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Hollywood Comes to India, Bollywood Looks Abroad

Indian actress Freida Pinto in 2008's 'Slumdog Millionaire' (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures).

After 25 years since its last visit, the James Bond movie franchise is returning to India. After authorities granted on-location shooting permits in New Delhi, Mumbai and Goa, India media reported the film may include a sequence in crowded markets and on a train. Even the star of the still-unnamed 23rd film in the series about a dapper British super spy, Daniel Craig, is expected to sign on as the official Ambassador of Indian Railways and appear in a TV commercial.

But the new Bond film isn't the only movie planning to use India as a location.

Indian authorities gave permission to more than 20 foreign filmmakers to shoot in India last year. Some of the high-profile projects include Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, an adaptation of a novel. Eat, Pray and Love, starring Julia Roberts, was also partly filmed in India.

Entertainment analyst Komal Nahata says the global profile that India has acquired in recent years is enticing more filmmakers.

“Since India is no longer an obscure country, a lot of people come here, a lot of people hear about it," she said. "India is on the world map in a big way. Therefore also, India becomes easy to identify with."

But Nahata also says more foreign films are basing plots in India. Trishna is the tragic love story of a rich businessman and a rickshaw driver’s daughter; Life of Pi is the story of an Indian in Pondicherry.

Analysts also say more film producers may have begun looking at India in the wake of the runaway success of the 2008 Oscar-winning film Slum Dog Millionaire, produced by British filmmaker Danny Boyle. The film tells the story of a teenager from the teeming slums of Mumbai who wins a popular game show.

“Whether it is Bollywood or Hollywood, nothing succeeds like success," Nahata said. "Since 'Slumdog Millionaire' was such a roaring success, suddenly people started thinking, yes, India could be a good destination. Maybe India is lucky."

Home to the thriving Hindi movie industry known as Bollywood, India is also an easy place to pick up good technical talent to stage a project.

However, while an increasing number of international projects come to India, Bollywood is headed in the opposite direction. Most of the big-ticket Hindi film productions are being shot overseas in destinations ranging from Singapore to New Zealand and Ireland to cater to the taste of Indian audiences who also enjoy stories set in exotic locations, far from home.