- Associated Press - Thursday, November 11, 2010

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - Hollywood and Bollywood have come together to create a Los Angeles-India Film Council to attract more Indian moviemakers to L.A. _ part of an ongoing effort to spice up relations between the world’s largest film markets.

The new cooperation agreement aims to make it easier for Bollywood producers to film in L.A., by facilitating permits, visas and tax breaks, and extends the U.S. anti-piracy crackdown to bootlegged Indian films in the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America and Indian producer Bobby Bedi said Thursday.

“There’s always been some level of engagement between the two industries and in recent years, it’s increased massively,” Bedi said by phone from L.A. “We thought it’s a great idea to formalize a relationship between the two industries.”

Headlining that massive growth is Indian billionaire Anil Ambani’s decision to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into a production and distribution agreement with Steven Spielberg.

Indian production companies have also been taking on outsourced special effects, setting up sales offices in L.A. to channel work to dim computer-packed rooms in Mumbai. And Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman _ who did the score for “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Couples Retreat,” a 2009 film starring Vince Vaughn _ has become something of a crossover star.

The new agreement _ announced Wednesday at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles _ also reflects the growing stature, and budgets, of Bollywood filmmakers.

Indian film budgets, though rising, remain small by Hollywood standards. But the expanding corporate presence in Bollywood means studios like Reliance BIG Entertainment and UTV Motion Pictures now have the ability to spend $10 million to $30 million on a picture _ enough at least to film in L.A.

“In the past year, we have already seen Hindi movies such as ‘My Name is Khan’ and ‘Kites’ filmed in Los Angeles, and we enthusiastically welcome further Indian production in Los Angeles,” L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement released Thursday in India.

U.S. studios have tried with mixed success to crack the Indian film market. Made-for-India releases have been commercially disappointing, but the Indian releases of “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Avatar,” and “2012,” were huge box-office successes, by Bollywood standards.

That interest has pushed anti-piracy to the top of the agenda in a nation where bootlegged DVDs are sold even in legitimate shops. The Motion Picture Association of America set up an office in Mumbai in February 2009, and in March 2010 it joined seven Indian companies to launch a joint anti-piracy alliance in Mumbai.

Indian producers are now getting that crackdown extended to their products in the U.S.

Bedi said with the new agreement, U.S. authorities are starting to “look seriously” at curbing counterfeit Indian DVDs in the U.S.

“The mayor of Los Angeles said he would set up a special task force and his antipiracy cell would work toward minimizing Indian piracy in the U.S.,” he said. “If we can get the protection, it would make our lives a whole lot better.”

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