FEBRUARY 16, 2009
GLOBAL BUSINESS THINKING BIG
Salaam, America Saavn’s co-founders, from
left, Bhat, Singh and Shenoy, in New York City
in 2006. And last year even Snoop Dogg
got into the act by creating a rap song for
the Bollywood movie Singh Is Kinng, “help-
ing put the ﬁlm and its music on the map in
the U.S.,” says Bhat. Warner Bros. recently
released its own Bollywood ﬁlm, Chandni
Chowk to China, whose sound track Saavn
distributes for downloads.
And then there’s Slumdog.
A.R. Rahman, a 20-year Bollywood vet-
eran—he wrote “Chaiyya Chaiyya” and
hundreds of other songs—and the composer
of Slumdog’s Oscar-nominated score, con-
cedes that the ﬁlm’s music, with vocals sung
in English rather than Hindi, is not true Bol-
lywood. Nevertheless, the movie has been a
dynamic conduit for Saavn’s business—even
if Saavn distributes only one Mumbai-pro-
duced song from it. “Slumdog’s sound track
has elevated the entire Bollywood genre and
brought us a new customer base wanting to
explore similar music,” says Bhat.
Saavn’s offerings—more than 90% of all
Indian music is ﬁlm music—are available at
digital music stores, while mobile carriers
offer Bollywood ringtones, ring-back tones,
single tracks, music videos and Bollywood
THINKING BIG graphics. “Since the release of Slumdog,
we’ve seen a substantial increase in the sales
Ring, Ring, Bollywood Calling! A of Bollywood ringtones, ring-back tones and
songs,” says Ed Ruth, director of V Cast Mu-
young company seizes its chance in the sic at Verizon, which offers more than 1,200
craze for Indian movies and music Bollywood ringtones and ring-back tones
and more than 30,000 songs.
Powered by Bollywood, Saavn has al-
BY COELI CARR
music enterprise. The company expects 2009 ready conducted a brand-marketing cam-
revenues in the low eight ﬁgures, “growth paign for Verizon. Half a dozen major U.S.
IN 2006, LONG BEFORE SLUMDOG north of 500%,” says Neal Shenoy, one of companies are now in discussion to use
Millionaire awakened U.S. moviegoers’ inner Saavn’s co-founders, who manages the three Saavn’s content to pursue the same market.
Bollywood, three Americans of Indian heri- other media companies within Saavn’s par- The wealth and education level of South
tage nurtured an instinct that digital Bolly- ent company Media. (Saavn is co-owned Asian consumers in the U.S. make them a
wood content would become a hot ticket in by Indian company Hungama, a competi- desirable target, says Nirmalya Kumar, a
the U.S. market. tor turned partner.) “We had no idea how professor of marketing at the London Busi-
Today, three-year-old Saavn (an acronym quickly Bollywood and India would pen- ness School and the author of India’s Global
for South Asian audiovisual network) con- etrate American culture,” Shenoy says. Powerhouses: How They Are Taking On the
trols global distribution rights, outside India, Shenoy and Saavn’s two other founding World. The best way to reach them emotion-
to a massive number of Bollywood ﬁlms, partners—CEO Vinodh Bhat and managing ally, he says, is through the music and mov-
songs, albums and music videos, all down- director Paramdeep Singh—had witnessed ies they love. As for Saavn’s platform, “You
loadable to iPods, MP3 players, cell phones popular media’s gradual but certain infatu- can’t market today without including the
and computers. And if consumers in Amer- ation with Bollywood, whose revenues ac- digital world,” says Jerry Wind, a professor
ica are captivated by the song-and-dance count for roughly 80% of India’s $2 billion of marketing at Wharton.
extravaganzas of Bollywood—the umbrella ﬁlm industry. In 2003, rapper Jay-Z sampled Americanized Bollywood hybrids could
name for Mumbai’s ﬁlm industry—Saavn London DJ Punjabi MC on the Bollywood- help Saavn expand. “Whether it’s Slumdog
SHERI MANSON FOR TIME
believes its offerings will be attractive mar- ﬂavored track “Beware of the Boys.” Bom- or Snoop Dogg, future media collaborations
keting tools for U.S. companies. bay Dreams launched on Broadway the fol- will inject Bollywood further into the main-
Last year Saavn posted revenues in the lowing year. The infectiously danceable stream,” says Shenoy. “And when fans want
low seven ﬁgures—ﬁve times its 2007 num- “Chaiyya Chaiyya” played over the open- to experience the real Bollywood genre,
bers—with the largest spurt coming from its ing credits of Spike Lee’s ﬁlm Inside Man they’ll come to us.” ■
A Passage to Hollywood co-written by American and Indian screen-
Hollywood and India join up to create a new genre of movies; writers and digitally souped up by American
Mickey Rourke considers a role, Stallone shoots with Kumar special-effects technicians.
