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    Apr 2011

    Default Want Indian stories that West connects to’

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    For Indian films to make an impact internationally , what’s needed are original stories with an Indian feel that Western viewers can connect with, says Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj.
    “For me it’s all about stories and starting stories. The question is what the ideas are?” Amritraj, who is bringing his 3D venture Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance to India, said in an interview.

    “It always has to be something that could break out internationally. So far, there have been two movies that have broken out internationally - Gandhi and Slumdog Millionaire. I would look for stories that our western viewers connect to,” he said.

    “There are movies made around the world and the audiences connect to it. It doesn’t matter where it is made and what language it is being made in, people connect to the story. So the question is to find screenplays or stories that have an Indian feel to it but can move across to the Western world. I’m not making it just for India,” he added.

    In his 31-year-long stint in Hollywood, he has produced more than 100 films under his banner Hyde Park Entertainment and collaborated with big names like Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro.

    He is open to co-production with Indian studios, but said: “It’s a question of finding interesting stories. In India, we have so many, but working it in a way that can give it a larger market.”

    Indian filmmakers recently got into experimenting mode, but Hollywood has been focusing on it for years, Amritraj points out.
    “The great thing about Hollywood is that they always made different kinds of movies - you had Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, also Chariots of Fire and Forrest Gump - it’s one of the things that has always excited me. In the last two years, we had Black Swan, The King’s Speech and this year you had The Descendants. It’s nice to see that Indian filmmakers are making different kinds of movies which means
    that the audience is growing and they are getting used to the changes.”

    Asked why Indian moviemakers fail to make a mark in the western world, he said: “I think a lot of it is an original story...something that needs to be worked on. The most important person should be the writer. Stars are wonderful, directors are terrific, but way too much attention is paid to them. I think writers should be paid more money and more credit. A feature film is a medium that starts from a screenplay. It’s difficult to create on the page. If it’s on the page, it’s easier to put it on the screen.”

    So are orginal scripts all that the Indian film industry need? “I think so because you have terrific actors, directors, excellent cameraman and designer. Of course, the way of storytelling is a little different. I think Hollywood and the Indian film industry are on parallel tracks - Hollywood is photo real, while India has a little more elevated sense of what an audience would like to see.”

    His Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance is releasing in India on March 17 and talking about the Indian market, he says, “India is not the biggest market for Hollywood films. India is clearly dominated by Indian films...but on the other hand, it has grown significantly in the last 10 years. In other parts of the world - Germany, France, UK - Hollywood dominates to a great extent. China is a much larger market but is only allowed 20 Hollywood films a year . The movies do $50, $60, $80 or $100 million at the box office in China,” the filmmaker, who will release Ghost Rider.. in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam says.

    Right now 3D movies are the most sought-after and Amritraj feels they are here to stay. “But the danger is cheap 3D and bad 3D,” he warns.
    If he has made a mark as a filmmaker, he was equally good as a tennis player and says both are an integral part of his life.

    “I played tennis in the 1970s and it was the glory of years of tennis...and I loved every minute of it. I’d always be a tennis player...Motion pictures is a passion and continues to be. I enjoy every minute of it. Comparing the two is impossible but I would say both are part of my life. I’d always be a tennis player and I enjoyed it.”



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