Slumdog brings Hollywood closer to Bollywood

Sun Mar 1, 2009 7:14pm EST
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The largely Indian cast and crew of "Slumdog Millionaire" who gleefully stormed the stage at the Academy Awards signaled a closer nexus between the world's biggest movie industries, with experts hoping for a happy ending.

India, home to the world's most prolific movie industry, has long tried to draw wider audiences, including by recently forging ventures with Hollywood studios looking to offset sluggish box office sales with new markets and cheaper production costs.

Now, the thumping success of "Slumdog" and a global financial crisis, which has pulled the plug on much Wall Street funding for movies, are bringing Hollywood and Bollywood closer together.

Like India's IT industry, Bollywood may now aggressively tout cheaper facilities for animation films and post-production. "Slumdog" also showcased India's prowess in music and sound mixing, with Oscars for A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty.

"India is an important domestic market for all foreign studios and also offers opportunities to cut costs," said Rajesh Jain, head of KPMG India's entertainment practice.

"The Oscars will raise the industry's visibility further."

Studios including Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, NBC Universal, Viacom and Warner Brothers have already put more than $1.5 billion in India for stakes in local TV channels and ventures with Bollywood studios.

Their first efforts, including Disney's first Hindi animation flick, failed to set the Indian box-office on fire, but analysts say they will be encouraged by the success of "Slumdog," which became the eighth movie ever to win eight Academy Awards.   Continued...

<p>People walk past film posters of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Delhi 6", a Bollywood film, at a movie theatre in Mumbai March 1, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>