Crossover projects have been percolating
BY ALEXANDRA ALTER and the Indian ﬁlm industry. for several years but are heating up with the
Money, stars and scripts are ﬂowing in success of “Slumdog Millionaire.”The rags-
both directions, giving rise to a new genre to-riches tale shot in the slums of Mumbai
HE DIRECTOR IS AMERICAN. The of crossover cinema. Among the projects in has become a surprise Oscar darling with
stars are from India. And the development: Screenwriter Paul Schrader, 10 Academy Award nominations, including
movie, which is scheduled to famous for such ﬁlms as “Taxi Driver”and best picture.
open in India and the U.S. this “Raging Bull,”is working on a thriller with Hollywood studios, in need of new
fall, has Hollywood special an Indian producer. Sylvester Stallone will funding sources during the credit crisis,
effects and Bollywood song-and- appear in “Kambakkht Ishq,”or “Incredible have sought ﬁnancing, and new growth op-
dance. Love,”an action-ﬁlled comedy shot in Los portunities, in India. Indian conglomerate
The horror ﬁlm “Hisss,”currently wrap- Angeles and starring Akshay Kumar. Indian Reliance ADA Group struck a deal to invest
ping up shooting in Mumbai, is a result of a ﬁlm mega star Shahrukh Khan is producing $500 million in Steven Spielberg’s Dream-
growing collaboration between Hollywood and starring in a superhero ﬁlm that will be Works through its Reliance Big Entertain-
Illustration by JT Morrow
er—whose 21 writing credits include “Taxi
Driver,”“Raging Bull,”“American Gigolo”
and “the Last Temptation of Christ”—is
aiming for both Indian and American audi-
ences with his current project, “Xtrme City,”
an action movie blending American and
Indian styles in what he calls “cross-cultural
entertainment.”Mr. Schrader says he began
thinking about working in India when an
Indian producer approached him in New
Delhi after he gave a ﬁlm lecture there last
October, though nothing came of that offer.
In his current project, the plot follows
an American who travels to Mumbai to
help his father-in-law negotiate a business
deal with a “bhai,”or gangster. The hapless
Americans are thrust into Mumbai’s orga-
nized crime scene.
Indian director and producer Anub-
hav Sinha signed on to produce the ﬁlm,
which will have dialogue in English and
Hindi. Mr. Schrader is working on the
script and says he plans to cast an Indian
star and a Hollywood star in the lead roles.
He declined to give names, but said he
Mallika Sherawat in ‘Hisss,’ which is due to wrap up shooting in Mumbai this weekend. Split Image Pictures
aims to cast one of Bollywood’s top four
MOVIES actors, megastars who draw ﬁnancing and
pack theaters. Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek
A Passage to Hollywood Bachchan and Aamir Khan are among
India’s most sought-after leading men.
Mr. Sinha, a former mechanical engineer
ment unit last year, and has announced audiences may not warm to Indian-style who started directing in the early 1990s,
plans to ﬁnance ﬁlms for production houses kitschy, song-and-dance numbers and says he and Mr. Schrader discussed crafting
linked to Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey and Tom melodramatic staples. In 2007, Columbia a ﬁlm that would appeal to both American
Hanks, among others. Reliance also in- Tri-Star funded and produced “Saawariya,” and Indian audiences, and decided to follow
vested in movie theaters across the U.S. which failed to capture a wide audience in Mr. Schrader’s vision in hopes that it will
The new movie style is not being led by India and ﬂopped in its limited U.S. release, resonate in both cultures. “We sat down to
the West. It blends Indian themes and story earning $885,574 in American theaters. discuss who we should target, and I said,
lines with American cinematic styles. Some Executives at Sony Pictures, which owns ‘Paul should make a Paul Schrader ﬁlm,’“
of the collaborations send American talent Columbia, declined to say how much the Mr. Sinha says.
to work in Mumbai; others bring Indian ﬁlm made in India but noted that they When Govind Menon, an executive at
producers, directors and actors to the U.S., more than recovered their investment. Last India’s Split Image Pictures studio, wanted
and the resulting movies cover a range of month, Warner Bros. released the Bol- to make a horror ﬁlm based on the ancient
styles from animation to action. lywood kung fu movie “Chandni Chowk myth of a snake goddess who takes human
Reliance is funding a hybrid ﬁlm, “Bro- to China,”featuring the rising star Mr. form, he went to Hollywood to recruit
ken Horses,”an English-language gangster Kumar, on about 125 screens in the U.S. directors. He ﬁgured an American would
movie scheduled to begin shooting in New and Canada, making it the largest North bring a fresh twist to the tale, which has
Mexico this summer, with an American American opening of a Bollywood ﬁlm. So already inspired dozens of Bollywood ﬁlms,
executive producer, Mark Johnson, and an far, it’s grossed just $916,214. “Slumdog he says. He hired independent ﬁlm director
Indian writer and director, Vidhu Vinod Millionaire,”by contrast, has grossed more Jennifer Lynch because he admired her work
Chopra. than $69 million in the U.S. so far. on the 2008 thriller “Surveillance.”
