Can Hollywood make a Bollywood movie?

An Indi an woman in a flowing, beaded gown glides through a pond. As the drumbeat of the Indian countryside patter, a dancing phalanx of tunic-clad women twirls. A mosquito net brushes over the woman's lover. A silver anklet splashes into a pond.

These are scenes from the trailer of a forthcoming movie, Saawariya. The film, whose Hindi title means beloved, has an Indian director and cast. It is melodramatic. Its characters speak Hindi and burst into eight song-and-dance routines. It is, in other words, vintage Bollywood - but for one thing.

It is brought to you by Hollywood.

The studio behind Saawariya, Sony Pictures, is the first in what will become a wave of American studios to produce their own kaleidoscopic, song-anddance Bollywood films. The American studios are keen to make money in India, but in a nation where $19 of every $20 spent at the box office goes to domestic films, the studios are deciding to join Bollywood, not try to beat it.

"The importing of American films into India is not filling a gap," Gareth Wigan, vice chairman of Columbia TriStar, the Sony division that produced the film, said by telephone from Los Angeles. "You're not bringing a dish to a bare table. You're bringing a dish to a table where you have to move a lot of other dishes to fit in, and that's not true in a lot of other countries."

And so begins a strange competition to make the best Bollywood film, pitting Hollywood, the world's most profitable industry, against India's own studios, the reigning masters of the genre, which make more movies and sell more tickets than any film industry in the world.

Indian-made films captured 95 per cent of the country's box-office sales in 2006, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Domestic films are just as dominant in the United States, but they account for just 35 per cent of the box office in France and 33 per cent in Japan.


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