Banking on Chris Rock

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.

28 thoughts on “Banking on Chris Rock

  1. my grandmother to this day still talks about Titanic

    That was an exception, I am yet to see another Hollywood movie have that kind of an appeal. Although, I did read about many H-wood movies being dubbed into regional languages…

    with Hollywood and Hindi films looking more and more like one another

    I hope you are talking about the technology and the way the movie looks on screen.

  2. “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).” Me too :) . I am trying to come up with a name for ‘Indian Film Industry’. A single word. I am hoping this large community @ sepia would be able to come up with a name and promote it. I am sick of the word ‘Bollywood’. People please suggest some ideas. And would love to see Indian community get rid of that word from our collective minds by next generation.

  3. with Hollywood and Hindi films looking more and more like one another.

    Great, so they’ll be bland nationalist musical romantic comedy epic shoot-em-ups…

    This is not a good development in my eyes

  4. May I just say, I am proud to see my people helping to usher in this grand new era of cinema such as the world has never seen before. ;)

    As for the word Bollywood, it’s a fitting description for some things–big flashy, glam sham, K-Joish flicks–and not others–Black Friday, Kabul Express. Likewise, in my mind, Hollywood is Pirates of the Carribbean, Star Wars and Titanic not Little Miss Sunshine or Schindler’s List. When I took a film production class, we’d jokingly have discussions about film/cinema vs. movies with the idea being that movies are rather “common” in topic in audience while film/cinema required more refined tastes to be appreciated.

  5. 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.

    japanese and Arab money has been floating in Hollywood for decades. Has it changed anything for them? Honest question, not a smartass remark.

  6. Is Chris Rock still doing the Munnabhai MBBS Hollywood remake? Any news on that project?

  7. I cant wait until Chris Rock changes his name to Krishna Rock and has a cameo in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi as the latest “suitor”.

  8. japanese and Arab money has been floating in Hollywood for decades. Has it changed anything for them? Honest question, not a smartass remark.

    shodan, no offense taken. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the incentive of individual Japanese and Arab investors in Hollywood was not to create films that would appeal to all three markets. Rather, those investors were simply interested in make an individual profit off of Hollywood consumption. UTV, on other hand, has said that the main point of all this is to create films that would appeal and crossover to consumers of both industries. It’s a sign that Hollywood’s target audience is expanding and changing.

    But if you’re suggesting that this could just be a talking point on their part, then you might be right.

  9. I spoke with UTV’s head of operations for North America and UK this past weekend, on a somewhat related matter, and he spoke about their opening an office in LA, and also mentioned the involvement in the Chris Rock picture.

    On the crossover subject though, he echoed what several other people interviewed have said…..as it stands right now, the marketing costs for getting a film into the broader American (non-Indian) consciousness is prohibitively expensive, and only when there’s a feeling that a film has real potential for reaching, will a company take the risk of spending all that money.

    Interestingly, he was in the UK prior to the release of Metro, starring Shilpa Shetty, which they’ll be promoting a lot, for obvious reasons.

    But his take on the crossover potential of most Hindi releases right now was that it wouldn’t happen until filmmakers make some changes to their films, but he said that’s a tricky thing, because they risk alienating their bread and butter (I’m paraphrasing).

    On the subject of altering, in Kamla Bhatt’s interview with RDB’s Mehra, he told her that in March RDB will release in the US on some 12 to 20 screens, and not in the typical desi theaters, and the film will be about 30 minutes shorter. It’ll be interesting to see how it does….

  10. “Chris Rock is a fucking genius…….bus….nuff said.”

    don’t know about his movies, but his tv show ‘everybody hates chris’ is hilarious (to me at least).

  11. Chris Rock, for all his genius, could actually benefit from a little education in India’s history:

    “Everybody expects this holy behavior, because he’s the president. Expects him to behave this holy way. He’s just the president. He ain’t Reverend Clinton. It ain’t Pastor Clinton. It ain’t Maharaja Clinton. It is just Bill Clinton. He just a man. A man going to be a man.”

