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China gives green light to first ‘Made in China' Bollywood film

Ananth Krishnan

$10-million project backed by government's official film production group



Enter the Dragon:The promotional poster for Chinese film “Gold Struck” — the first-ever Bollywood production to be made in China.

BEIJING: The Chinese government's official film production company has given its backing to the country's first ever home-made “Bollywood” film production, a $ 10-million project that will be set in China and India and is looking to rope in some of India's biggest stars.

While State-run film companies in China have recently begun investing in Hollywood productions, this will mark their first entry into Bollywood. Indian films are widely popular in China, but are accessible only through the pirated DVD market, with censorship restrictions limiting imports.

A Beijing-based film group, Lighthouse Productions, is behind the $ 10-million project, which is being backed by the China Film Group Corporation, the country's biggest State-run film enterprise.

“Chinese audiences are interested in Indian films and dance, but have little opportunity to experience Indian cinema,” said Cindy Shyu, CEO of Lighthouse Productions, in an interview with The Hindu. “This film, I hope, will fill that gap.”

“Gold Struck” tells the story of two Indian and Chinese research students who meet in an American university, and embark on an adventure that takes them back through time to Qin Dynasty China in 220 BC. The working languages for the film are Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and English. The film, replete with song and dance sequences, would be shot by Hong Kong-based director Tony Cheung in the “Bollywood-style,” Ms. Shyu said.

Big names being sought

The production is slated to begin in the second half of next year. Ms. Shyu is in India this week, meeting potential distributors. Lighthouse has already initiated talks with Mumbai-based Eros International, and was looking to sign “big-name talents” from Bollywood. Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor have been mentioned as possibilities, subject to their availability to begin filming in 2011.

The film, which will be set in China, India and the United States, will be released in all three countries.

This would be the first-ever film project backed by both Chinese and Indian investors, with Indian and Chinese characters and cultural content specifically tailored for Chinese audience, she said.

‘No censorship restrictions'

“Since the film is being supported by China-based production companies, it will not be considered a foreign import and will fall outside the censorship restrictions that have impeded Bollywood's entry into the China market.”

Ms. Shyu said the idea behind the project was to tap the significant demand in China for Bollywood films, evident recently through the recent commercial success of My Name is Khan, and before that, the wide popularity of Slumdog Millionaire.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Indian films were widely popular in China — Aawara and Caravan were big hits, and Raj Kapoor is still a household name here. But subsequent censorship restrictions have limited the number of foreign films that can be released in Chinese cinemas. The annual quota of 20 films is usually filled by imports from Hollywood. My Name is Khan, released this year, was a rare exception.

Ms. Shyu said that outside India's, China's film industry was the world's fastest-growing, with box office earnings rising 40 per cent year on year on average this past decade. In the past 12 months, growth was 87 per cent, she said, with the $ 700-million industry expected to double by 2012.

“The great interest we have had from investors in China and the support from the government is a positive sign,” she said. “They are interested in the India-China story, and this story will reflect the two countries' rise and increasing importance in the world today.”

“We want this to be the first major public release in China since the days of Raj Kapoor. What I hope to achieve through this project is to address this big gap between the two societies, which strangely persists even though there is such curiosity,” she added.

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