Mickey Rourke, fresh off his comeback “My feeling was, if Sergio Leone can
in “The Wrestler,”is considering a lead role, NDIAN AUDIENCES are equally particular. make a cowboy movie in Spain without
his spokeswoman and Mr. Chopra said. American action ﬁlms such as “Spider- knowing any English, then an American
Mr. Chopra, an acclaimed Indian ﬁlm- Man 3”have done well in India, but director can make a movie in India without
maker, says he hopes “Broken Horses,”his locally made movies still account for 95% knowing any Hindi,”Mr. Menon says.
ﬁrst English-language feature ﬁlm, will of Indian box-ofﬁce sales. The Indian ﬁlm Ms. Lynch, who wrote the screenplay,
catapult him onto the world stage and pave industry makes more ﬁlms than any other, is in the ﬁnal stages of shooting “Hisss”in
the way for future U.S.-India hybrids. with 1,200 releases in 2007, compared with Mumbai. The movie features American actor
“It’s the right time for these two giants roughly 600 that year in Hollywood. Jeff Doucette, who played a priest on the
to shake hands,”Mr. Chopra says, adding Big splashy Bollywood ﬁlms are often TV show “Desperate Housewives,”as the
that Hollywood stands to beneﬁt from made for a few million dollars, and the most villain, and well-known Bollywood actors
India’s large movie audiences. “We have stars expensive productions run up to about $20 Mallika Sherawat and Irrfan Khan, who
like Aamir Khan, who has more eyeballs million, compared to $100 million for a appeared in “The Namesake”and “Slumdog
than Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, anybody.” major Hollywood movie. Millionaire.”It has an American makeup
The ﬁlms face big hurdles. American Hollywood screenwriter Mr. Schrad- and special-effects team. And it’s being
produced by Mr. Menon’s Split to make it big in Bollywood.
Image Pictures. Across the hallway, a smaller
During a recent shoot in audience turned out to see
a busy Mumbai suburb, Ms. “Raaz, the Mystery Continues,”
Lynch yelled out directions a Hindi horror ﬁlm produced
from the roof of a building by Sony Music and distributed
while the ﬁlm crew captured a by Sony Pictures Releasing
crowd running down a narrow International.
lane, ﬂeeing the veiled snake In “Raaz,”the narrative sus-
woman. For crew members who pense is regularly interrupted by
don’t speak English, people on characters bursting into song.
the ground translated her direc- The ﬁlm also features high-
tions. “Are we communicating tech special effects, dialogue in
directly and efﬁciently so we can “Hinglish,”a mixture of Hindi
have this in two minutes?”Ms. and sporadic English, and
Lynch yelled. Her hands were scenes that until recently would
stained red from smearing fake have been taboo by Indian
blood on the actors. cinema’s conservative standards,
Indian star Irrfan Khan, including kissing and brief
who plays a detective trying to nudity.
solve the mystery of why people Deepika Padukone in Warner Bros.’ ‘Chandni Chowk to China.’ Warner Brothers
The Independent Film Chan-
are dying from snake venom, nel plans to start showing Hindi
ran down the street through the action ﬁlms became popular in Walt Disney released its ﬁrst ﬁlms regularly this spring, and
crowds, toward the camera, and the 1960s and 1970s. In recent Bollywood animated feature, a is also shooting its own cross-
climbed a fence, according to years, Indian ﬁlms have grown joint production with Yash Raj over production—a Bollywood
Ms. Lynch’s directions. more diverse, with smaller, Films, last fall, and is currently musical about making Bol-
Mr. Khan said Ms. Lynch has independent ﬁlms starring developing four ﬁlms, includ- lywood musicals—in Mumbai
transformed the well-chronicled unknown actors cropping up ing two live-action movies. this March. “Bollywood Hero,”
myth. “The theme has been done along with star-studded epics. Warner Bros. recently released which stars former “Saturday
to death,”he said. “But she is India’s domestic ﬁlm in- the Hindi ﬁlm “Chandni Chowk Night Live”cast member Chris
bringing a lot of new elements dustry, including movie ticket to China”in India and the U.S. Kattan as well as Indian ac-
to it.” sales, DVDs and online movie This year, the studio plans tors, is scheduled for IFC this
purchases, is growing 15% an- to produce two conventional August.
