Warner makes Bollywood debut with kung fu comedy

Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:05pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British director Danny Boyle's Indian foray paid off with the award-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire," and now Warner Bros. Pictures hopes its debut Bollywood film will reap some U.S. box office success.

Billed as the first ever Bollywood kung fu comedy, "Chandni Chowk to China" opens on Friday in India and on more than 125 screens in the United States and Canada -- the largest Bollywood release in North America, says Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros.

"Chandni Chowk to China," starring veteran Bollywood star Akshay Kumar who has made more than 120 films, tells the tale of a poor cook who travels to China to become a kung fu hero. The film, whose title refers to the bustling Chandni Chowk market of Delhi, is the studio's first Indian production.

"There have been lots of Bollywood films in the past which had have the potential of crossing over, but could not cross over mainly because they did not have a studio backing it with a strong distribution network," said director Nikhil Advani.

"If this one succeeds, even if it marginally succeeds ... I think there will be a wave of more Bollywood films," he told Reuters in a recent interview.

Bollywood, as the Indian film industry centered in Mumbai is called, churns out about 1,000 movies a year and is known for its colorful sets, extravagant costumes and elaborate song-and-dance sequences.

The new film, which Kumar said cost about $8 million, is also being released in 30 other countries, but Richard Fox, executive vice president Warner Bros international, said the studio doesn't have grand expectations.

"This one, we think, will play broadly, but to the Indian diaspora. We're not fooling ourselves," Fox told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Akshay Kumar (R) arrive for the European premiere of Chandni Chowk to China in Leicester Square, central London January 12, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Parsons</p>