Brit venture harnesses Hindi cultural center

The British government’s new edict against tax equity funds may have plunged the U.K. production sector into disarray, but the show goes on for a new Bollywood pic scheme.

Motion Picture Partners Intl., a new venture using U.K. tax breaks, hopes to turn the Midlands city of Leicester, pop. 280,000, into the undisputed home of British Bollywood.

MPPI plans to raise £34 million ($63 million) from British investors under the Section 48 film tax break to build a U.K. production base in Leicester for movies targeted at Bollywood audiences worldwide.

MPPI is the brainchild of London-based entrepreneur Rajeev Saxena. The fund, which offers U.K. investors the chance to invest in a portfolio of 10 Bollywood movies, closes March 5.

Saxena describes Leicester as “home from home” and “the only natural choice for the scheme,” as it has an Indian population of more than 25%, which provides an enormous pool of Hindi-speaking extras.

MPPI’s slate will stick largely to traditional Bollywood fare, but plans to offer some contempo storylines that depart from the poor-boy-meets-rich-girl-whose-parents-disapprove chestnut. Pics include “Judgment,” starring former Miss Universe Lara Dutta, and the Jag Mundra-helmed “Backwaters.” In order to qualify for the tax break, 70% of each pic’s budget must be U.K.-qualifying.

Although the 10 films will feature established Bollywood stars in the star roles, production, editing and post-production will take place in the Midlands. The scheme is expected to generate 6,000 jobs for locals.

Patricia Hewitt, the U.K.’s trade and industry secretary and, not coincidentally, member of parliament for Leicester West, has lent her support to the scheme.

She even joked that the venture may one day launch the career of a “Harry Potterjee.”

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