ESIDES AMERICAN cin- nually and is projected to hit $4 Bollywood movies ﬁlled with Saavn, a New York-based
ematic touches, Ms. billion by 2012, up from $1.9 song and dance routines, and company launched in 2004 to
Lynch has brought a level billion in 2007, according to two “Tollywood”ﬁlms, so called bring Indian movies to America,
of organization that’s lacking PricewaterhouseCoopers. because they are shot in South distributes Bollywood mov-
in most sprawling Bollywood Meanwhile, Hollywood Indian dialects, Tamil and ies and songs on about 100
productions, the ﬁlm’s actors domestic ticket sales fell slightly Telagu, says Richard Fox, head cable operators including IFC,
and producers say. Ms. Lynch from last year to $9.6 billion, of Warner Bros.’international mobile carriers and Internet
scouted her own locations and and attendance is down 5% division. services such as Time Warner
had each scene mapped out on from 2007, according to Media Indian company Reliance is Cable, AT&T and iTunes. At
storyboards—a rarity in Indian by Numbers. betting on a growing appetite Saavn’s Madison Avenue ofﬁces,
cinema. Before collaborating with for Bollywood ﬁlms in U.S. the company’s chief executive
Mr. Menon said the success the Indian ﬁlm industry, Ameri- theaters: through its Adlabs met one recent afternoon with
of “Slumdog”will likely change can production companies went theaters arm, Reliance has executives and consultants to
how they market the ﬁlm, which after Indian audiences by mak- invested in 240 movie screens discuss the logistics of hosting
will cost about $4 million, a ing their own Bollywood ﬁlms across the U.S. At one of its Indian cinema’s biggest awards
medium-size budget for India. in recent years. Sony Pictures theaters in a shopping com- show, the Zee Cine Awards, live
“There is a lot more interest in released “Saawariya”in India plex in North Bergen, N.J., an in New York this year. The show
this ﬁlm after ‘Slumdog,’“ Mr. in 2007. Sony is producing, co- area with a large South Asian draws a global audience of 250
Menon said. ﬁnancing or acquiring at least population, a handful of the million to 350 million people,
“Hisss”is scheduled for a six other Indian ﬁlms for 2009, latest Bollywood ﬁlms play and has been held in Mumbai,
splashy release in India this fall, says Deb Schindler, president of alongside current Hollywood Dubai and London but never
with a smaller North American Sony’s international division. fare such as “Inkheart,”“Notori- in the U.S. Zee Cine TV said it
release, but Mr. Menon says he Last month, Sony released a ous”and “Hotel for Dogs.”In has narrowed its choice to New
hopes an American distributor horror ﬁlm, “Raaz, the Mystery the lobby, coming-attraction York and a handful of other
will pick up the ﬁlm and market Continues,”which made some posters advertised “Billu Bar- cities.
it more broadly in America. US$3.2 million in India in its ber,”a musical comedy starring “This is the year,”for New
Indian cinema has ﬂourished opening weekend. Shahrukh Khan and Irrfan York, Rishi Malhotra, a consul-
since its inception nearly 100 Others have followed. 20th Khan, and “Delhi 6,”a drama tant for Saavn, told the others
years ago. In the 1930s, Indian Century Fox set up a joint starring Abhishek Bachchan. in the conference room. “There’s
ﬁlmmakers produced epics venture, Fox Star Studios India, One recent evening, families of a lot of talent integration East
based on Indian mythology and in Mumbai last September, and South Asian-descent crowded in and West.”
sprawling, romantic musicals; signed famed ﬁlmmaker Vipul to see “Luck by Chance,”a satire —Eric Bellman in Mumbai
violent gangster movies and Shah to a multi-picture deal. about a struggling actor trying contributed to this article.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2009 ~ VOL. CCLIII NO. 117
Marketers Tie Ads to Bollywood
Success of ‘Slumdog’ Spawns Campaigns Aimed at Indian Americans
BY EMILY STEEL
OPING TO RIDE the buzz of
Oscar winner “Slumdog
Millionaire” and grow-
ing U.S. awareness of Bollywood,
some marketers are planning pro-
motions speciﬁcally targeted at
Insurer State Farm in June is
sponsoring a karaoke contest in
which consumers can upload vid-
eos to a Web site where viewers
vote on two ﬁnalists. The prize:
a trip to India to sing in a Bolly-
IFC, part of Cablevision’s
Rainbow Media Holdings, is de-
veloping a special marketing plan
to promote its new mini-series
“Bollywood Hero,” starring co-
median Chris Kattan, which will
debut this summer.
“’Slumdog Millionaire’ really
made a lot of this content very ac-
cessible,” says Paramdeep Singh,
managing director and co-founder IFC will target the South Asian community when it promotes ‘Bollywood Hero,’ set to debut this summer.
of Saavn, a joint venture of digi-
tal media ﬁrm Media and sal and News Corp. Saavn is now tain cultures or featuring speciﬁc to this audience, he notes.
