India, China on map for WB pic

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Warner Bros. said Tuesday that it will begin shooting its first Indian feature in January, the action comedy "Made in China." The film, to be directed by Nikhil Advani, is believed to be the first Indian production shot in China.

Set to star leading Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar as a lowly Mumbai cook mistaken for a martial arts hero, the film brings Mumbai-based Warner Bros. Entertainment India into the growing fold of major Hollywood studios to have launched Indian productions.

The plot of "Made," which also stars upcoming actress Deepika Padukone, mirrors the real-life experiences of Kumar, who worked as a chef in Bangkok while learning martial arts before returning to India in the early 1990s to become India's top action star.

The film will be produced by Warner Bros. and veteran Bollywood production house Ramesh Sippy Prods. Advani's banner Orion Pictures Pvt Ltd. will co-produce, represented by founding partner Mukesh Talreja.

It was not clear what role if any Warner Bros.' Chinese joint venture with the state-run China Film Group and private film studio Hengdian Group might take in the production.

This year, CFG's China Film Co-production Corp. said that China hoped to sign a film co-production treaty with India by the end of the year (HR 6/20).

While Warner Bros. did not disclose the budget and financial terms for "Made," it said plans to distribute the film worldwide in late 2008 after the Beijing Olympics.

"At the turn of the century there was a lot of promise in the air about globalization in Indian cinema, and now with this venture RSP and Orion are joining hands with Warner Bros. in bringing that dream closer to reality," Sippy said. "What we hope to achieve at the minimum is a greater knowledge and understanding of the workings and systems of Hollywood and the Indian film industry. I am sure we both stand to gain a lot from each other."

Added Warner Bros. Entertainment India country manager Blaise Fernandes: "We are excited and proud to be working with such respected partners as Ramesh Sippy and Orion. We'll count on our partners' expertise and will do everything in our power to make a well-crafted, popular and successful Indian film."

RSP's recent productions include "Bluffmaster" and "Taxi No. 9211," while Sippy himself directed India's all-time biggest blockbuster, 1975's "Sholay" (Burning Embers).

Advani made his directorial debut with 2003's romantic "Kal Ho Naa Ho" (Tomorrow May or May Not Come), followed by last year's ensemble musical "Salaam-E-Ishq" (Salute to Love).

Other Hollywood studios with Indian productions include Sony Pictures Entertainment, which is wrapping up "Saawariyan," directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali; and the Walt Disney Co., which in June announced a co-production agreement with veteran Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films for animated features.

Disney began in India with "Roadside Romeo," which is in production and slated for a 2008 release. The film will feature the voices of leading actor Saif Ali Khan and actress Kareena Kapoor.

In May, Viacom announced a joint venture with TV18, the Mumbai-based diversified broadcasting company, to launch entertainment projects starting with a broadcasting venture (HR 5/22). TV18 also owns an independent film subsidiary, the Indian Film Co.

Announcing the Viacom-18 launch, Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said that Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks "will explore additional opportunities for collaboration with Viacom-18."

Jonathan Landreth in Beijing contributed to this report.
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