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The Indian film industry has long been accused of ripping off Hollywood and foreign storylines with unauthorized local remakes. But thanks to increasing corporatization and global consolidation of the industry, all that is rapidly changing and paving the way for official remakes.
One of the most high-profile releases this year has been Bang Bang!, Fox Star Studios’ Bollywood take on the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz starrer Knight and Day. FSS earlier released City Lights, a Hindi remake of the U.K.’s foreign-language Oscar entry Metro Manila. The studio also recently announced it was planning a Bollywood version of its hit title The Fault in Our Stars.
Lionsgate and Endemol India announced a co-production of the Hindi version of the 2011 sports drama Warrior, which starred Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.
It’s not just Hollywood but also the French who are forging ahead and lining up deals. A first-of-its-kind French remakes market, which was organized at the Mumbai Film Festival, was put together by French government-backed film body Unifrance and La Fabrique Films, headed by a former French embassy official posted in Mumbai, Deborah Benattar, who has made the city her home. The event included screenings of six French titles for the consideration of potential Indian producers.
“Exploring remakes of French titles is a good way to expand the market for us since traditional distribution in India of French films is limited,” Unifrance deputy general manager Xavier Lardoux tells The Hollywood Reporter. Unifrance has also set up a Mumbai office to continue expanding interactions between France and India. Moreover, Unifrance is also exploring digital options such as its 4-year-old online initiative MyFrenchFilmFestival.com. Held every January, the online festival screens selected French titles and has partnered with iTunes, Hulu and Vudu for the U.S. and Youku in China. Next year’s festival will also see a partnership with Indian online video portal Half Ticket.
In recent months, French producers have sold remake rights for a slew of titles such as Gaumont’s award-winning hit The Intouchables (acquired by The Lunchbox co-producers Karan Johar and Guneet Monga). French banner Les Films Pelléas sold rights for three titles: comedy After You (Apres vous) was remade as 2013 release Nautanki Saala, directed by Rohan Sippy; Audrey Tautou starrer Beautiful Lies is being turned into Shimla Mirchi, which will see legendary director Ramesh Sippy helming a film after two decades; And another Audrey Tautou starrer, Priceless, will get a local retread via Disney-UTV India.
Leading French player UGC Images is also exploring the Indian market. One of its latest titles, Serial (Bad Weddings) — which was a major hit in France, clocking 12 million admissions — seems a potential fit for India given it revolves around marriages and family. “It’s a good way to enter the market by developing remakes of stories that are universal,” said UGC Images business director Alexandre de la Porte.
A new crop of independent Indian producers is also stepping up to the plate. Recently established banner Azure Entertainment — founded by former Reliance executive Sunir Kheterpal — has acquired rights for a dozen foreign titles, three of which are from Gaumont. These include action drama Les Lyonnais, which is already shooting as A Gang Story, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia (acting credits include Gangs of Wasseypur). Gaumont’s Fred Cavaye-directed thriller Point Blank is also heading for a local version helmed by cinematographer-turned-director Ravi K. Chandran.
“The advantage of developing remakes is that it makes it easier to first pitch it creatively to potential talent,” says Kheterpal. “Also, Indian audiences are opening up to a wider range of stories so it’s only natural to acquire material that has worked in various markets.”
Beyond France, Azure has also picked up rights for titles from Korea, Hong Kong, Spain, Denmark, Argentina and Panama. Korean thriller The Man From Nowhere is in production as Rocky Handsome starring top Bollywood actor John Abraham, directed by Nishikant Kamat.
When it comes to number crunching, remake rights can command prices anywhere between $25,000 and about $160,000, according to Kheterpal. Beyond just negotiating for the right price, “it’s also important to be a part of the creative process to see how a film will be adapted by a local producer so that it retains some of its original flavor,” added de la Porte.
Equally interesting is how the remake tide can turn the other way, where an Indian title is adapted for foreign audiences. Recently, veteran Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films’ U.S.affiliate — which co-produced Grace of Monaco — announced that it will remake 2012 Bollywood hit thriller Kahaani (distributed by Viacom18 Motion Pictures) as English-language feature Deity for international audiences.
Deity will be directed by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, who made the 2009 original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Kahaani starred actress Vidya Balan as a pregnant woman investigating the disappearance of her husband in Calcutta. Deity will have a similar storyline and revolve around an American woman who travels to Calcutta in search of her missing husband.
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