South Asian mobile entertainment looking to package its content as ethnic groups in their ads, notes State Farm started tailoring
company Hungama Mobile that marketing sponsorships. Valentin Polyakov, vice president its marketing to the South Asian
specializes in creating campaigns Marketing executives say the of media services at GlobalWorks audience in 2005 through ads in
tailored to Indians. Saavn is work- South Asian population in the Group, an independent New York targeted magazines. The insurer
ing with State Farm and IFC on U.S., which includes Indian, Paki- ad agency that specializes in mul- has continued to ratchet up its
their campaigns. (“Slumdog Mil- stani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and ticultural marketing. marketing to the community ever
lionaire” is distributed by Fox Nepali communities, is a desirable Burger King generated a dose since, sponsoring cricket matches
Searchlight, a unit of News Corp., one. The group is relatively afﬂuent of controversy this winter when it through TV print and online, as
which owns Wall Street Journal and highly educated, according to launched an ad campaign asking well as grass-roots promotions.
publisher Dow Jones & Co.) U.S. Census Bureau data. farmers in the Transylvania region Its Bollywood karaoke contest
Saavn, based in New York But numbering more than two of Romania and other remote ar- will be promoted with other on-
with ofﬁces in Mumbai, London, million, Indian Americans remain eas to try its Whopper alongside line ads and by sponsoring events
Los Angeles and Toronto, is the a small slice of the overall U.S. McDonald’s Big Mac. The cam- in a number of cities across the
world’s largest digital distributor population. And though Slumdog paign, called “Whopper Virgins,” country, including New York and
of Bollywood content, owning brought Bollywood into the spot- was criticized by bloggers and Los Angeles.
digital rights to hundreds of mov- light, it may have trouble staying other pundits as lacking taste and The contest is similar to a
ies and thousands of music tracks, there. India’s movie industry has being potentially exploitative. promotion Verizon launched last
music videos and ringtones. The been hit by the recession, with a Marketers can reach out to the summer. To promote the South
company distributes its content lack of ﬁnancing this year drasti- Indian-American audience through Asian content it was offering on
on its own Web site and a range of cally scaling back movie produc- targeted newspapers, India-based its FiOS TV service, the company
media properties including Time ers’ ability to ﬁnish and market Web portals with U.S. editions and put together an online “Bollypop
Warner Cable, Verizon Wireless, their ﬁlms. 24-hour Bollywood subscription Dance Contest.”Winners received
Apple’s iTunes and Hulu, the on- Marketers also need to be TV networks, Mr. Polyakov says. a trip to India and appeared in a
line video joint venture between mindful of cultural history and The proliferation of digital con- dance sequence in a movie to be
General Electric’s NBC Univer- customs when targeting ads to cer- tent has made it easier to target ads released in October.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
A new passage to all things Indian opens
By Maria Puente
Hurray for ... Bollywood?
Not exactly, but there’s no doubt the
success of India-set Slumdog Millionaire
— eight Academy Awards and more than
$100 million at the box ofﬁce — has mag-
niﬁed India’s proﬁle and accelerated the
mingling of American and South Asian
Who knows? Just as salsa came to rival
ketchup as America’s top-selling relish
with the diffusion of Latino culture, may-
be Slumdog is a sign more Americans will
be consuming even spicier fare.
So pass the chutney.
“Now you can ﬁnd Indian food even By Ishika Mohan, Fox Searchlight
in mainstream grocery stores,” jokes Vin Upbeat and energetic: Dev Patel and Freida Pinto ﬁnd their footing and true love in the
Bhat, the American-born co-founder of ﬁnale dance number in best-picture Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire.
Saavn, a New York-based company that, as
the largest digital distributor of Bollywood dians are the largest ethnic group among gamble on Indian-themed movies and
movies, music, videos and ringtones, is the South Asian population.) other East-West collaborations now that
beneﬁting from the success of Slumdog. “Perhaps it took something as spectacu- Slumdog has established audience inter-
lar as the Slumdog sweep to conﬁrm our est, says Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the
Music to more and more ears ‘arrival’ as a cultural, and not just profes- Indian-born American novelist and author
sional, force,” says Ragini Tharoor Sriniva- of The Mistress of Spices and just-published
“We’re seeing a tremendous impact,” san, editor of the American monthly India The Palace of Illusions.
