Television

France looks to partner entertainment sector in India

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MUMBAI: The French are coming. And in a manner never seen before. That too in the Indian entertainment sector with a focus on cinema.

Says French Ambassador in India Dominique Girard: "We are quite serious about India. We believe the timing is right. India is no longer an exotic place alone, it is culturally integrated with the rest of the world, it has also emerged as a nation of economic power. And a country which has lots of technical expertise and skills."

For starters, the French Embassy has set up an office in Mumbai right in the heart of Bollywood with the head of the film and TV department Mohammed Bendjebbour leading the charge of the French film brigade. Earlier, Bendjebbour was stationed in Delhi with a couple of people under him. The Mumbai office will have a similar component of people under him.

"Bendejebbour and his team will assist Indian film producers in every way they can to help them should they want to do anything relating to cinema in France," says Girard.

Girard points out that additionally, a new film cooperating treaty between India and France is being penned right now. "The French film authorities met with the Information & Ministry officials at the Goa Film festival and agreed to rejuvenate the 1985 treaty on cinema. It is currently being drafted and will be signed at the Cannes film Festival this May with India celebrating its 60th year of independence," says Girard.

Girard believes it is about time Indian film makers move away from their traditional overseas locations like Switzerland, New Zealand, Malayasia and use France's "magnifique locales" for filming just as Don had its opening sequence shot in Paris.

"We have fabulous monuments - the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame de Paris, the Champs Elysees - which can serve as interesting backdrops," says he. "The French are not too finicky about permitting filming in them. You remember Mittal and the Chateau de Versailles. In fact, we had organized a visit for Yash Chopra earlier this year to the Chateau in the wee hours of the morning and he was quite excited by it."

The French Embassy is taking steps to ensure that Indian film producers wanting to film in France are given preferential treatment in terms of visas. "Unlike IT and other professions, film professionals will only need a business visa to film in France. And the head of the TV and film department will help making life easier for them."

He points out that a step in that direction was taken when the Accor group of hotels and the French Tourism Promotion Board signed an agreement permitting Indian film crews to fly in their cooks with them and use the kitchens on the premises to rustle up Indian vegetarian fare for them. "This should be really beneficial to those who are vegetarian, we were told it is a major issue with many film people."

Girard reveals that he has ambitions to make French cinema popular in India. "The multiplex culture has made it viable for distributors and exhibitors to screen French movies. The feedback we have received from Indian youth is that they would love to watch the new wave of French cinema," says Girard.

Thus there are plans are to have festivals of French cinema; and dub French films into various Indian languages. For starters Skyfighters - a Top Gun kind of French film - which is being distributed by the PVR group is to be released with a Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English dub. "The French Embassy is setting aside funds for dubs if distributors are willing to distribute French films," reveals Girard.

That's some red carpet treatment. Now it's up to the Indian film trade to take the bait.

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