Hasan Suroor

LONDON: With recession threatening to spoil the party at home, Hollywood is taking its wares to India’s lucrative film market, in a move that could see it in head-to-head competition with Bollywood.

Rupert Murdoch’s Twentieth-Century Fox Studios is first off the block with a multi-crore-rupee deal with one of Bollywood’s most successful new producers, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, whose latest film Singh is Kinng is creating a few waves at the box-office.

Fox Studios will operate in India as a joint venture company with Mr. Murdoch’s Star TV and be called Fox Star Studios. Besides making and distributing films, it will remake Hollywood hits in Hindi.

Announcing the deal with Mr. Shah at a sparsely-attended press conference in a plush London hotel at the weekend, Fox executives described it as a “marriage between the best of Bollywood and the best of Hollywood.”

Mr. Shah hailed it as marking the beginning of a new era in Indian cinema. “This is the future of Indian cinema — we have to partner with the best technical and creative talent from around the world while keeping the Indian soul in our films intact.”

Neither side, however, would give many details about the arrangement beyond saying it involved the development and production of a “visual effects-driven fantasy action movie and a contemporary romantic comedy.” They did not indicate when the project was expected to get off the ground. “As soon as possible,” was Mr. Shah’s response.

Asked whether he was going to finance the films all by himself or whether his Fox partners would share the cost, he said: “It’s not important who finances them. The deal gives me the opportunity to develop innovative concepts and work with the best talent to create films that will appeal to audiences around the globe.”

Vijay Singh, chief executive officer of Fox Star Studios, denied that they were being “evasive.”

“But today we only want to focus on this deal and our entry into Indian cinema,” he said as he spoke of Fox’s global footprints and its commitment to “push new boundaries” in film-making.

The bottom-line, however, was claiming a share of India’s bourgeoning film market which, as Mr. Singh pointed out, was expected to nearly double in size over the next five years and set to become a more than four-billion-dollar strong industry by 2012.

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