For decades, Indian cinema's formula for success has consisted oflove stories, dancing and awe-inspiring landscapes. But a new leading role isemerging – the Bollywood superhero.The rise of science fiction comes as Indian audiences increasingly grow used to thespecial effects standards of Hollywood, whose studios have already relied on Indianworkers for outsourced support on big-budget productions.But superheroes in one sense mark a return to the old in India, where the majorityreligion of Hinduism is rooted in epics."Long before James Cameron created 'Avatar,' we had the first blue-skinned guy witha bow and arrow," said Indian American producer Sharad Devarajan, referring toHinduism's Lord Rama.Among the nominees for best picture at the International Indian Film Awards,Bollywood’s premier event which is being held in Tampa, is "Krrish 3," a science-fiction film about a scientist and his superhero son.- Bollywood goes Sci-Fi -"Krrish 3" won best special effects Friday when the academy presented awards fortechnical work. The film's star Hrithik Roshan, addressing cheering fans, creditedthe special effects team with creating what had appeared "impossible."Reliance Mediaworks, part of Indian conglomerate Reliance, opened an office in theLos Angeles area in 2008 that now employs 80 to 85 people who work on visualeffects and other post-production services including restoration."Indian film is transforming itself into getting more aligned with cinema that yousee in the West. From that perspective, I only see business growing exponentially aswe go forward," Reliance Mediaworks’ chief executive officer, Venkatesh Roddam,told AFP by telephone.Roddam said that the success of eye-dazzling Hollywood movies had raised thestakes for Indian filmmakers as many consumers can now instantly access filmsfrom across the world and compare standards."Are we beginning to see productions in India of the visual effect quality that yousee in Hollywood? Absolutely not, I think it's still got some distance to go."But is it vastly improving at a rapid pace? I think the answer is yes. And we will get
there,” Roddam said.Reliance Mediaworks estimated that the market for post-production servicesincluding visual effects was $300 million in India, mostly from US outsourcing, asliver of the $6.5 billion market in the United States.
But room for growth is high in India, which has the world's most prolific filmindustry with annual output of more than 1,100 movies.- Going back for the future -While Bollywood movies are notorious for liberally taking inspiration from foreignfilms, India can draw on its own past for superheroes.Devarajan's company Graphic India last year released "18 Days" based on theMahabharata, the ancient epic account of a battle whose ruminations on the natureof violence underpin Hindu philosophy.Marketed online, "18 Days" aims at a younger and more international audience withits futuristic feel. The animated series was written by Grant Morrison, who haspenned "Batman" and "Superman" comics, and is set to music by heavy metal bandPentagram.Devarajan compared the artistic license to the frequent reimagining of Greek mythsin Western entertainment."When I grew up, this was exactly the kind of stuff that took me to another planet,"he said of the Mahabharata."What I want to do is to make a Mahabharata that makes people's jaws drop aroundthe world," he told a panel on the sidelines of the Tampa awards.Devarajan said he was looking to turn "18 Days" into an action series along thelines of HBO's popular fantasy "Game of Thrones" and was also working withHollywood on a version of "Ramayan 3392 AD," a sci-fi comic inspired by anotherHindu epic, the Ramayana.The Indian epics are "great stories which lasted since time immemorial for a reason,and that is because they speak about human truths," he said.