U.S. film deals still in place for shaken Bollywood

Mon Dec 1, 2008 12:19am EST
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By Jonathan Landreth and Mimi Turner

BANGKOK/LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - Terrorism has cast a shadow over Bollywood, India's Mumbai-based film industry, but as the smoke clears from Wednesday's attacks on Mumbai, Hollywood studios with Indian interests remain committed to the region.

After a gang of as few as 10 men stormed Mumbai with automatic weapons Wednesday, killing 183 people, including 18 foreigners, business in India's financial capital ground to a halt. An additional 239 were wounded, including 22 foreign visitors to the port city of 19 million.

Cinemas, some set to open 20th Century Fox's "Max Payne," closed Thursday and Friday, and many stayed shuttered Saturday as the five-star Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, the Bollywood home to many celebrities and media executives, burned for a third day. Not until Saturday night did Indian commandos finish rooting out the attackers with grenades and rooftop raids at the Taj and other sites throughout the city.

Australian TV actress Brooke Satchwell barely escaped a Taj bathroom with her life as gunmen mowed down guests in a hallway. German media entrepreneur Ralph Burkei, 51, was not so lucky: He leapt from a height at the Taj and died on his way to a hospital.

"(The attacks are) a shocking blow to all of those in India and all of those who do business there," said Pete Smith, the London-based president of NBC Universal International, who has led his company's expansion in Asia and said he regards India as one of its most exciting growth prospects.

Smith, a regular in India thanks to NBC Universal's 26 percent stake in Mumbai- and New Delhi-based channel group NDTV, said travel to Mumbai is out for now, but he intends to fly to New Delhi this week.


The Mumbai tragedy comes at a time when Bollywood is very much on Hollywood's lips. Mumbai industrialist Anil Ambani recently invested $550 million to back Steven Spielberg's new studio, and a day before the attacks, veteran screenwriter Paul Schrader said he was bound for Mumbai to write and direct the Bollywood action movie "Extreme City." Indie director Jennifer Lynch is making the India-set mystery "Hisss," and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment has a deal to produce two movies with Indian entertainment company UTV.   Continued...

<p>A member of the Jewish community cries during a condolence prayer meeting in a Synagogue for those killed by armed militants in "Nariman House" in Mumbai, December 1, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>