Indian presence in Hollywood

East meets West

“Indian films need to shed the larger-than-life image and be more ‘intimate’ to make a mark at the Academy Awards,” opines the Indian Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj.

 
Amritraj, who has produced more than 100 films in Hollywood in various capacities, and who has also been a member of the Board for Oscar Awards adds, “Indian movies are more extravagant with expensive costumes, songs and dances. The jury tends to like movies which are smaller and intimate like Slumdog Millionaire or King’s Speech.”

However, Amritraj feels that there are now slightly elevated chances of making a mark at the Oscars, what with the Indian industry now coming out with more realistic films by new-age directors.

Out of the 46 films sent so far from India, Lagaan is the last and the third Indian movie after Mother India and Salaam Bombay to get a position among the top five films nominated for the award by an Oscar jury. However, none of the films succeeded in winning the award. Amritraj, who does not watch Bollywood movies often, says that Aamir Khan’s Lagaan was the last Bollywood film he had watched. Amritraj feels that Indian film industry lacks good screenplay writers and says that he plans to take steps towards discovering new talent in collaboration with Indian partners. 

Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Ashok Amritraj’s sole Indian production was an Aishwarya Rai-starrer — the Tamil film Jeans. He adds, “I am currently talking with various people in the industry and hopefully come up with another Indian film, be it in English, Hindi or any other language.” 

Amritraj’s company, Hyde Park Entertainment, has already partnered with local bodies in Abu Dhabi and Singapore for producing films in those locations.

Amritraj has produced acclaimed Hollywood films such as The Doubles, Traitor and Death Sentence. His latest release, Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance, stars Nicholas Cage and Edris Elba. Nicholas Cage plays the lead role of Johnny Blaze while Edris Alba plays a warrior-monk, whose mission is to find the ‘ghost rider’. The film was shot during the winters in Turkey and Romania.

Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance is a sequel to the 2007 hit, Ghost Rider. The sequel comes with enhanced visual effects. “Technology has widely developed in the last couple of years. The 3D factor has made it possible to enhance visual effects.”

Amritraj says that the project is important to him as it is his maiden venture on a comic book story, a collaboration with Sony Pictures and Marvel. Ghost Rider is a series from the classic Marvel comic book which has become a big hit among the readers.

Amritraj considers that the market for Hollywood movies in India has seen a gradual rise over a period of time and expects it to grow further in the next 10 years. He observes, “Earlier, there was a gap of a year between the release of a movie in Hollywood and in India. Now, many movies are releasing on the same day in India, as in Hollywood.” Amritraj attributes this growth to multiple factors, including the economy, advent of multiplexes, better connectivity in the world, etc.

However, he is quick to note, “Indian films will always dominate. About 90 per cent of the Indian market will be ruled by Indian films, be it in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu or any other language.”

Speaking about the market for Indian movies in the west, Amritraj states that Indian films are yet to make an impact among the global audience. “Indian films have a niche market in the west. To gain acceptance globally, Indian filmmakers will need to make films that suit the taste and demand of the global audience.”

While Amritraj is an Indian producer in Hollywood, there are acclaimed Indian directors like Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta, Manoj Shyamalan and Shekhar Kapoor who have also made their presence felt in the western film industry.

On being asked about the probability of making a Hollywood film with any of the Indian directors, Amritraj says that he has neither heard of any such proposal till date, nor thought about it till now.

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