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Hollywood's perception of Bollywood: Ashok Amritraj

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MUMBAI: More than just a Q& A session, it turned out to be a live session of Koffee with Karan at the Ficci Frames. Except that, this time around there were no Bollywood stars on the show. Karan Johar, one of the most successful Bollywood Producers had his frothy Koffee with Ashok Amritraj, the most successful Indian producer to have made a mark in Hollywood.

To begin with Johar got Amritraj talking about his initial struggle days in Hollywood. Taking the audience through his early days, this tennis star and now a Hollywood tycoon said, "In the early 1980s, I had gone to the U.S., to play tennis but I had always wanted to make movies. I soon realized that it was a very white world out there, and it wasn't really multicultural as it is today."

And, with time Amritraj managed to break into the Hollywood circuit and has produced more than 80 films in the past 20 years. Currently, he is the chairman and CEO of Hyde Park entertainment and some of his best known films are Bandits, Bringing down the House and Raising Helen.

Talking of how Hollywood perceives Bollwood, the film tycoon said, "There is a lot of hype being generated in the US about India as the country is slowly being recognized as a global economy. Also, there is a lot of curiosity about our culture and tradition, but, somehow that does not mean that Indian films are getting more eyeballs in America."

The discussion got more interesting as Johar queried Amritraj on how Indian film makers can penetrate the global markets and on the making of crossover films. "I think the European market is now more receptive to Indian movies, especially countries like Germany and France, but films like Parineeta , Kuch Kuch Hota could have been distributed better globally." said Amritraj. "But, somehow for Hollywood, Bollywood films still don't really exist. Americans are still not able to understand the ethos, emotions and drama which is the core of our movies."

On whether filmmakers need to make different kind of films for the international audience, Amritraj said, ""There is always a risk of losing out on the audiences back home. So, it is a clear choice which filmmakers have to make. One of solutions was maybe Indian producers need to have co-production treaties with the international studios for better distribution of Indian films globally."

The discussion turned to be not just informative, but, also brought home lessons for Indian filmmakers wanting to carve a niche in the international market.

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