Bollywood looks to tap Spanish-speaking movie-goers

Posted at 05/09/10 9:58 AM

MUMBAI – A new Bollywood film co-starring a Mexican actress has raised hopes that Indian cinema can make inroads into the Spanish-speaking market, after boosting its profile elsewhere in the world.

Leading lady Barbara Mori appears with heartthrob actor Hrithik Roshan in "Kites," a romantic drama about a fugitive left for dead in the Mexican desert, who meets the love of his life and goes on the run across the United States.

Roshan's father, Rakesh, who produced the movie, said: "There are a lot of inquiries from the Spanish-speaking market and we would love to release 'Kites' in as many countries as possible.

"The world has become small due to globalisation and today films from South Korea and other Asian countries do make an impact in mainstream Hollywood and other markets.

"But unfortunately Indian films have not been able to do that. I want to show the world that Indian films can make an impact too."

The overseas success of this year's Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster "My Name Is Khan" has left Hindi-language filmmakers eager to tap into overseas markets with similar "crossover" films.

"My Name Is Khan" took $39 million worldwide in the month after its release in February, including 17 million dollars outside India.

Its distributors, Fox Star Studios, hailed it as "Bollywood's first truly global film".

That came after the 2009 Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire," which although British-made, boosted worldwide interest in using Indian film industry talent.

The overseas market makes up seven percent of overall revenues in India's 89.3-billion-rupee ($1.9-billion) film industry, with foreign audiences prized because of the higher cost of cinema tickets compared with those in India.

The United States, Canada, Britain and Europe account for up to two-thirds of foreign income, according to a recent KPMG report on India's media and entertainment industry.

Central and South America did not figure in the breakdown.

"Kites" director Anurag Basu told reporters recently that Indian cinema -- which has a fanatical following at home -- should have a higher profile abroad.

"I feel very sad that the world knows only filmmakers like (US-based) Mira Nair ("Salaam Bombay!", "Monsoon Wedding") and (Canada-based) Deepa Mehta (Elements trilogy)," he said.

"They don't know about Indian films and I feel "Kites" will be that film that will appeal to masses of Western and Spanish-speaking countries," he added, calling it "a truly global Indian film" for mainstream consumption.

One way Basu is hoping for box office success is by releasing a longer Hindi-language version and a shorter, apparently steamier, one in English.

Mori, a 32-year-old model and actress who has starred in television soap operas and a number of Spanish-language films, is one of a number of foreign female stars to take a leading role in a Bollywood movie.

On a recent promotional tour in India's entertainment capital, Mumbai, she said the film, in which she speaks Spanish, had a universal appeal.

"Our attempt with this film was to make an emotional appealing love story though the two protagonists don't know each other's language," she said.

"The emotions appeal to human beings all over the world and therefore I felt this film can work on an international scale before going ahead with the project."

"Kites," which is out on May 21, is 36-year-old Hrithik Roshan's return to the big screen after last starring in "Jodhaa Akbar" in 2008, a love story about the Mughal emperor Akbar and his Hindu wife, Jodhaa.