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Sep 08, 2011 at 12:02pm IST

WikiLeaks takes on Bollywood

New Delhi: As Julian Assange's WikiLeaks continues to cause embarrassment to governments across the globe, its latest target is the world's largest maker of movies Bollywood, the reference of which appears in several of the leaked embassy cables made public by the whistleblowing website.

Many of the cables are surprisingly succinct and contain detailed analysis of the Indian film industry that churns out almost 1000 films a year and generates billions of rupees in revenue.

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The documents look at different aspects of Bollywood, including its profitability, connections to organized crime, growth opportunities, and the Bollywood-Hollywood partnerships. India's movie industry generated an estimated Rs 10,700 crore in revenue in 2008, and that is expected to increase by an average of 11.5 per cent a year to 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a study.

WikiLeaks takes on Bollywood

The documents look at Bollywood's profitability, connections to organized crime and growth opportunities.

Hollywood-Bollywood partnerships

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Two documents that analysed the Hollywood-Bollywood partnership are critical of the Hindi film industry and the scope of US film studios in the second fastest growing economy.

"Hollywood film studios, amongst the world's highest revenue earners, are increasingly beginning to stake their claim in Bollywood," a document said. "Though not without challenges, major US studios have started to try to capture a piece of this potentially lucrative market. US studios ranging from Sony, Disney, and Warner Brothers have co-produced Hindi movies attracted by the growth potential and opportunities in Indian cinema," it said.

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The embassy cable said while big budget Hollywood action films - dubbed in vernacular languages - have done relatively well in India, success has eluded Hollywood-Bollywood co-production partnerships so far.

Black money

A leaked diplomatic cable also said that Bollywood welcomed funding from gangsters and politicians, known in India as "black money."

While there is no direct reference of Dawood Ibrahim which allegedly financed a number of movies, the cable said that in recent decades, Bollywood has been associated with the notorious Mumbai underworld, at the nexus of gangsters, money, and politics.

According to Jehil Thakkar, Head of Media and Entertainment for (KPMG), this association stemmed from the financing needs of the industry; until 2000, by government fiat, the film industry was ineligible for bank credit, private equity, and other means of legitimate commercial financing.

Bollywood and US visa

Following intensive investigation which also included a visit to the shooting site of 'My Name is Khan' the US Consulate in Mumbai in 2009 concluded that Bollywood generally does not misuse the US visas issued to its crew. Home to one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, Mumbai sends many stars and production crews to the US on O1 and O2 visas, it said, adding that the investigation was based on reports of fraud in other categories of visas.

"The study found that O2 travelers have a low overstay rate of 1.6 per cent. Site visits to major Indian production houses and no evidence of fraud for O2 applicants further suggests that most entertainment companies in Mumbai do not intend to misuse their US visas," said the US Consulate in Mumbai its cable dated December 14, 2009, which was released by WikiLeaks on August 30.

Chiranjeevi's political foray

A fan who committed suicide citing actor Chiranjeevi's indecision about entering politics, may have helped the "distraught" Telugu film star make up his mind, according to a leaked embassy cable made public by WikiLeaks.

The March 5, 2008 cable that was published August 8, 2011 said Chiranjeevi was toying with the idea of floating his own political party at that time. According to the cable, the actor appeared distraught and explained that one of his fans had committed suicide. The fan left a note saying he killed himself because he could no longer stand waiting for his hero to decide whether to enter politics.

About WikiLeaks

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks recently released a cache of thousands of classified US State Department documents. WikiLeaks says it is a non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, journalists and the general public. Launched in 2006, it promotes the leaking of information to fight government and corporate corruption.

In October, 2010, WikiLeaks released 400,000 secret US files on the Iraq war. The documents involved sensitive subjects including abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody, Iraqi rights violations and civilian deaths. It also released tens of thousands of secret US military documents about the war in Afghanistan, offering them first to The New York Times, Britain's Guardian newspaper and Germany's Der Spiegel.

The Pentagon said the Afghan war documents leak - one of the largest in US military history - had put US troops and Afghan informers at risk.

Although founder Julian Assange has given few interviews recently, a website, www.wikileaks.org, and a Twitter feed, www.twitter.com/wikileaks, occasionally release material. Assange is an Australian who spends much of his time in Sweden.

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