 1.3 m pounds grossed by Om Shanti Om , a 1970s spoof that did not take itself too seriously.

"Bollywood was just pure song-and-dance movies and family values," said Lulla. "Now, if you look at it, there is arthouse coming, there are thrillers, action movies. There will be sex, definitely. People want something new everytime. You can't keep giving them the same old thing," he said.

The report said the Cannes Film Festival underscored Bollywood's intentions to become a world player. Two deals that stuck out involved the biggest Indian producers.

Just as the US studios are striking a note of caution with further investment, 'Reliance Big Entertainment,' part of the Reliance conglomerate controlled by the Ambani family announced a USD 1 billion injection into eight Hollywood production companies, including those owned by A-lister film stars Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt.

Eros chose a different route, instead cementing a distribution joint venture with Lionsgate, an independent studio, that will get more Indian movies seen in America and Lionsgate's DVDs into the Indian market.

It is not Lulla's first tie-up with Hollywood. While on holiday with his family in Los Angeles last August, he met Michael Lynton, the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. "We hit it off and we thought we would do something together," Lulla said.

The pair is working on three film scripts, with two due to go into production shortly. Sony already has formed in the Bollywood genre, releasing Saawariya last year.

Eros has a superhero film, Toonpur Ka Superhero, which will have its premiere in London later this year, with an Indian Aladdin, promising plenty of special effects and computer-generated graphics, following in November.

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