From a horrific gang-rape incident that united the industry in outrage, to new box-office records and high-profile visits from Steven Spielberg, Robert De Niro and Snoop Dogg, it was a busy year in Indian entertainment.
Steven Spielberg visited Mumbai in March with his DreamWorks co-chair Stacey Snider. Spielberg has visited India in the past -- his first trip was in 1977 when he shot a sequence for Close Encounters of the Third Kind near Mumbai -- but this was his first visit after Indian billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance conglomerate became DreamWorks' equal partner in 2009 with an initial investment of $325 million. (From left: Anil Ambani, Stacey Snider, Steven Spielberg and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan.)
Horrific Gang Rape Sends Bollywood Soul-Searching
The year started off on a somber and introspective note as India reeled from the horrific gang rape on Dec. 16, 2012, of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi; she died two weeks later. The incident sparked violent protests, outcry from Bollywood stars, and intense debate about women's security, while many also questioned the way women are portrayed in films.
Robert De Niro Drops in on Goa
Visiting India for the first time in more than three decades, Hollywood icon Robert De Niro addressed a session at the THiNK event in Goa in November. Featuring an array of personalities from all walks of life, from Bollywood figure Amitabh Bachchan to Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov, the event was organized by leading political magazine and media group Tehelka. De Niro also visited the Mumbai acting school run by veteran Bollywood actor and his Silver Linings Playbook co-star Anupam Kher. De Niro was welcomed there by some of Bollywood's top stars, including Ranbir Kapoor, Anil Kapoor and Diya Mirza, among others.
Bollywood Icon Amitabh Bachchan Goes Hollywood
Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan's fleeting, but well received, appearance in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby proved Indian talent was indeed going global. Bachchan played flamboyant Jewish money lender Meyer Wolfsheim in the film based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. During a trip to India two years ago, Luhrmann visited Bachchan at his Mumbai home and offered him the cameo in The Great Gatsby.
Snoop Dogg's First India Tour
Snoop Dogg visited India for the first time, performing in the cities of Pune and Delhi. Having previously guest-rapped on the title track of 2008 Bollywood hit Singh Is Kinng, the flamboyant artist enthralled fans with a live rendition of the track, donning a traditional Indian outfit. But Snoop Dogg also was put on the spot when, at his Mumbai press conference, he dodged questions about his views on the portrayal of women in music and the horrific Delhi gang-rape incident.
Sharon Stone Hosts amfAR India Charity
Hollywood and Bollywood came together for the star-studded inaugural amfAR India charity event held in November at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai. Sharon Stone co-hosted the evening along with Bollywood power couple, actor Abhishek Bachchan and his actress wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Also present were Hilary Swank and amfAR chairman and designer Kenneth Cole, while pop artist Ke$ha gave a live performance (From left: Hilary Swank, Sharon Stone and Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amfAR.)
Priyanka Chopra Breaks Through
Former Miss World turned actress Priyanka Chopra continued to build her international music career with a new music video, “Exotic,” featuring Pitbull. The CAA-signed talent also became the first Indian to model for Guess, and was photographed by rocker Bryan Adams. Chopra also found time to voice Ishani, an Indian character in Disney's animated feature Planes. Not to mention her lead role in Bollywood hit Krrish 3 and a sizzling cameo in romantic drama Ram Leela.
Indian Cinema Marks Its Centenary
The biggest film industry in the world (in terms of volume output) celebrated its one-hundred-year anniversary with various initiatives. These included Bombay Talkies (pictured), which featured four short films revolving around India's love affair with cinema, by leading directors. Backed by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Flying Unicorn Entertainment, helmers included Bollywood filmmakers Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee.
Cannes Shines the Spotlight on Indian Cinema
A new wave of independent cinema and rising talent enhanced India's presence at Cannes in 2013. The festival paid tribute to the centenary by honoring India as a guest country, which saw Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan open the event (addressing the audience in Hindi) in the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio. A breakthrough came from debut director Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox, which won over critics and triggered a buyer frenzy with its subtle portrayal of a lonely housewife (actress Nimrat Kaur) and her accidental romance with a retiring widower (Irrfan Khan).
'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' Becomes a Breakthrough Hit
Inspired by one of India's living sports legends, athlete Milkha Singh -- known as the “Flying Sikh” -- this Viacom18 release starred Farhan Akhtar. Akhtar underwent grueling physical training to lend credibility to his performance, which won over critics and audiences alike. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's previous release Delhi 6 had been a disappointment, so Milkha's success was a huge boost for him as well. Budgeted at an estimated 300 million rupees ($4.6 million), the film went on to cross the 1 billion rupee mark ($16.7 million).
Disney-UTV Scores Sleeper Hit With "Kai Po Che!"
A film with a relatively new cast, Kai Po Che! (a popular phrase in the Gujarati language that means “I have cut the kite!”) is based on the best-selling book The 3 Mistakes of My Life by popular author Chetan Bhagat. The film's three male leads -- Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar Yadav and Amit Sadh -- portrayed a trio of friends who battle the odds to start their own sports shop and academy. Directed by Abhishek Kapoor, the Disney-UTV release was premiered out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival. Budgeted at an estimated $5 million, the film went on to gross $8.3 million.
'Chennai Express' Renews Shah Rukh Khan's Star Power
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan reasserted his grip on the box office with rom-com actioner Chennai Express, directed by Rohit Shetty. As one of the year's biggest hits that easily sailed past the coveted one billion rupee mark ($16.7 million), the film also was a major highlight of the year for Disney-UTV, which aggressively marketed the film.
Bollywood Actor Ajay Devgn Pacts With Brillstein Entertainment
On the business front, Brillstein Entertainment and Bollywood star Ajay Devgn announced a partnership to form L.A.-based Shivalaya Entertainment. Shivalaya's first film, to begin shooting in 2014, will be Parched, described as a bittersweet story about women who live in the parched rural landscape of India, written by award winner Leena Yadav, who also will direct. Her credits include 2010's Teen Patti, which starred Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley.
Booming, Record-Breaking Success for 'Dhoom 3'
The end of Bollywood's big year was marked by the booming success of Dhoom 3, starring Aamir Khan, as the film pulled in $10.17 million during its opening weekend abroad -- the biggest international opening ever for an Indian film. At home, the third installment of the action franchise from veteran Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films crossed the 1 billion rupee mark ($16.7 million) in its first three days, giving it the biggest domestic opening weekend ever as well.
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