Historic Bollywood-Hollywood pact signals India’s emergence in world cinema
Bollywood emerged as a major player in Hollywood on August 17 as Oscar winner Steven Spielberg finalized his funding deal of $825 million, with major chunk coming from India’s Reliance.
Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, chairman of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, wrote the biggest check of $325 million in equity, for new DreamWorks Studios operated by principal partners Spielberg and Stacey Snider after about 14 months of financial alliance. Various banks, including Bank of America, provided final leg of financing. The Studios will make up to 21 movies over next four years.
Acclaimed Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, welcoming this new India-Hollywood partnership, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that this pact signaled India’s emergence as a rising force in Hollywood. It clearly exhibited that India was evolving as a pivotal player in international film arena.
DreamWorks will keep creative control over productions. Walt Disney Company will handle distribution and marketing for its films around the world, except in India where Reliance retains distribution. Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, vice chairman of Reliance Capital, will join Spielberg and Snider on DreamWorks’ board of directors. Under the agreement, Reliance will reportedly match funds in future also.
Funding battle was tough for Spielberg because of evaporation of Wall Street financing in Hollywood, thus opening doors to foreign investment. To raise finance, Spielberg had to sell a half interest in the company to Reliance who was eager to get a toehold in Hollywood, according to reports.
Spielberg and Snider, in a statement, thanked “Anil personally for his foresight and fortitude over the past months”. Ambani said, “Our partnership with Stacey and Steven is the cornerstone of our Hollywood strategy as we grow our film interests across the globe.” For Reliance, the venture is also “a step in the direction of trying to do something on a global scale that appeals to global audiences” and an attempt to accelerate the development of India’s film industry.
DreamWorks’ “Dinner for Schmucks” (Jay Roach), a French comedy remake, will begin shooting in October. Spielberg will start making “Harvey”, remake of a 1950 classic about a man and his friendship with imaginary six-foot-tall rabbit, in January. Both will be released in 2010. Studio will shoot about six films annually.
DreamWorks’ other projects include family film “Real Steel” showing boxing between humans and robots; children’s “The 39 Clues”; an adaptation of the comic book “Cowboys and Aliens”; and action thriller “Motorcade” about terrorists attacking president’s motorcade. It also has over a dozen other movies in development that Spielberg bought from Paramount as part of his company’s separation settlement. He recently completed directing a 3-D film “Tintin” on the classic Belgian comic strip, which will be released in 2011. Spielberg has also reportedly obtained movie rights regarding the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Reliance, among India’s top three business houses with a market capitalization of $81 billion and the largest shareholder base in the world, has built a formidable film production slate in English, Hindi and various regional languages of India, and also has development silos with other Hollywood production companies, including those run by actors George Clooney, Jim Carrey, Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Jay Roach, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Chris Columbus, and Brett Ratner.
Rajan Zed, who is chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, further said that though Hollywood kept the creative control over the productions in this deal, it still would stretch India’s global presence and showed Bollywood’s international expansion. Zed argued that Indo-Americans would like to see more such Bollywood-Hollywood deals where Bollywood would also have command on the creative aspects also.
Ambani is said to be a film buff who hosts screenings of the latest Hollywood blockbusters at his house. Spielberg first went to India over 30 years ago to film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. About four billion movie tickets are sold in India annually.
Offered up strictly without comment — beyond pointing out that the acclaimed Hindu spokesman is also, by self-definition, an acclaimed Indian American statesman.