Bhat says. “We’re already seeing record Currents. “We’re kind of on the cusp, and Slum-
downloads on iTunes and other major car- The India-is-cool trend has waxed dog might tip us over,” she says. “Fiction
riers; we’re seeing a lot of people purchas- and waned for decades. “It goes back to touches the imagination, and the impact
ing tracks and albums by (Slumdog com- The Beatles, Ravi Shankar, the Maharishi lives on long after the facts of non-ﬁction
poser/musician) A.R. Rahman.” — look at how yoga is mainstream now,” have faded.”
In fact, the soundtrack is top the album says frequent visitor Dan Storper, founder More and more, Bollywood and Hol-
on iTunes and vaulted 26 spots to No. 22 and CEO of Putamayo World Music, which lywood are hooking up. Aussie singer
on the Billboard chart in the days after the expects its ﬁrst, just-released all-Indian Kylie Minogue is making her Bollywood
Oscars. music CD, India, and coffee-table book, In- debut in Indian superstar Akshay Kumar’s
“People are buying Slumdog— it’s an dia: A Cultural Journey, to be best sellers in upcoming ﬁlm, Blue, and has already re-
access point for people to explore other part thanks to Slumdog. corded two songs for it, including the title
movie and musical content from India,” “There has been a curiosity about the track by Rahman.
which is easier to do nowadays, thanks to region for a long time, but it always takes Sylvester Stallone is appearing in an In-
the Internet, Bhat says. one big thing to take it to another level,” dian ﬁlm co-starring Kumar, Incredible Love,
Indians in America, long concentrated in Storper says. “The stage is now set.” made in Hollywood and due out this year.
the tech industry, say it’s about time. (In- Hollywood might be more willing to Warner Bros. released the Hollywood-made
Chandni Chowk to China, a Bollywood-style
martial arts movie aimed at the world mar-
ket, also starring Kumar, last month. Will
Smith, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, George
Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis
— all are said to be working out deals with
Indian entertainment companies.
“There’s all sorts of people going to
work” in India, Slumdog director Danny
Boyle told reporters backstage after win-
ning his Oscar. “The world’s shrinking a
But don’t expect pure Bollywood down
at the local multiplex. The genre is not re-
ally most Americans’ cup of tea: no sex,
not even kissing, and lots of over-the-top
song-and-dance numbers. Five years ago,
Bride and Prejudice, a Hollywood-Bollywood
version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,
ﬂopped at the U.S. box ofﬁce.
“The people who go to see Paul Blart: Mall
Cop aren’t going to start watching Bolly-
wood ﬁlms,” says box-ofﬁce analyst Gitesh
Pandya, editor of BoxOfﬁceGuru.com. “But
the exposure opens up more eyes.”
Slumdog itself isn’t very Bollywoodish:
There’s only one musical number. It’s a
British production with a British director,
a British-Indian male lead and a Dickensian Warner Bros. Pictures
story of a Mumbai slum-dweller’s rags-to- Asian fusion: Akshay Kumar stars as Sidhu,
riches romance. who starts out as a lowly vegetable chop-
Nor is it the ﬁrst India-themed movie to per, in the Bollywood-kung-fu comedy
sweep the Oscars: Gandhi, a British pro- Chandni Chowk to China.
duction with a British cast and crew, took
home eight top awards in 1982 but had al- in Lost, Sanjaya Malakar and Anoop Desai
most no effect on U.S. culture. on American Idol, Aasif Mandvi on The Daily
Show, even Apu on The Simpsons); on the
Increased familiarity news (Martin Bashir on Nightline, and Ali
Velshi and Fareed Zakaria on CNN); and
By contrast, Slumdog lands in the Ameri- advertising (Indian-American Ajay Mehta
can consciousness just as South Asian stars in Fiber One cereal ads).
names, faces and accents are being heard In music, Western pop stars such as
more, thanks to immigration and popula- Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and Britney Spears,
tion growth. hook up with Indian stars and make hits.
Nowadays, many Americans have Indian Singer M.I.A. is a London-born Sri Lankan;
doctors — in fact, Indian-American San- No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal is a London-
jay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN cor- born Indian.
respondent, is being considered for U.S. Golf fans follow Vijay Singh, a Fijian of In-
surgeon general. dian descent, lifestyle junkies follow Deep-
“For years, Indians complained about TV ak Chopra, and readers snatch up books by
hospital shows that had no Indian doctors the likes of Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy
— it was completely unrealistic,” Pandya and Jhumpa Lahiri.
says. “Then (British actress) Parminder “We’re trying to bridge the gap between
Nagra was cast in ER, and everyone cel- East and West, and there’s a natural musi-
ebrated. This second generation born and cal and creative synergy between Western
raised in the U.S. wants to be represented” music and classic Indian music,” especially
on TV. the rhythmic Bhangra genre that blends
And in politics. Louisiana Gov. Bobby well with hip-hop, says Ted Chung, chair-
Jindal, who delivered the GOP response to man of the Cashmere Agency, a Los An-
President Obama’s address last week, is geles company that brought Snoop Dogg
the ﬁrst Indian-American ever elected to together with Akshay Kumar to make the
a statewide ofﬁce — and the ﬁrst Indian- title track of Singh Is Kinng, a hit in India
American politician to address the nation last year.
on national television. “The passion that drives us is to show
South Asian names and faces are becom- each other’s culture and expose people
ing more familiar in screen credits (direc- to new things, so they’re not so ignorant
tor M. Night Shayamalan, The Sixth Sense); or afraid of something they don’t know,”
on TV (Kal Penn in House, Naveen Andrews Chung says.
