Paul Schrader: Bollywood, here I come

'Taxi Driver' scribe leaves Hollywood for 'Extreme City'

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Schrader is taking a taxi to Bollywood.

Saying he feels the U.S. film market has become "barren," the writer of classics "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" is packing his bags for Mumbai to write and direct the Bollywood action movie "Extreme City."

"I've been getting indie movies made for 20 years," he said. "But I take a good look around and what I see is a barren, barren place -- in terms of the financial community, in terms of audiences, in terms of distribution. It's cold out there."

In India, on the other hand, he says there are ways to gain both creative freedom and audiences.

"City" is a cross-cultural tale that will center on an American man who travels to India to help resolve a kidnapping case for his father-in-law, only to get caught up in a gangster plot.

There likely will be some musical numbers, and dialogue will be spoken in English and Hindi. Schrader is working on the script.

While the story combines various elements, it's "not a Masala movie," Schrader said, referring to the term for a kitchen-sink Bollywood film that tosses in action, romance, family drama and other genres in one big stew.

"City" will be produced by Anubhav Sinha, the noted Indian director (he most recently directed the Bollywood action movie "Cash") who is looking to grow his producing slate and evolve from a more action orientation.

Schrader and Sinha are in talks with a number of Bollywood stars; the movie could get greenlighted at a bigger Bollywood studio or go the indie route.

Schrader, who made his name as a writer on classics like "Raging Bull" and as a writer-director on Oscar winner "Affliction," is the latest film figure seeking to build a bridge to India.

One of the fall's nascent hits is "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle's romantic-action tale set in India. Indie director Jennifer Lynch is making the India-set mystery "Hisss." Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment has a deal with Indian entertainment company UTV to produce two movies.

And DreamWorks is, of course, now financed by India-based Reliance Big Entertainment.

Still, Schrader is the first major contemporary U.S. writer or director to migrate to Bollywood, a trend he said could continue given the trajectory of both film cultures. "Old Bollywood will never go away," he said, "but it's changing. Movies can be shorter than two hours. There doesn't need to be singing and dancing."

Schrader is promoting "Adam Resurrected," a Holocaust drama starring Jeff Goldblum that he directed about a German-Jewish performer who survives the war by performing for a Nazi commander.

"At first I thought, 'The world has a lot of Holocaust movies. It doesn't need one from Paul Schrader.' But I started to read the script and got 65 pages in and thought, 'I need to do this.' It's such an original story."
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