India: the new production destination for international films?

Article  by  Hélène LECUYER  •  Published 25.06.2012  •  Updated 19.09.2012
[NEWS] The studio Annapurna in Hyderabad has invested 15 million Euros to extend and modernise its facilities, thereby becoming one of the largest studios in Asia. It hopes to attract major films from Bollywood as well as Hollywood, thanks to new international partnerships.
Akkineni Nagarjuna, the director of the Annapurna studios, admits that the Indian film industry is not up to the technical standards of Hollywood. To remedy the situation, and to compete on an equal footing with other international studios, he launched an ambitious investment plan of 15 million Euros. This went towards not only extending the studios but modernising them, providing fully-integrated production and post-production solutions in accordance with the concept to can[+] me  NoteExpression meaning that the studio deals with all stages of the project, from its conception to its showing in cinemas.X        [1] method. Involving a consortium of banks, the project constituted an opportunity to form alliances with Reliance MediaWorks, an audiovisual subsidiary of the Indian giant Reliance Entertainment, the English Light Illusion and the Spanish SGO-Spain.

Having already made great progress, “the most modern studio in Asia” should be ready by the end of the first quarter of 2013. It will offer filming in all resolutions, from SD to HD, 2K, 4K and over, and enable all image formats to be used. The studio has computer graphics and animation equipment and will have everything necessary for post-production, from editing to mixing via sound-effects, post-synchronisation and dubbing.

Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, is home to Tollywood[+] NoteTerm that refers to the regional film industry in the Telugu language.X [2], the second largest film industry in the country in terms of market, capitalisation and infrastructure, and the third in terms of the number of films made (181 in 2010). It is also in Hyderabad that Ramoji Film City can be found. It has been recognised as the largest cinema studio in the world by the Guinness Books of Records. The decision by Annapurna to double its production capacity, reaching 10 film-sets over an area of 9 hectares, may be interpreted as a head-on attack on its two main rivals, Ramoji and Ramanaidu.

Annapurna studio, founded in 1975 by a Telugu film veteran and one of the oldest studios in the country, has made a considerable contribution to moulding the film landscape of India, encouraging Telugu-language cinema to move from Chennai to Hyderabad. Now another change is taking hold: Hyderabad is seeking to have an influence far beyond the local industry. The main target is of course Indian cinema, especially Bollywood. The film industry at the moment accounts for € 1.2 billion according to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and should bring in € 1.9 billion in 2015 according to FICCI forecasts. But Nagajurna is also counting on attracting Hollywood, thanks to cheaper labour costs and much lower studio hire costs.

Until now, Hollywood directors who came to film in India did so mainly for the exotic nature of the destination. This was the case for example with Michael Winterbottom when he chose Pune and Mumbai for his film “A Mighty Heart” in 2007, and more recently Ryan Murphy for “Eat Pray Love”. Yet Akkineni Nagarjuna is still convinced that India can become an important filming location, regardless of any script considerations: “It’s no longer necessary to film outside. Studios are going to come back in fashion.”

Aware that offering all the most cutting-edge techniques is worth nothing if there is no qualified workforce,  Akkineni Nagarjuna opened a school in 2011. The first batch of around one hundred students specialising in the full range of film-industry professions have just received their diplomas. While Reliance, a partner of Annapurna studio invested 200 million dollars in DreamWorks, the production company of Spielberg, Hyderabad is starting to imagine that its offspring and its studios may help to make the next opus of Transformers.
Translated from French by Peter Moss
Photo credits:
- A colorist grades the film Dhada at Annapurna Studios - Loren White
- Annapurna Studios logo
- Photo still from the film Rajanna shot at Annapurna Studios
  • 1. Expression meaning that the studio deals with all stages of the project, from its conception to its showing in cinemas.
  • 2. Term that refers to the regional film industry in the Telugu language.
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