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A dream factory from London

Spice Team Entertainment, a wing of Inspired Movies in the U.K., is all set to enter the South scene with its maiden production in Tamil, "London." Inspired and Spice have made 15 films in a record 10 months, in English, Hindi and now Tamil, as MALATHI RANGARAJAN finds out from one of its ebullient directors, Shubha Sandeep.

Storming the Tamil scene with the Prashanth-Ankita starrer "London" ...

THIS TAKES grit! A lot of it! "Commitment and industry too," laughs Shubha Sandeep. Sure. How else do you explain the whirlwind speed at which Spice Team Entertainment (she is one of its directors) is churning out movies in Hindi and is now storming the Tamil scene with the film, "London"? The firm went into filmmaking full fledged, just about a year ago. And along with its production base in the U. K. — Inspired Movies, which makes English films, — it has made 15 flicks in just 10 months! The mind-boggling statistics leaves you gaping. "We may soon find a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the highest number of films made in a year ... the formalities are going on," she says, and you aren't surprised. "The record at present is about seven films in 12 months."

From English to Hindi and now Tamil, their ambit of activity seems to be widening by the day. "Yeah ... and when I say English, we are not talking of cross-over films. All of them are projects with a Hollywood crew and cast ... " As part of a corporate setup that builds its edifice on the mantra of careful planning and budgeting, Shubha Sandeep is now toiling at a frenzied pace for the just-to-be released "London." A tête-à-tête with the busy businesswoman ...

How the team works

"All the four directors — Phil Blackburn, Meenu Bachan, Ragini Sona and I — take care of different areas. Phil and Meenu handle our English film projects, Ragini is in charge of the Hindi productions while I manage the South," begins Shubha. When she takes a Tamil crew for a shoot in London, once the job is done the actors leave but the technicians stay on, as the director and actors for their next film come and take over. "It is a chain and things have to go on precisely as planned ... the hiccoughs that arise have to be solved as quickly as possible, because time is money," she states. "Why don't you come over to London for a couple of days? We have a huge 3,600 sq. ft. office space, the complete infrastructure, four editing machines ... and you should see how the Indian crew is able to work wonderfully with the foreign stars and directors without either group knowing a word of the other's language," Shubha sounds very enthusiastic about Spice Team's endeavours. "Next an English film based on a real story with an Indian hero and a Hollywood director, is also on the cards ... " Spice's English productions include "Take 3 Girls," "Exitz," (a thriller starring Malcolm McDowell and Perizaad Zorabian and premiered at the recent Indian Film Festival in Goa) "Natasha" and "Dirty Bomb."

As for Hindi, "Shukriya," which launched Shreya of the Telugu and Tamil screen, with Aftab Shivdasani as hero, has already been released.

So has "Kaun Hai Jo Sapno Mein Aaya." A few more are on the floors. Knowing Mumbai's way of working, making so many films in so short a span is a remarkable feat indeed ...

"They've begun to understand the importance of completing projects fast. Anil Kapoor, the star of our film, `Chocolate,' initially told me that he had never completed a film in less than a year ... but he's been able to work to our schedule. The kings of Bollywood realise the need to speed up. The way we work had impressed even Amitabh Bachchan that his ABCL came over to London to shake hands with us. And now we are doing three films together. We set deadlines, make budgets and most importantly, stick to them... " Spice's other Hindi films are "Kuch Din Kuch Pal" and "Wow!"

Egos and actors

"Such problems are bound to arise ... then I sit down and talk to them and sort things out. But from what I see, big actors are the most modest. Amitabh is an example and so is Rajinikanth. Again Sunil Shetty is unbelievably humble. He works like a production manager on the sets ... he's in two of our projects including "Amar Joshi Shaheed Ho Gaya." You must also watch Hollywood stars at work ... punctual and professional, they don't expect to be pampered. The concept of having too many workers on the sets puzzles them. Just about eight or 10 are all there are. In the South too I find big actors being very simple. There's more ostentation in Mumbai than here, mainly among the new crop of stars ... "

Shubha Sandeep ... always on the move.

As Shubha elaborates, a fleeting thought about the hang-ups that some Mumbai actors have and their general outlook towards the South crosses your mind. "Not always ... I know for a fact that the technicians here command a lot of respect. The other day I was talking to Salman Khan when he was in Chennai for a Priyadarshan film. He very clearly told me that the diligence and simplicity of the crew here make it very easy for him to work ... I feel so too... "

Sometimes this running around can be tiresome ... "True ... and not always are we successful. We've lost money in the Hindi market ... there have been days when I've sat in my room and cried. But then I pull myself up and say to myself, `Come on Baby, this is just one of those things ... you can solve it,' and in no time I'm up and about."

Why a Tamil film now ...

The Tamil market is fast growing. We did a lot of spadework and study before we embarked on "London." We initially looked at distribution and when I met director Sundar C., we hit it off quite well. Soon "London" was launched. It is a feel-good film of love and humour. Prashanth and Ankita make the lead pair and with Vadivel around, "London" promises excellent entertainment. Nearly the entire film has been canned in London. Vidyasagar has come out with some exciting music score and with Siva's cinematography to boot "London" will be a real entertainer." Spice Team's next project in Tamil will be with Arjun.

"We are here to make a lot of films ... " The lady from London is confident. And London, Mumbai or Chennai this team has got their agenda chalked out well.

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