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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
India banks on worldwide film success
Lagaan
Lagaan proved a huge hit

India's main offering at this year's Cannes Film Festival - a remake of the classic drama Devdas - premières on Thursday.

The Indian Government has sponsored a pavilion at the festival and representatives of the industry are there in force, hoping that Devdas can repeat the success of last year's hit Lagaan, and help them break into lucrative European and North American markets.

Devdas seems bound to be a hit with the traditional audience for Bollywood movies, in India itself and among Indians living abroad.

It has got a catchy soundtrack, three huge stars playing the leading roles, and a story of a passionate and tragic love triangle, already familiar from previous versions of the film.

Aishwarya Rai
Aishwarya Rai is the star of Devdas
But the Oscar nomination for Lagaan and the international success of Monsoon Wedding have proved that Indian films can break out of that traditional ghetto and appeal to mainstream audiences in Europe and the United States.

India's Information minister, Sushma Swaraj, is at Cannes this year to capitalise on these successes and promote what could be an extremely lucrative export industry.

Naturalistic mix

She says Cannes is a very important festival for film-makers because it allowed other countries in Europe and Latin America to get a flavour of what is being produced in India.

Devdas and Lagaan are conventional Hindi movies, but Monsoon Wedding was made by an Indian director based in the United States with international financing, and filmed in Delhi in an naturalistic mix of English, Hindi and Punjabi.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is the director of Devdas
Another member of the Indian delegation to Cannes, Pawan Chopra, says the Indian promotion at the festival goes far beyond just trying to sell Indian films abroad.

"We are looking at a huge new industry which caters not only to the domestic market we also want to invite foreign film-makers to participate, even in producing Indian films," said Mr Chopra.

"They can produce their own films if they like, they could produce Indian films for foreign markets, they could just use our locations, they could use our other skills which we offer at much lower rates than elsewhere in the world."

There are reports that two co-production deals have already been signed for Hollywood screenwriters to work on films with an Indian theme - so even before the curtain goes up on this year's big picture, the mood in the Indian pavilion at Cannes is buoyant.


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