  12. But if you’re suggesting that this could just be a talking point on their part, then you might be right.

    Yes, something like that. It looks more about Benjamins and Gandhis. Not that there’s anything wrong w/ it. UTV gets to spread its wings. Hollywood gets one more source of finance, access to union-free labor and misc. production facilities. Any cultural impact could be more of a happy accident.

  13. A-n-n-h, now I get it…Ronnie Screwvala in Business 2.0 and Pree-etty Zinta on The Colbert Report… I for one would like to see more of this, and will enjoy watching Mira Nair create herself a niche instead of weaving in strange directions, like toward that other Thackeray. And another thing, I do feel bad for Michael J. Fox, but I also remember him calling the waiter “Guhppta” in some movie, played as if Gunga Din. Likewise, although I sort of enjoyed Chris Reeves playing Rajiv Vindaloo on the Wheel of Fortune etc. on SNL, I’m happy to see that phase pass.

    All last year, I thought Disney was just getting animation studios for cheep, but maybe this business about India having so many more children than anywhere else is actually pretty cheerful. It’s probably easier to pitch crossover infotainment to people that age, as well as to grandmothers, who tend to become un-nationalistic with maturity.

    Jugan, sorry to say, it should be Mollywood by now, plus Tollywood would also need a new name.

  14. The same Indian production company that made Rang De Basanti, Don, and Chalte Chalte is apparently cranking out Hollywood movies now, too.

    Yeah, now they will make western crap instead of just westernized crap.

  15. Completely unrelated, but I’m always surprised at how much paint remains on her fingers in the UTV clip-logo; maybe in their next comedy the colors should run or fade abruptly.

  16. Yeah, now they will make western crap instead of just westernized crap.

    That is funny and very true. Although I did like RDB.

  17. From Wikipedia’s description of Apu’s character in The Simpsons:

    The operator of the Springfield location, which most of the chain’s appearances on the program revolve around, is Indian American Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. It sells the usual convenience store fare at extraordinarily high prices, including the always popular Squishy. An example of the high prices was when Apu whispered to Homer during a holdup, “Call 911.” Homer replied with, “I don’t have any change. I only have a five.” “No change without purchase.” “What’s the cheapest you’ve got?” “Bag of Chippos, $5.99.” “$5.99?! Someone should shoot you.”

    Despite generally being a good-natured and friendly individual, Apu often exhibits a ruthlessly capitalist streak. He has caressed his cigarette machine in gratitude for not dispensing product after taking a customer’s money.

    UTV, please buy the Simpsons and drop Apu from the cast. Signed, The Alliance of Desi Convenience Store Owners

  18. All I know is I want to see a Hollywood/Bollywood buddy cop movie, preferably starring Will Smith and Shah Rukh Khan.

    You know how they go. Opening two scenes are of each cop in their respective home-country-cop-beat doing some crazy shit that gets him in trouble with his gnarly commander (James Edward Olmos and Om Puri respectively), who as punishment sends them on this dead end assignment. Will Smith has to go to India to team up with an Indian cop to find the kidnapped daughter of some politician. Or vice versa — Shah Rukh has to go to New York. They both think the assignment sucks, hate each other at first, but then something happens and cross-cultural barriers are broken over a good cops-and-robbers fight scene with incredible stunts. It turns out each cop has some skill that complements that of the other. (Perhaps first cop flick featuring Kalarippayattu?)

    Then of course it turns out this dead end assignment is tied to some huge thing that if they don’t stop will end the world, but meanwhile the evil forces that be have infiltrated the police establishment so now they can only trust each other and Will and Shah Rukh have to go to India (or vice versa) and more zaniness ensues but then something happens and cross-cultural barriers are again broken over a good cops-and-robbers fight scene with incredible stunts. Or maybe Shah Rukh takes Will Smith to his home village to meet his mother.(Remix of Sholay “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin” at this point?)

    Then of course you need your romantic thing mixed in (Shah Rukh has a widowed sister — Rani Mukherjee — or Will Smith does — Jennifer Hudson)(or maybe that the kidnapped girl they rescue who turns out to have stumble on some secret which is why she was kidnapped?) and of course some big plot twist late in the second half (that was foreshadowed of course), and then a real banger of a cops-and-robbers fight scene to close it off (shoot out at the Ajanta Caves? or maybe in Queens?)