Bollywood hopefuls give karaoke a spin
A BollyStar competition in Lakewood offers a chance to land in a yet-to-be-announced production
By August Brown For longtime fans
of Bollywood, how-
One rarely expects to be moved to tears at a karaoke compe- ever, “Slumdog’s”
tition in a Lakewood strip-mall movie theater. But Neil Sheth, success only afﬁrmed
a whippet-thin 20-year-old from Palos Verdes Estates, had the the genre’s often giddy
crowd on the verge as he auditioned for BollyStar 2009, an pleasures.
open tryout for a singing role in a mainstream Bollywood ﬁlm. “ ‘Slumdog’ really
His a cappella take on “Tadap Tadap,” from the 1999 Hindi opened up a lot of new
ﬁlm “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam,” was a heartstrings-snapping audiences to Bolly-
read of a tune that’s something of a “My Heart Will Go On” for wood, and it reignited
South Asian ﬁlm fans. the core South Asian
“The movie is about two lovers, and because the man is half community,” said
Italian, the woman’s parents don’t approve and he’s forced to Diana Nasello, director
leave her,” Sheth said. “He sings this song as he’s walking away of communications for
from her.” Saavn. “But for this
A singer’s knack for maximum melodrama is the currency community, there’s
of BollyStar, an “Idol”-like online competition put on by the always been so much
Bollywood distribution company Saavn. Contestants can up- more than that. No
load videos of themselves performing their choice of Hindi one here is going to be Reshma Dhawan
COOL: Imran Ahmed gets ready
hits, and fans vote for a winner who will, ostensibly, land a singing [“Slumdog’s”
to belt out a tune.
singing role in a Bollywood production (though the exact iconic song] ‘Jai Ho.’ “
movie hasn’t been nailed down yet). For those who needed At the Lakewood auditions, the contestants ran the gamut
more of a live audience to summon their inner Hindi ballad- from older women in saris to skinny-jeaned teenagers who
eer, there were in-person auditions in New York, New Jersey could probably have held their own on “Idol” (Sheth says he
and last Sunday in Lakewood. tried out for the most recent season and got a callback in an
Online auditions can still be submitted until 5 p.m. Eastern early round, before eventually being cut).
time on July 28. Arefa Shaikh, a 26-year-old from Orange County, performed
A year after the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” a wrenching ballad from Pakistani singer Shazia Manzoor. But
refashioned Bollywood tropes in its rags-to-riches-to-elaborate- she admits that the obstacles to bona-ﬁde Bollywood fame are
dance-sequences tale, and as M.I.A. runs up the pop charts with considerable, requiring a lot of hustling even by L.A. standards.
riffs on Sri Lankan rebel movements and illegally printing vi- “You really need a connection, or for your parent to have
sas, the time seems right to try to bring wider American crowds been a star ﬁrst,” Shaikh said. “I’m more of a shower singer, but
to Hindi and South Asian ﬁlm and music. I love Bollywood and want to be a part of it.”
Bollywood ﬁnds a home on Hulu
Distributor Saavn to stream pics online
By SHALINI DORE Thursday, May 7, 2009
Bollywood distrib Saavn has teamed up with Hulu “One of Saavn’s goals is to make Bollywood
to stream pics online, including “Sarkar,” one of more accessible to everyone and by having these
many Indian adaptations of “The Godfather.” ﬁlms on Hulu we believe that more people in the
For now there are ﬁve subtitled ﬁlms available U.S. will open up to the genre that is revered by bil-
on Hulu besides 2005’s “Sarkar,” which stars Bol- lions around the world,” said Vin Bhat, co-founder
lywood icon Amitabh Bachchan -- “Hera pheri,” and CEO of New York-based Saavn.
(2000) starring Akshay Kumar; 2004’s “Hulchul”; This is another step to prevent people from
2000’s Aishwarya Rai starrer “Dhaai akshar prem viewing pirated versions of Indian ﬁlms online.
ke”; and 1992’s “Deewana.” Among legal websites that stream newer pics is
More ﬁlms will be made available through the year. indie Bollywood studio Rajshri.
