Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bollywood stars try their hand behind the camera

Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan makes his debut as a producer this month, marking a growing trend for stars in India’s Hindi-language film industry to get more involved behind the camera. ‘Love Aaj Kal’, a drama featuring Khan and actress Deepika Padukone, hits screens on July 31. It is the first venture by Illuminati Films, which he set up earlier this year. “I have worked in the industry for the last 18 years. Now I want to do something different and therefore I am producing films,” said the 38-year-old. “I want to be creatively satisfied as an actor, therefore I am putting in my money in projects that I believe in.”
Now others are following suit. Anil Kapoor, recently seen as the quizmaster in the Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, has produced ‘Short Kut: The Con is On’ through his company Anil Kapoor Films. Katrina Kaif is meanwhile said to be negotiating to buy the rights of a French film she plans to produce while comic actor Arshad Warsi is working on his own project after failing to secure mainstream backing. “When I went to producers nobody was willing to touch it,” said Warsi. “Some were ready but they wanted to change a bit of it and commercialise it. So, I felt it was better to produce my own film and act in it.”
Bollywood has traditionally been a family affair, with directors and producers, actors, musicians and singers, all tending to come from powerful dynasties. But that - and those filmmakers with links to the city’s underworld in the 1980s and 1990s - is increasingly a thing of the past, as big business looks to get a greater share of the lucrative 2.1-billion-dollar-a-year industry. With new corporate practices in place, Bollywood is moving away from its traditional song and dance masala roots and experimenting with new styles and subjects.
“The industry has gone through a sea change,” said Saif. “There are not many single producers left in the industry. So, we too need to branch out and do things which we believe in and I hope to continue by making more films in the future,” said Saif Ali Khan.
The days of the actor-producer-director began in 2000, when Khan’s namesake Shahrukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment produced ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’. The film was not a success but in 2007 he hit the jackpot with ‘Om Shanti Om’, which took nearly two billion rupees and became one of the biggest Bollywood films of all time. Aamir Khan set up Aamir Khan Productions to make the film ‘Lagaan’, which hinges on the outcome of a cricket match between a group of Indian villagers and their colonial British masters.
‘Taare Zameen Par’ tells the story of a child with dyslexia and is unlikely to have been touched by more mainstream producers. Both films were a critical and commercial success and entered for an Oscar in the best foreign language film category. “My family line is of film producers,” said Aamir Khan. “They suffered huge losses in the mid-80s and when I was growing up I consciously decided I will never produce a film even if I became a successful actor. But things changed because I felt I need to do films which I believe in and nobody was willing to put their money into such projects.” afp