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Foreign front: Hollywood’s Indian invasion

Foreign front: Hollywood’s Indian invasion

The box-office success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a British comedy drama shot extensively in the historic Indian cities of Jaipur and Udaipur, has given new voice to a continuing trend.

The film, based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things, was produced with a budget of $10 million and went on to gross $136.8 million worldwide, and was rated as one of the highest earners of 2012. In it, a group of British pensioners move to India to a retirement hotel run by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire).

According to Bhim Singh, a veteran of the Rajasthan tourism industry, “The amazing success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel helped Indian tourism in a big way. In the past three years, the numbers of tourists to both Jaipur and Udaipur has increased manifold.”




The sleeper hit of the film inspired director John Madden and writer Ol Parker to make a sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, (2015) which retained several members of the original cast and also featured Richard Gere with Indian stars Tina Desai, Lillete Dubey and Rajesh Tailang.

The sequel grossed $83.9 million against a budget of $10 million, making almost eight times more in profit. It received mixed to positive reviews from critics and the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported a 62 per cent approval rating based on 149 reviews.

“Lately, we have been witnessing a rise in Hollywood films with an Indian theme, shot in India. The trend started in 2009-10 with 10 films based on Indian scripts. Since then over 28 Hollywood films have been shot on various locations throughout India,” said Bilolo Jaipuri, who organises shootings on different locations.

“The Indian Ministry of Information & Broadcasting issues permission for shooting in India after approving the script,” says Komal Nahta of Film Information, India’s leading film trade magazine. According to industry officials, the market size of Hollywood in India is about Rs100-1,200 crores, which contributes 12-15 per cent of the overall box-office revenue.

“Hollywood films earn their revenues outside the US and it has to depend on more than 70pc of its revenue from outside the US, thus the international market is very crucial for Hollywood producers. Since a large number of Indian diaspora are spread all over the world, the Hollywood producers often venture on an Indian script,” added Nahta.

It’s not necessary that Hollywood films made in India do good business. The Indian cine-goers are not very keen to see a foreign movie shot in their country. Most of these Hollywood films did well simply because they were dubbed in different Indian languages.

The Rains Came was the first Hollywood film to be shot in India in the year 1939. The film which was produced by Hollywood’s legend Darryl Zannuck and directed by Clarence Brown was shot in and around Mumbai. The story centers on the redemption of its lead female character.

This film was made at a cost of $2.5 million which was quite a staggering sum in 1939. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, eventually winning in the special effects and sound effects categories for the earthquake and flood sequences. It was the first film to win an academy award for special effects.

After The Rains Came, it was nearly 16 years later that the next Hollywood movie was shot in India. A remake of the The Rains Came was released under the title The Rains of Ranchpur. This 1955 film starred Richard Burton and Lana Turner.

During the ’80s, Octopussy was a film in James Bond series which starred Roger Moore in the role of Agent 007. This 1983 film with a production cost of $27.8 million also starred Kabir Bedi and tennis star Vijay Amrithraj, and was shot extensively in Udaipur. It earned a whopping $183.7 million at the BO.

In the ’90s, Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra — A Tale of Love (1997) was shot almost entirely in Jaipur with a budget of $0.3 million, and it made 50 times more at the box office.

In 2004, the American thriller The Bourne Supremacy was shot on the beaches of Goa with a budget of $88 million, and grossed over $200 million.

Outsourced (2006) was filmed in Mumbai. This romantic comedy was not only shot in India but also based on what happens when a firangi gets outsourced to India. Major chunks of the movie were shot in Mumbai. The film had Ayesha Dharkar in the female lead.

One Night with the King, a historical film shot entirely in and around Jodhpur was released in 2006. The film was based on the biblical character of Esther who risked her life by approaching the King of Persia to request that he save the Jewish people. Tiffany Dupont played Esther while the late Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole played key roles in the film which was made at a cost of $20 million. It did well and grossed $137 million at the box office.

The Namesake which was made in Kolkata and based on a book of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri was directed by Mira Nair in 2006. It starred Tabu and Irrfan Khan. This film cost $9.5 million to make and grossed over $21 million worldwide.