Saavn Bollywood content now
on deck with top ﬁve carriers
By Dan Butcher | April 17, 2009
Now that Saavn, provider of Saavn has a branded mobile
Bollywood and Indian digital en- Web store. The company offers gift
tertainment, has inked a deal with subscriptions to its mobile content
Sprint, it is on-deck with the top service, as well as voting, polling,
ﬁve carriers in the U.S. trivia and alerts via SMS.
As the largest digital distribu- Consumers can become members
tor of Bollywood content globally, of Saavn’s Bollywood Mobile Club
Saavn owns the digital rights to for $4.99 per month, or they can make
hundreds of movies, more than a single purchase for $0.99.
250,000 music tracks, 20,000 Sprint will soon offer full-length
music videos and 10,000 ringtones. music tracks from Saavn. Saavn’s
Saavn programs, packages and dis- Bollywood ringtones and wallpapers
tributes its exclusive catalogue and Aishwarya Rai is one of are available from T-Mobile USA
new Bollywood releases to more Bollywood's biggest stars and Alltel Wireless, as well as via
than 75 global media companies, the AT&T Media Mall.
including Time Warner Cable, Cablevision/Optimum, Verizon Wireless subscribers can access Saavn
Cox Communications, NetFlix, Amazon, emusic, ringtones, ringback tones and wallpapers by down-
Rhapsody, YouTube and Apple’s iTunes. loading VZW Tones Deluxe from Get It Now. In ad-
“We work with the carriers to help market the Bol- dition, V Cast subscribers can get Saavn full-length
lywood content to an audience that might be interested music videos and trailers, either streaming or via
in it,” said Anjali Jindal, Los Angeles-based vice presi- download.
dent of products for Saavn. “A big part of our mobile To get the word out about its Bollywood offering,
strategy is to work directly with carriers to push the Verizon Wireless partnered with Saavn on the Bollypop
Bollywood category in their main menu navigation campaign, the ﬁrst-ever online Bollywood dance contest.
screen so it’s easy to ﬁnd. The prize was a trip to India and a chance to dance
“We serve as their marketing team, because they’re in a Bollywood ﬁlm.
not sure how to reach out to these consumers, what TV Consumers were invited to upload videos of them-
channels to place media buys on, and in doing so we tie selves dancing to Bollywood songs and to vote for
in multiple screens—online, TV and mobile,” she said. their favorite entries.
Saavn is a joint venture of MEDIA and Hun- Combining elements of reality TV with social
gama Mobile, and the company has ofﬁces in Mum- networking, Bollypop built a community around the
bai, London, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Verizon brand.
left Saavn expands its mobile reach; right After recording the title track for
Singh Is Kinng, rapper Snoop Dogg appeared with Akshay Kumar in the mu-
sic video for what turned out to be 2008’s biggest hit ﬁlm
The use of social networking cent of Saavn consumers hold thing of our own off-deck,” she
sites like Facebook and MySpace college degree, and 98 percent said.
and a custom widget helped the use mobile phones. Saavn is also working on an
campaign go viral. The South Asian/Indian- iPhone application, which the
Verizon Wireless extended American community is a little company plans to release in the
the contest deadline more than a under 5 million in the U.S., but next few weeks.
month due to popular demand. when you combine all the places “We’re excited about that—
Bollypop attracted 10,000 regis- Bollywood is screened—127 we’re planning to ﬁll it with
tered users, 300,000 page views, different countries—the audi- pre-programmed music playlists,
400 video entries and 6 million ence is really 25 million people, radio stations, on-demand music
total impressions. according to Saavn. videos and live streaming Bolly-
The winners, Shivani Thakker “The success of Slumdog wood events,” Ms. Jindal said.
and Sapna Rohra of Los Angeles, Millionaire has really expanded Staff Reporter Dan Butcher
were ﬂown to Mumbai to par- our target market and helped covers banking and payments,
ticipate in the ﬁlming of 5678… Bollywood cross over to the carrier networks, commerce, data-
Dance starring Shahid Kapoor. mainstream as well,” Ms. Jindal base/CRM, manufacturers, music,
Saavn targets a tech-savvy, af- said. “We own 80 percent of software and technology. Reach
ﬂuent demographic ranging from music coming out of India right him at email@example.com.
13 to 54. now. -Staff Reporter Dan Butcher
Its users’ average household “We add a call out during covers banking and payments,
income is $70,000, with $90 music videos aired on TV, ‘Text carrier networks, commerce,
billion in purchasing power. The in this keyword to this short database/CRM, manufacturers,
company claims that 10 percent code to get the link to download music, software and technology.
of all U.S. millionaires consume ringtones’ or directing to them Reach him at dan@mobilemar-
Saavn content. Sixty-four per- to a specific carrier or to some- keter.com.