U.S. film stars and studio bosses are singing Bollywood’s praises, perhaps unsurprisingly, given that the Mumbai-based film industry churns out over 1,000 motion pictures a year and controls nearly 95 percent of the Indian market, leaving foreign films with only a thin slice of the pie.
Will Smith is amongst the U.S. stars with the closest ties to Bollywood. Smith has a production deal with one of India’s leading studios and aims to marry the two industries. At the London premiere of his latest film “Seven Pounds” earlier this week, Smith confessed his fondness for Bollywood films: “I love the flavour, I love the energy,” Smith told CNN. “It’s bright, it’s colourful. It speaks to my spirit! That’s how I see life.”
Hollywood studios have been equally keen to get in on the action. Today, Warner Brothers Pictures give their first Bollywood production “Chandni Chowk to China,” the biggest U.S. release of any Indian film to date, hoping it will emulate the success of Danny Boyle’s Mumbai-based hit “Slumdog Millionaire.”
“I think we have something to take from them and we have something to give back,” said Nikhil Advani the director of “Chandni Chowk” at the film’s London premiere. “What we can take from them is the template to get a little more organized, and as far as they are concerned, they have a huge market they can cater to.”
A market of 1.2 billion to be exact, not to mention the enormous Indian diaspora spread across the globe — another potential goldmine. “It’s a huge fan-base,” Indian superstar and “Chandni Chowk” protagonist Akshay Kumar said, “Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, and Afghans all over the world; they all enjoy Bollywood.”
Judging by the turnout at Monday night’s London premiere of the film, they’re dedicated too — in spite of very poor early reviews for the movie. For hours, hundreds of expat Bollywood fans endured sub-zero temperatures merely to get a glimpse of their tartan-trousered hero Akshay Kumar. Given this sort of dedication, Hollywood’s new friendship is bound to be a lucrative one… isn’t it?