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Bollywood woos Hollywood

By By: Rajesh Ahuja
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    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Hollywood is looking up to India and Bollywood in a very big way. With Hollywood celebrities like Will Smith and Irvin Kershner scouting Indian locations and expressing their desire to work with Indian actors, Bollywood seems to have become the "in thing" in the Hollywood scheme of things. For example, Irvin Kershner, the director of the famous 'Star Wars' and 'James Bond' series in Hollywood, is scouting for Bollywood actors for his film The Princess and the Wizard. In fact, the Hollywood filmmaker is to meet a series of Bollywood actors in connection with the casting of his film, large parts of which are to be shot in India.

    The maker of The Empire Strikes Back, Never Say Never Again and Robocop-II, Irvin is looking for the female lead for his film. Though the male lead of the film is to be played by a Hollywood actor, The Princess and the Wizard will have several India actors in the cast. The production work on the film, to be shot in India, the United Kingdom, Egypt and the United States, is scheduled to begin in October. The producers are also looking for line producers, cameramen, skilled and unskilled labour from India for its production work.

    Kershner who last week was in Rajasthan to scout shooting locales for his film, will later this week head for Southern India. Trade sources say the filmmaker will visit Hyderabad, where his film is to be shot in the famous Ramoji Film city, and Mysore, where parts of film will be shot. Trade sources say, the film will have a ''typical Bollywoodean'' feel to it in that it will feature elaborate song and dance sequences like' in Bollywood films. ''This is my first trip to India, but I have known the Indian film industry for long. Satyajit Ray was a dear friend of mine and he came and stayed with me several times,''Kershner said.

    Another in the list of Hollywood celebrities to be ''besotted with Bollywood'' is Will Smith, who starred in the comedy Hitch. Smith, who was in India last month, had, during his visit, expressed an interest to work with Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai. During his visit, Smith offered Aishwarya a role in his next film Tonight, He Comes, which he is also producing, shooting for which begins in July. However, Aishwarya, already committed to work Ashutosh Gowariker on his period drama Jodha Akbar, declined the offer. He also met several Bollywood actors and expressed an interest in working with them in future. He also attended the Filmfare wards function where he handed the Best actress awrad to Rani Mukherjee for Black. During a special screening arranged by Anil Kapoor of a showreel of his forthcoming home production venture, Mahatma Vs Gandhi Will Smith was so impressed by the film that he showered effusive praises on Anil Kapoor and the film's lead actor Akshay Khanna.

    Trade observers say that the Hollywood's increased interest in Indian actors and films is in large part due to the the film industry increasingly churning out slick productions and films tailor-made to appeal to an international audience, apart from the lakhs of Indians settled in foreign countries. The "new age" Bollywood films are quite unlike the "formula-ridden" films of the 70s and 80s, which had nothing much to offer to the international audiences.

    The last decade has seen increasing number of Bollywood stars like Shahrukh Khan, John Abraham, Salman Khan and, now, Akshay Kumar, generate a huge fan following from among the NRIs as well as among the western audiences. In fact, films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Main Hoon Na and Paheli starring Shahrukh have turned out to be huge grossers on the global circuit, thanks to the huge popularity enjoyed by the Khan abroad. Also, films like Mujhse Shadi Karogi, Lucky, Garam Masala and Dosti, starring Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar have been earned sizeable revenues on the international circuit. Akshay Kumar has in the last year emerged as ''the new winner on the overseas circuit''with his films like Waqt-A Race Against Time and now Dosti being among the top Bollywood grossers overseas.

    Further, teenage heartthrob Salman Khan's debut Hollywood venture Marigold is nearing completion. Bollywood actresses like Aishwarya Rai and Mallika Sherawat are gaining recognition in Hollywood and starring in international productions. While Aishwarya has starred in Gurinder Chaddha's Bride and Prejudice, Mistress of Spices and Jagmohan Mundhra's Provoked, Mallika recently was in news for bagging a role in Jackie Chan's The Myth.

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