Singapore offers to be Asian gateway for Indian cinema

Singapore has offered to become the Asian gateway for the Indian cinema industry, which should take advantage of the incentives being offered by the government here, a minister has said.

Speaking at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Forum on globalisation of Indian cinema and co-production treaties here, Singapore Minister For Information, Communication and the Arts Lee Boon Yang extended an invitation to Indian filmmakers to utilise the newly instituted subsidies of up to 50 percent for filmmakers to work here.

"We look forward to working with the Indian film industry with its wealth of film-making expertise from different cultural perspectives. In return, Singapore will provide support services, such as comprehensive financial packaging, marketing and distribution services and digital rights protection services for India and other foreign partners."

Yang said Singapore also offered platforms such as the Asia Media Festival that would be useful for Indian media companies to showcase their capabilities and dynamism to an international buyer audience.

Describing Singapore's own film industry as "nascent", Yang said: "We still have a lot to learn and we look to the Indian film industry as a success which we aspire to emulate."

"What is inspiring is that that the Indian film industry is not standing still and looking back in admiration of its past successes. It is certainly not resting on its many laurels won at international events, (but is) building upon the foundation of past successes by increasingly showcasing Indian films and stars overseas to non-Indian communities so as to enhance their popularity and broaden the fan base worldwide."

US-based Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur made a plea for Asian filmmaking nations to form a united front to exploit the huge opportunities that existed in both the Indian and non-Indian markets worldwide.

Daniel Yun, chief executive officer and founder of MediaCorp Raintree Pictures, said the success abroad of what he referred to as "Hinglish" (Hindi-English) films from India and "Singlish" (Singaporean-English) films from Singapore showed that a co-production base could exploit these markets as well.

Yun said while India was focusing on the West, it could also use Singapore as a gateway to a market to the huge communities in the East.

Celebrated young Indian filmmaker Karan Johar said that the growth potential for Indian cinema abroad did not lie in making crossover movies such as "Monsoon Wedding" or "Bend It Like Beckham" but in "making non-Asians love Indian cinema".

Johar's three films so far, "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" and "Kal Ho Naa Ho", cost a total of $22 million to make but netted $25 million in foreign markets alone.

The Singapore Tourism Board announced at the IIFA Weekend taking place here that it would make the $10 million "Film in Singapore" scheme available to encourage leading international filmmakers to shoot and produce quality movies and television programmes in the city-state.

The first Indian filmmaker to take advantage of the new subsidy scheme is Rakesh Roshan, whose latest film "Koi Mil Gaya", starring son Hrithik Roshan, was one of the biggest hits last year.

Roshan, whose film is expected to win a number of honours at the IIFA Awards to be held here Saturday evening, said he would be shooting a part of his next movie, again starring Hrithik, in Singapore.

"I am delighted to shoot for my next film in Singapore -- it will make an exciting backdrop for the story and I am sure the audience will be fascinated," Roshan said, adding that no details were available yet as discussions were continuing on how the film will tap into the "Film in Singapore" subsidy scheme.