From the desk of…

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.

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7 thoughts on “From the desk of…

  1. Tipu – I am not aruguing against Prem’s opinion or comments .. totally agree that this Rajan guy is a nut case. Just curious as to why he enjoys so much of attention in this blog. There are many lunatics – hankering for PR/power/whatever else their trip in life may be – who don’t seem to merit anywhere near this level of interest from Prem.

    • Satish, I have no “personal history” with Zed — outside of having been bored stiff by his regular calls to my office, when I was in NY, asking that this or the other statement be front-paged because of its utmost importance to the community.

      I also have no problem with his personal lunacy, and agree there are dozens of others out there.

      I do have a problem with his proclaiming himself the voice of Hindus, however. Mainstream papers routinely print this crap, and in time Zed is getting transformed into the de facto voice of a religion I happen to believe in. I find his pronouncements ludicrous, but that would be okay — what I object to is when the statements of an individual are sought to be foisted on a community.

      “Hindus ask for an Oscar for Bollywood movies”? Sorry, no, we never did. Here is the crap that landed in my box just minutes before:

      Bollywood dance craze is spreading across USA, Canada and Europe.

      Bollywood dance classes/workshops are hot, fun, energetic and contagious and Bollywood dance studios/companies/centers/schools are popping up almost everywhere across cities of America, Canada and many countries of Europe to teach its hip-shaking moves. Many night clubs are having “Bollywood nights”.

      It has been gaining foothold for the last few years and spreading to the mainstream and the success of Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire” (Danny Boyle) has added fuel to the fire. Many artists have reportedly used its style, including Missy Elliot, Black Eyed Peas, Truth Hurts, Daddy Yankee, Dr. Dre; and besides Slumdog, various other movies like Moulin Rouge, Monsoon Wedding, The Guru, Ghost World, The Inside Man, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Bombay Dreams’ also showed Bollywood dance sequences.

      Corporations like Oracle and Cisco are reportedly hosting Bollywood dance classes on their campuses in exercise areas. Even prestigious University of California Berkeley has its own Bollywood dance team called Ishaara. Besides for having fun, people are flocking to it for keeping fit, a good cardiovascular workout, weight control, excellent aerobic exercise, body discipline, making them feel good, etc.

      Welcoming the growing popularity of Bollywood dance, acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed says that in this excitement, let us not forget our classical dances like Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Mohiniaattam, Chhau, etc., and hundreds of regional folk dances, and continue working for their promotion and preservation.

      Bollywood dance classes are getting bigger (reaching 40 sometimes) and are also taught at community centers, YMCA, YWCA, schools, adult education centers, colleges, universities, yoga studios, etc. Longinus Fernandes, who directed about 3,000 dancers in Slumdog Millionaire’s final “Jai Ho” dance sequence, recently reportedly taught Bollywood master class “Dance 101” in Atlanta. Besides people of India descent, many mainstream Americans and foreigners are taking these classes, which sometimes cost $40 each and have waiting lists.

      From London (which had a London Mela last Sunday attracting about 83,000 people who participated in mass Bollywood dance), to Tuscaloosa in Alabama (where Bollywood dance was held in a mall last Saturday), its craze is increasing everyday. At Dance DC Festival in Washington DC, the opening night on August 28 begins with “Live! A Bollywood Experience” performance.

      Bollywood dancing is a high energy vibrant dance performed to the Bollywood tracks and is fusion of traditional Indian dances, folk dances (including Bhangra), and western influences; popularized by Bollywood movies which usually feature about seven song-dance sequences, mostly involving two people falling in love. It is a free dance, an expression of joy.

      Rajan Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that traditionally Lord Shiva invented dance who first danced the cosmic tandava. Sage Bharata first codified rules of classic Indian dance in Natya-sastra treatise. Dancing had been used as a devotional aid also and Vaishnavite mystics Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sant Tukaram both danced in ecstasy before Lord. Certain sacred dances like kuttu could only be performed in temples. The nimble footwork in some of the Indian dances was quite extraordinary, done with great skill and a remarkable sense of timing and manuals listed several hundred movements of hands. Ras-lila was popular throughout India which even had war dances, fertility dances, etc., Zed added.

  2. Q- why are you so obsessed with a non-entity called Rajan Zed, so much so that everything he does finds a mention here? Is there some personal history that we should aware of?

    • Satish, this guy keeps calling himself the voice of Hindus everywhere, which is (1) untrue, (2) irritating & (3) makes all Hindus look like straight-laced sanctimonius holier-than-thou bores. I am glad Prem is shining a light on him.

      PS: what kind of a Hindu name is Zed? Or is it like Malcolm X for Hindus? 🙂

  3. Quentin Tarantino in a way of tribute to Rajan Zed immortalised him thus in Pulp Fiction…

    Fabienne: Whose motorcycle is this?
    Butch: It’s a chopper, baby.
    Fabienne: Whose chopper is this?
    Butch: It’s Zed’s.
    Fabienne: Who’s Zed?
    Butch: Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

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