    Think Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, the Jackie Chan one with was it Chris Rock(?), that one with Arnold as the Russian cop with Jim Belushi, and so on.

    I think there should perhaps be a chase scene through a Bollywood set that results in dancing, etc. Maybe a Jets v. Sharks kind of thing where Will’s dancing with all his fly girls vs. Shah Rukh and his chorus of hotties. Music by Nitin Sawhney featuring Will Smith. A bhangra band versus a Drumline kinda thing. Anyway, fit in your five songs somehow.

    I’ve been meaning to write the screenplay but don’t have the talent or the time, so if you like it, take it and run with it. I just want to see the movie.

    And that’s how the great Hollywood/Bollywood crossover will really take off.

    (Sorry for using the B-word, but I think it works as a good shorthand.)

  19. Krishna Kid, that was hilarious.

    I’ve been meaning to write the screenplay but don’t have the talent or the time

    From what i see up,You definitely got talent bro :)

  20. Me too :) . I am trying to come up with a name for ‘Indian Film Industry’.
    As for the word Bollywood, it’s a fitting description for some things–big flashy, glam sham, K-Joish flicks–and not others–Black Friday, Kabul Express.
    (Sorry for using the B-word, but I think it works as a good shorthand.)

    That’s why I just call it “The IFI” and assume people know what I’m talking about. (IFI = Indian Film Industry)

    Nice plot outline, FKK. ;)

  21. All I know is I want to see a Hollywood/Bollywood buddy cop movie, preferably starring Will Smith and Shah Rukh Khan.

    Alternatively, if it were Hugh Grant and Shahrukh Khan, they could have a contest to see who twitches, stammers and blinks more….

  22. “Everybody expects this holy behavior, because he’s the president. Expects him to behave this holy way. He’s just the president. He ain’t Reverend Clinton. It ain’t Pastor Clinton. It ain’t Maharaja Clinton. It is just Bill Clinton. He just a man. A man going to be a man

    I believe he means Maharaj – meaning a priest, not Maharaja as in a King.

  23. That’s why I just call it “The IFI” and assume people know what I’m talking about. (IFI = Indian Film Industry)

    Naina, a more accurate descriptor is the ‘Hindi Film Industry”. There are several other platforms for expression, and each of these deserve mention.

    and every time i see these Hindi film actors and actresses blurt out in English to their audience, i wonder what’s going on in their minds. who are they talking to, for what purposes? the movies are in Hindi, they are clever enough to ride on their mass appeal to Hindi-understanding people in the country (and abroad), yet they rarely talk in Hindi on screen.

    sale angrez ka aulad, hindi mein bat karta hain movie me, aur angrezi me chabar chabar karta hai TV camera ke samne.

    at some point in the Hindi film industry, this has become a trend. everytime i hear aishwarya rai’s hilarious accent, i get mad. you know what i mean. this obsession with a distant paradigm is too deep seated. i respect amitabh bachchan for this. he always tries to talk in Hindi.

    in one of the Filmfare awards, i think it was T N Seshan, who – in his own way – gave a fitting reply to this trend. He talked in Hindi on the dias, although Hindi was not his mother tongue.

  24. i respect amitabh bachchan for this. he always tries to talk in Hindi.

    That’s not entirely true. Amitabh Bachchan speaks excellent Hindi (his dad was a Hindi poet), he likes Hindi, and if a show or interview is conducted in Hindi he’s very comfortable giving his answers in Hindi…but just like most other ‘posh’ people in Mumbai, he speaks English at all the ‘hi-fi’ events and interviews…including the Bollywood awards (or filmfare awards or whatever). More indicative of his succumbing to the overwhelming pressure to speak English that characterizes upper-class India is the fact that he primarily speaks English with his children (Abhishek had to be coached extensively in Hindi when he started his career). Just as educated Punjabis in Pakistan have an unwritten rule to speak to their kids in Urdu rather than Punjabi, the upper classes of Mumbai (and increasingly other parts of India) have an unwritten rule to speak English rather than Indian languages with their kids too. It’s probably almost subconscious.