India's Hollywood romance

AFTER being 'Bangalored,' Americans are now being 'Bollywooed.' The neologism, Bangalored, refers to the 21st century trend of the US white-collar workers being issued pink slips after their jobs were 'outsourced' to Bangalore, where young Indians did the same tasks at a fraction of the costs, resulting in savings of billions of dollars for the US firms and other multinationals.

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Published: Wed 13 Aug 2008, 10:02 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

But in an unintended recompense of sorts, billionaire Indian businessman and entertainment tycoon Anil Ambani has rushed to the rescue of one of the most creative machines in Hollywood, DreamWorks SKG and its iconic founder Steven Spielberg. Ambani, married to one-time Bollywood actress Tina, has been in talks with the DreamWorks for the past few months.

The deal is likely to be inked over the next few days, with Ambani — ranked the sixth richest individual in the world — likely to inject $500 million in a new production venture with the Spielberg team. The tycoon, who manages an empire spanning energy, entertainment, finance and telecommunications, has also committed a billion dollars to half a dozen other leading Hollywood filmmakers, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Nicholas Cage, Tom Hanks and Jim Carrey.

Other Indian entertainment czars are also looking westwards, acquiring cinema theatres in different countries, sending production teams and Bollywood actors for shooting engagements in Hollywood studios and locales across the US and Europe. They are incidentally also raking in the money, by releasing 'cross-over' films that attract audiences from ethnic Indian and South Asian communities, as well as other Asian and African nationalities.

The main reason for this role reversal — a typical Indian filmy storyline would have a macho Bollywood hunk rushing in to rescue a harried Hollywood damsel — is rather pedestrian: capital. Or rather, the lack of it in Hollywood, and an abundance of it in Bollywood. While the Indian entertainment industry is buzzing with action and flush with funds, Hollywood studios are suddenly starved of cash, as hedge funds and other financial players are cutting back on investments thanks to the sub-prime crisis. Western film-goers have of late become familiar with Indian-origin, Hollywood filmmakers, including Mira Nair, M. Night Shyamalan and Deepa Mehta and superstars from India like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. Perhaps it is time now for them to get a primer on Indian billionaires, who are acquiring not just steel plants and car brands around the globe, but also Hollywood production houses and studios.

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