Toronto: Reliance CEO Sanjeev Lamba Tells Hollywood to Look Beyond China to India

 Cannes Film Festival

TORONTO -- The major studios' obsession with China led Reliance Entertainment CEO Sanjeev Lamba to give a shout-out to India, that other Asian movie powerhouse.

"With due respect, there's lots of talk about China. But there's another country out there with 1.2 billion people," Lamba told an Asian Film Summit panel on cross-cultural filmmaking at the Toronto Film Festival.

The Reliance topper conceded that Hollywood efforts to get its CGI-fuelled blockbusters into China have been rewarded with a commanding share of that market.

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That contrasts with India, where the major studios have barely made a mark at the multiplex.

"India is resolute. Hollywood has never crossed a 7 percent share in India, and that's after dubbing their movies in three Indian languages," Lamba said.

To better penetrate the market dominated by Bollywood, Hollywood needs to think of India like Europe, with different regions and languages, Lamba said.

The Reliance CEO also advised that local stories told well do better in the region than pan-Asian movies with no particular market in mind.

"If cinema has to cross over, you can't bridge from the center. You have to build a bridge from one side," Lamba, who found box office success in China and across Asia with the 2009 Hindi-language hit 3 Idiots, said.

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"The best films that cross over are those that are local. If you try to design a cross-cultural film, it will fail," he added.

Chinese-Canadian producer Shan Tam told the Asian Film Summit panel that local language films have better crossover potential than movies made in English and designed to reach American audiences.

"People want to watch the film in its original language," said Tam, who had major box office success in China with Finding Mr. Right, a Mandarin-language romantic comedy shot in Vancouver.

Michael Lake, CEO of Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, agreed that producers need to decide whether they are making films that will travel to Asia, a fast-growing box office market, or concentrate on the American market.

"The [Asian] marketplace is becoming so big, attested by so many American companies making films and TV series with an Asian bent," Lake told the TIFF panel.

"[Americans] see the potential of the Asian audience," which will embrace films not in their own language more readily than an American audience will view a foreign language film, Lake added.

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