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Release the Giant Cobra Robot: Bollywood's Big, New Global Bet on Sci- Fi

Published on : February 28, 2011
Release the Giant Cobra Robot: Bollywood\'s Big, New Global Bet on Sci- Fi

If the giant mechanical snake and the heavily armed android don’t catch your eye in the trailer for the Bollywood-style sci-fi film Endhiran: The Robot, the elaborate song-and-dance numbers surely will.

 

Mashing together a surreal mix of CGI robots, outrageous action and cornball choreography, the clip — which proclaims the film “the biggest spectacle ever” — racked up millions of views on YouTube. It also caught the eye of the genre freaks who run the legendary Alamo Drafthouse theater chain out of Austin, Texas.

 

In what might be the first theatrical deal cut solely on the strength of a viral video, they made a snap decision and snagged the rights to screen Endhiran in Austin, sight unseen.

 

“When the YouTube clip started spreading, people forwarded me the trailer and said, ‘Oh my god, you of all people need to see this!’”  Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League told Wired.com in a telephone interview. “Since we were all dying to see the movie, we assumed there’s more people like us who saw the clip and whose appetites were whetted.”

 

While Hollywood still serves as the alpha nerve-center for globally consumable sci-fi movies, India stands poised to become the next hot spot. The world’s second most populous nation already cranks out reams of CGI content, both for domestic consumption and American studios. Increasingly, India’s visual-effects know-how and Bollywood’s unique cinematic style are combining to help sate the world’s thirst for sci-fi spectacle.

 

Indian moviegoers raised on Bollywood musicals have no problem suspending disbelief. Spectacle sells, whether it’s over-the-top soap opera or science fiction. Spider-Man rules as one of the country’s highest-grossing film franchises, while kid-friendly dancing alien movie  Koi… Mil Gaya topped India’s box office in 2003 and spawned an equally popular 2006 sequel,  Krrish.

 

Meanwhile, a new crop of Mumbai-bred pictures aims to attract international sci-fi fans with Hindi-flavored takes on aliens, robots and futuristic hellscapes:

 

•  Ra.One: Bollywood star and producer  Shahrukh Khan makes explicit moves toward a transcultural strain of sci-fi with this movie, whose title stands for “random access — version 1.” Filmed in London and India, the movie features soundtrack contributions by hip-hop artist Akon.

 

•  Joker: Filmed in 3-D and starring Akshay Kumar, the movie tells the story of an alien landing in the desert within earshot of a NASA operations center.

 

•  Paani: Director  Shekhar Kapur, previously known for visually spectacular period dramas, heads into the future with this post-apocalyptic film slated for a 2012 release.

 

•  Untitled UFO project: Director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan teams with Hollywood visual effects expert  John Palmer (Apollo 13, The Day After Tomorrow) on a movie slated to be filmed in part at NASA headquarters.

 

“India was never known for special-effects movies, but things are changing because the country now has so many effects houses doing work for Western filmmakers,” says  Gitish Pandya, who tracks the Indian movie industry and runs Box Office Guru. “We’re going to be seeing more Indian sci-fi because the technology and staffing is there.”

 

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