Bollywood shaken by attacks

U.S. studios remain committed to region

Terrorism has cast a shadow over Bollywood, but as the smoke clears from Wednesday's attacks, Hollywood studios with Indian interests remain committed to the region.

When a gang of as few as 10 men stormed Mumbai with automatic weapons Wednesday, killing 183 people, including 18 foreigners, business in India's financial capital ground to a halt. An additional 239 were wounded, including 22 foreign visitors to the port city of 19 million.

Cinemas, some set to open Fox's "Max Payne," closed Thursday and Friday, and many stayed shuttered Saturday as the five-star Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, the Bollywood home to many celebrities and media executives, burned for a third day. Not until Saturday night did Indian commandos finish rooting out the attackers with grenades and rooftop raids at the Taj and other sites throughout the city.

Australian TV actress Brooke Satchwell barely escaped a Taj bathroom with her life as gunmen mowed down guests in a hallway. German media entrepreneur Ralph Burkei was not so lucky: He leapt from a height at the Taj and died on his way to a hospital.

"(The attacks are) a shocking blow to all of those in India and all of those who do business there," said Pete Smith, the London-based president of NBC Universal International, who has led his company's expansion in Asia and said he regards India as one of its most exciting growth prospects.

Smith, a regular in India thanks to NBC Uni's 26% stake in Mumbai- and New Delhi-based channel group NDTV, said travel to Mumbai is out for now, but he intends to fly to New Delhi this week.

Some wonder, though, whether last week's events might do more than chill travel.

"The timing couldn't have been worse as media sentiment for next year is soft," Asia media analyst Vivek Couto said. "What will be important to see are capital flows in India."

Spokespeople from most media companies with Indian interests said they simply are monitoring the situation at this stage.

Viacom vp human resources Abhinav Chopra said his company's employees are safe, and the attacks have had no adverse effect on operations. Alannah Hall-Smith, Disney Asia Pacific's vp corporate communications, said that while the situation is "terribly sad," her company remains "committed to our dedicated teams and the Indian market."

How Mumbai's markets — India's biggest — the city's consumers and media industry fare during the days and months ahead will depend partly on the strength, focus and execution of the government, soon up for reelection. (partialdiff)
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