10:09 AM IST - Thursday July 24, 2014

Writers should be paid more money: Ashok Amritraj (Interview)

New Delhi, Feb 18 For Indian films to break out internationally, what was needed were original stories with an Indian feel that Western viewers can connect, says Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj.

“For me it’s all about stories and starting stories. The question is what the ideas are?” Amritraj, who is bringing his 3D venture “Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance” to India, told IANS in an interview here.

“It always has to be something that could break out internationally. So far, there have been two movies that have broken out internationally – “Gandhi” and “Slumdog Millionaire”…I would look for stories that our Western viewers get connected to,” he said.

“There are movies made around the world and the audiences connect to it. It doesn’t matter where it is made and what language, people connect to the story. So the question is to find screenplays or stories that have an Indian feel to it but can move across the Western world. I’m not making it just for India,” he added.

In his 31-year-long stint in Hollywood, he has produced more than 100 films under his banner Hyde Park Entertainment and collaborated with big names like Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Angelina Jolie and Robert DeNiro.

He is open to co-production with Indian studios, but said: “It’s a question of finding interesting stories. In India, we have so many, but working it in a way that can give it a larger market.”

Indian filmmakers recently got into experimenting mode, but Hollywood has been focussing on it for years, Amritraj points out.

“The great thing about Hollywood is that they always made different kinds of movies – you had ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘The Sound of Music’, and also have ‘Chariots of Fire’, ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ – it’s one of the things that has always excited me. In the last two years, we had ‘Black Swan’, ‘The King’s Speech’ and this year you had ‘The Descendants’.

“It’s nice to see that Indian filmmakers are making different kinds of movies which means that the audience is growing and they are getting used to the changes.”

Asked why Indian moviemakers fail to make a mark in the Western world, he said: “I think a lot of it is an original story…something that needs to be worked on. The most important person should be the writer.

“Stars are wonderful, directors are terrific, but way too much attention is paid to them. I think writers should be paid more money and more credit. A feature film is a medium that starts from a screenplay. It’s difficult to create on the page. If it’s on the page, it’s easier to put it on the screen.

So it is an original story that mars Indian moviedom’s growth?

“I think so because you have terrific actors, directors, excellent cameraman and designer. Of course, the way of storytelling is a little different. I think Hollywood and the Indian film industry are on parallel tracks – Hollywood is photo real, while India has a little more elevated sense of what an audience would like to see.”

His “Ghost Rider Spirit Of Vengeance” is releasing in India March 17 and talking about Indian market, he said: “India is not the biggest market for Hollywood films. India is clearly dominated by Indian films…but on the other hand it has grown significantly in last 10 years.”

“In other parts of the world -, Germany, France, UK – Hollywood films to a great extent dominate…China is a much larger market, but China is only allowed 20 Hollywood films. The movies do $50, $60, $80 or $100 million at the box office in China,” the filmmaker, who will release “Ghost Rider” in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam as well, told IANS.

Right now 3D movies are the most sought after trend and Amritraj feels “it is here to stay”. “But the danger is cheap 3D and bad 3D.”

If he has made a mark as a filmmaker, he was equally good as a tennis player and says both are an integral part of his life.

“I played tennis in the 1970s and it was the glory of years of tennis…and I loved every minute of it. I’d always be a tennis player…Motion pictures is passion to me…31 years later it continues to be and I enjoyed every minute of it. Comparing the two is impossible but I would say both are part of my life. I’d always be a tennis player and I enjoyed it.”

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