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Since 1st March, 1999
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Masala mogul spins ‘Hinglish’ dream

New Delhi, April 29: Karma, Saudagar, Damini, Khalnayak, Pardes, Taal, Jogger’s Park, Chandni Chowk…

The thread that runs through all these films (apparent to most till Taal) is that they come from the stable of Bollywood movie mogul Subhash Ghai. With the last two, the maker of big-budget, formula films is making a crossover — from Hindi to ‘Hinglish’ films.

‘Crossover’ films are typically low-budget films in English with Indian themes and locales that are aimed primarily at an international audience, but have recently fared well in the metros. They are made by Indian filmmakers, either in English or in both English and Hindi.

The trend has been established and exploited by moviemakers like Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, and Monsoon Wedding), Gurinder Chaddha (Bhaji on the Beach, Bend it Like Beckham) and Nagesh Kukunoor (Hyderabad Blues, Rockford).

Now, the man who marked a makeover from movie potentate to corporate chieftain in Bollywood a couple of years ago when he formed Mukta Arts to bankroll his celluloid ambitions is bent on stealing the thunder of the independent filmmakers.

“My production company, Mukta Arts Limited, is working on two so-called crossover films in English. One is called Chandni Chowk and the other, Jogger’s Park,” said Ghai, who has stumped up as much as Rs 15 crore to make some of his movies.

Jogger’s Park is being directed by Anant Balani, who had made Patthar ke Phool in the early ’90s with Salman Khan and Raveena Tandon. The “Hinglish” film is a modern upmarket social satire, starring Perizaad Zorabian (of Bollywood Calling fame) and Victor Banerjee.

Ghai was tight-lipped on Chandni Chowk, only letting out that it is being directed by Suhail Tatari.

He reckons crossover films will soon be the rage in an industry which, not too long ago, swore by the tastes of the frontbenchers in Hindi-speaking metros and suburbia. Globalisation has started leaving its mark on the Indian Industry.

The super commercial success of Nair’s Monsoon Wedding and Chaddha’s Bend it like Beckham has created a new genre — sensible cinema with Indian themes that can be marketed to the world at large in a language it understands.

Perhaps Shashi Kapoor, who produced the highly acclaimed 36 Chowringhee Lane that showed the lives of Anglo-Indians through the eyes of Indian protagonists, can claim to be the pioneer of the genre. Way back in the 1960s, he had also acted in the Merchant-Ivory production, The Householder, with Leela Naidu.

But it’s only now that Indian films in English are touching a chord with the Indian audience. Apart from Monsoon Wedding and …Beckham, Deepa Mehta’s Bollywood/Hollywood, Kukunoor’s Hyderabad Blues, Rahul Bose’s Everybody Says I’m Fine and Kaizad Gustaad’s Bombay Boys have recorded healthy turnouts.

The trend is not confined to the off-beat brigade alone. Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi are working in a Hollywood production, The Invaders. Rai will also star in Chadha’s next production, Bride and Prejudice.

The winds of change in the Indian film industry — arguably the largest in the world —which Ghai’s move portends could bring wider opportunities. Bollywood heavyweights are eyeing the global market not only with their film offerings, but also with their facilities. Ghai is convinced India can emerge as a low-cost outsourcing hub for the global film industry.

Indian locales have won over some global filmmakers and a number of international production houses are shooting their films in India attracted by low production costs. “There will soon be a single window through which local shooting for international film units can be facilitated,” promised information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

India and China are going to be the biggest entertainment markets in the next 10 years. “The core strength of the Indian film industry in the international market can be low cost, post-production facilities and our knowledge of English,” he said.

“More Indian filmmakers of the younger generation will henceforth make movies in English for the international market,” said Ghai.

He believes the government must give this industry a status on a par with that of the information technology sector. “The Indian film industry can be globally competitive and it should be given the same facilities which the IT industry enjoys,” said Ghai.

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