A year later came A Mighty Heart, based on the life of murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl and an adaptation of his wife Marianne’s memoirs. The 2007 film gives a detailed account of the search for the kidnapped Wall Street Journal correspondent in Karachi in 2002.

The film saw Angelina Jolie play Marianne and Dan Futterman as Daniel Pearl. Ally Khan, Archie Panjabi, Irrfan Khan, Adnan Siddiqui, Bilal Saeed and Shah Murad Allani were also featured in the cast. Footage of the then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf was also shown in the film shot in Pune, Mumbai and Karachi. 

Jolie’s performance was appreciated by the critics, but while she and the film received positive reviews, it was not a box office hit and only earned $18 million compared to its production budget of $16 million. The film grossed an additional $5.4 million in DVD/VHS sales and rentals across the US.

Also in 2007, Darjeeling Mail, shot in Jodhpur and Udaipur, had the Himalaya scenes shot in Udaipur by director Wes Anderson. The film also featured Irrfan Khan and had a budget of $17.5 million and grossed $35 million.

More recently, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire was entirely shot in Mumbai and won a number of Oscars. The film featured Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan and also the music score composed by A.R. Rahman. The 2008 release was made with a budget of $15 million and grossed $377.9 million and is still raking in moolah. No other Hollywood film made entirely in India has grossed this much before.

After the success of Slumdog Millionaire, the American romantic comedy Eat, Pray, Love (2010) featured Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert and was based on the best-selling memoir of the same name. It was shot in Pataudi near Delhi in the palace of former Indian cricket skipper Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, and in New Delhi at a cost of $60 million. It grossed $240 million. But the film was not made entirely in India.

Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol is a 2011 American action spy thriller and the fourth instalment in the Mission Impossible series with Tom Cruise who reprises his role of an MI agent. The film also features Anil Kapoor as an Indian media tycoon. The film was shot in Moscow, Vancouver, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Dubai.

Ghost Protocol became the highest-grossing MI film and also the highest-earning film starring Cruise. The film which was made with a budget of $145 million has grossed $694.7 million so far. The film’s Hindi version was launched in India in August this year and has done quite well.

The Dark Knight Rises, a 2012 American epic which was partly shot in Jodhpur and Abhaneri near Jaipur was a resounding success. The film grossed over $1 billion worldwide at the box office, making it the second film in the Batman series and by extension the second film based on a DC Comics character to earn $1 billion. It is currently the 15th highest-grossing film of all time, the third highest-grossing film of 2012, and the fourth highest-grossing superhero film of all time. It featured the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and served as a free advertisement for Rajasthani tourism.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012), an American action thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boat is “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.” It dramatises the decade-long manhunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

Parts of the film were shot in the Indian city of Chandigarh. Some parts of Chandigarh were made to appear like Lahore and Abbottbad in Pakistan. Parts of the film were shot in Mani Maira. The shooting of the film was opposed by local members of Hindu Nationalist parties expressing anti-bin Laden and anti-Pakistan sentiments. They objected to Pakistani locations being portrayed on Indian soil.

Life of Pi is a 2012 American adventure directed by Ang Lee. It was made at a cost of $120 million and earned $609 million, making it the highest earning film which was shot on location in India. The film was shot extensively in Pondicherry and Kerala.

Million Dollar Arm, the biographical sports drama about pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel was shot in Mumbai, Lucknow and Udaipur. The film which has music by A.R. Rahman was released in 2014 and is based on the true life story of baseball player Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who were discovered by a sports agent after winning a reality show competition.

Million Dollar Arm stars Suraj Sharma as Rinku, Madhur Mittal as Patel and Amit Rohan played by Pitobash Tripathi. Sadly, the film barely covered its production cost.

However, Steve Jobs (2015) based on the legendary Apple co-founder and directed by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle with Ashton Kutcher in the lead failed at the box office. The $30 million film was shot in Delhi’s Red Fort and Chandni Chowk, and showed Jobs journeying to India as an upstart.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015

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