We’ve heard of Hollywood investing money in the Indian film industry. Now it looks like the cash money is already flowing in the opposite direction.
Last night when I was flipping channels, I paused to see the trailer for Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife. Now, it wasn’t the trailer itself that made me stop flipping (it doesn’t look anything I’d pay ten dollars to watch). No, it was the fact that the UTV logo flashed on the screen, billed as the movie’s producer. Yes, that UTV. The same Indian production company that made Rang De Basanti, Don, and Chalte Chalte is apparently cranking out Hollywood movies now, too.
Although I couldn’t find any mention of ITILMW on UTV’s website, a few google searches confirmed my suspicion. According to Rediff:
UTV inked co-production deals with Fox Searchlight and Will Smith’s production company Overbrook Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment [back in 2006] to create and distribute films worldwide – making it the largest co-production deal out of South Asia worth $37 million. The $14 million production, I Think I Love My Wife, starring Chris Rock, will be UTV Motion Pictures’ second venture with Fox after Mira Nair’s The Namesake.
According to Variety, UTV provided half of the budget for ITILMY, with the intention of distributing it in India and sharing in the rights. In return, Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment will co-produce a film for $10 million that will have its backdrop set in India. (I’m thinking a song-and-dance version of Hitch.) So what does all of this mean? Hollywood isn’t taking its global audience for granted, and neither is the Indian film industry (I’m one of those cultural purists who refuses to call it the B-word). Both are now trying to co-produce and market films with mutual crossover appeal. The ironic thing is that ITILMY looks like nothing that would crossover to Indian audiences. But what do I know, I haven’t been to India in 18 years, and my grandmother to this day still talks about Titanic.
Is media conglomeration a bad thing? If these partnerships continue and expand in the long run, we may see see the chasm between the two industries close, with Hollywood and Hindi films looking more and more like one another. That would be a downer for those of us who do appreciate the campiness and song-and-dance variety of mainstream Hindi films. On the other hand, this could also be a net positive for brown people. We often tirelessly discuss the portrayal of South Asian characters in the media, the quality of South Asian directors, or the accuracy of the depictions of our culture in Hollywood films. But until there are more South Asians who are willing to bankroll Hollywood movies, who want to actively market films with a brown audience in mind, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any substantive shifts in the way we’re portrayed.
That’s why I’m fairly optimistic about this UTV venture. Even though ITILMY looks pretty vacuous.