NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Saying that he feels the U.S. film market has become “barren,” Paul Schrader, the writer of classics “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” is packing his bags for Mumbai, India, to write and direct the Bollywood action movie “Extreme City.”
“I’ve been getting indie movies made for 20 years,” he said. “But I take a good look around and what I see is a barren, barren place — in terms of the financial community, in terms of audiences, in terms of distribution. It’s cold out there.”
In India, on the other hand, he says there are ways to gain both creative freedom and audiences.
“City” is a cross-cultural tale that centers on an American man who travels to India to help resolve a kidnapping case for his father-in-law, only to get caught up in a gangster plot.
In the Bollywood tradition, the film likely will contain some musical numbers. But Schrader says it’s “not a Masala movie,” referring to the term for a style of Bollywood film that combines action, romance, family drama and other genres in one big stew.
Schrader is working on the script for the film, whose dialogue will be spoken in English and Hindi.
“City” will be produced by Anubhav Sinha, the noted Indian director (he most recently directed the Bollywood action movie “Cash”).
Schrader and Sinha are in talks with a number of Bollywood stars; the movie could get green-lighted at a bigger Bollywood studio or go the indie route.
Schrader, who made his name as a writer on classics like “Raging Bull” and as a writer-director on Oscar winner “Affliction,” is the latest film figure seeking to build a bridge to India.
One of the fall’s nascent hits is “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle’s romantic action tale set in India. Indie director Jennifer Lynch is making the India-set mystery “Hisss,” and last year’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” by Wes Anderson, was shot in India. Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment has a deal with Indian entertainment company UTV to produce two movies.
And the DreamWorks studio is now financed by India-based Reliance Big Entertainment.
Still, Schrader is the highest-profile contemporary U.S. writer or director to migrate to Bollywood. He said that, given the trajectory of both film cultures, the trend could continue. “Old Bollywood will never go away,” he said, “but it’s changing. Movies can be shorter than two hours. There doesn’t need to be singing and dancing.”
In the meantime, “Adam Resurrected,” a Holocaust drama that Schrader directed, is receiving Oscar-qualifying runs before it opens in early 2009. The film stars Jeff Goldblum as a German-Jewish performer who survives the war by performing for a Nazi commander.
“At first I thought, ‘The world has a lot of Holocaust movies. It doesn’t need one from Paul Schrader,’” the filmmaker said. “But I started to read the script and got 65 pages in and thought, ‘I need to do this.’ It’s such an original story.”