Bollywood flavor curries Brit favor

Just as curry has long since replaced fish ‘n’ chips as Blighty’s national dish, so Bollywood flavors are spicing up the stodgy tradition of British film-making.

Gurinder Chadha’s “Bend It Like Beckham” (Indian girl in west London shocks parents by playing soccer) will be released nationwide April 11 on a staggeringly ambitious 400-plus prints. Coming up, there’s “Anita and Me” from BBC Films (Indian girl in the Midlands idolizes blonde friend); “The Guru,” from Working Title (Anglo-Indian boy mistaken for a sex guru in Gotham); and “Bollywood Queen” from Spice Factory (Bollywood-obsessed Indian girl and white guy relive “West Side Story” on streets of London).

With Andrew Lloyd Webber opening his stage musical “Bombay Dreams” in June, and the Selfridges department store giving itself a Bollywood makeover in May, brown is clearly the new black.

No fashionable film slate is complete this season without an Indian motif. Chadha is developing an untitled Bollywood musical with Pathe Pictures, set half in Britain and half in India. Ayub Kahn Din, who blazed the crossover trail with his 1999 hit “East Is East,” is scripting “Belmondo Gi” for FilmFour, about an Anglo-Indian guy who wants to be Gallic icon Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Former “Eastenders” actor Deepak Verma is prepping “Johnny Bollywood” with BBC Films and Scala, about an Indian film star forced by the Bombay mafia to flee for London. DNA Films also has a “Johnny Bollywood” project from Leicester-based legit director Amit Gupta, about an English guy who reinvents himself as a Bollywood actor to win the heart of a Bombay starlet.

There’s an ironic reversal here. A decade or two ago, the British film industry was profitably obsessed with the English imperial experience in India, picking over the legacy of the Raj in films such as “A Passage to India,” “Gandhi” and “Heat and Dust.” Today, there’s a new generation of Anglo-Indian talent, bred in Britain of immigrant parents, which is creating a new recipe for British cinema. This draws heavily, and often explicitly, on Bollywood influences to bring a dash of color, romance and fantasy to the British tradition of drab urban realism.

Finch goes Gotham

London-based William Morris alumni Charles Finch and Luc Roeg have joined forces with their old buddy from WMA’s Gotham bureau Frank Frattaroli. Finch and Roeg have merged their management/production company Artists Independent Network with Frattaroli’s New York-based shingle Widescreen.

The move marries two client rosters chock full with indie darlings, including AIN’s John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel, and Widescreen’s Frances McDormand, Parker Posey and director Mary Harron.

“Having a New York office really makes us part of the fabric of the U.S. indie film and theater community,” Finch says.

After exec producing David Cronenberg’s “Spider,” which should surface at Cannes, AIN is pushing ahead with four pics to shoot this year: “The Romford Matador,” starring Ryan Reynolds; “Fat Slags” with FilmFour; Guy Fawkes drama “November 5th”; and the Jamie Bell vehicle “Who Goes There?”

Oz thesps join Kelly gang

Geoffrey Rush and Rachel Griffiths have joined the cast of Gregor Jordan’s “Ned Kelly,” the first pic from Working Title’s new Australian arm WTA. Heath Ledger takes the lead as Australia’s favorite 19th century outlaw. Meanwhile, John Malkovich, pop starlet Natalie Imbruglia and Ben Miller have signed up for service in WT’s Rowan Atkinson vehicle “Johnny English,” a spy spoof directed by Peter Howitt. Both pics start shooting in April.

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