Warner Bros. on Tuesday unveiled its first India production, the action comedy “Made in China,” for which it will hold worldwide rights.
With the film — helmed by Nikhil Advani (“Salaam-e-ishq”) and produced by Indian shingles Ramesh Sippy Prods. and Orion Pictures –Warner joins Viacom, Sony and Disney in the accelerating Hollywood race to make movies in India.
Though Hollywood fare flourishes overseas, it accounts for a small percentage of the box office in India –the world’s second most populous nation. For example, Hollywood fare accounted for 85% of Spain’s B.O. in 2006 but only 8% in India.
Since more multiplexes mean the Indian B.O. pie is growing, Hollywood is determined to increase its share — and rather than bringing Western influence into the movie biz, the plan is to get into the Bollywood game.
Local fare, such as Hindi-language Bollywood pics, rules the box office and also define entertainment in India. Film scores and song-and-dance tunes from Bollywood movies dominate the musical landscape, while local stars rule the advertising market through their product endorsements.
In the wake of these realities, Hollywood is changing its India game plan. In the past, the studios gave lip service to the notion of acquiring remake rights or the possibility of exporting local foreign-language films to wider international audiences. Those notions have largely been dropped.
The Hollywood studios now expect their Indian movies to earn the majority of their revenues from the India market. Sony, News Corp., Disney and Warner have been working in the local TV sector in this way for several years.
Comparisons with China are enlightening. While filmmakers in China must submit to central government requirements for a focus on Chinese culture and local talent as a condition for co-production approval or local release, Indian helmers and producers are being given effective creative control because it makes financial sense.
WB’s Hindi-language “Made in China” will star Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar as a lowly Mumbai cook who is mistaken for a martial-arts master as well as Indian model-turned-actress Deepika Padukone. Pic was scripted by Shridhar Raghavan, who penned the Ramesh Sippy hit “Bluff Master.”
The Hindi-language film, it is said, will be the first ever to lense in China when production begins in January, and Chinese casting is under way.
Budget was not disclosed but is believed to be substantial by Indian standards. (“Devdas” holds the record at $11 million, but $4 million-$6 million is considered pricey.)