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Top US acting school scouts for new Indian talent.

Byline: AFP

MUMBAI: The United States most prestigious acting school is to open branches in India, with hopes that they can help discover new generations of talent and make them household names across the world.

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute India is due to open in the country s entertainment capital Mumbai next June, providing aspiring actors and even established names with "world class" tuition, its backers here said.

Another school will be set up in the southern city of Hyderabad, which has one of the country s best-equipped shooting and production centres for both Hindi-language (Bollywood) and other regional language films.

Despite high-profile Bollywood s massive following both at home and among the Indian diaspora abroad, few of its stars have made a successful break into Hollywood or Western cinema.

But Bollywood director Rahul Rawail, chief executive of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute India, said that with its emphasis on method acting and respected reputation, the new venture could change that.

"I m sure internationally there will be some kind of understanding that India now has a Lee Strasberg Institute. That will have a psychological impact on people," he told AFP.

"It will be taken a little more seriously."

Lee Strasberg, Oscar-nominated for his role as Jewish mobster Hyman Roth in "The Godfather Part II," set up a school for the performing arts in 1969 after years of involvement with the Actors Studio in New York.

His teaching, said to have revolutionized actor training in the United States, inspired many of Hollywood s major names from James Dean to Al Pacino and Robert De Niro through to Julia Roberts and Scarlett Johansson.

Teaching in India will follow that in the United States, including method acting -- the use of emotions and reactions from an actorEoe1/4aos own life in the character they play -- directing, cinematography, sound and editing.

Rawail, who began his career in Bollywood as an assistant director in the 1970s, also wants students to watch one film every day from around the world.

Courses range from 18 months to intensive six-to-12-week sessions, where aspiring actors could be joined by more established names in the business. Fees will be "competitive" with other acting schools already in India, he said.

The development comes at a time of keen interest in Indian film-making that was growing even before "Slumdog Millionaire," the British movie about a poor Mumbai teaboy that virtually swept the board at this year s Oscars.

Last week, 20th Century Fox announced a global distribution deal for top Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan s upcoming movie "My Name Is Khan," the first time it is to finance and market a mainstream Bollywood movie worldwide.

An increasing number of Hollywood studios and companies are forging joint ventures with Indian movie houses, hoping to tap into a 2.2-billion-dollar market that is expected to grow at nearly 12 percent every year until 2013.

But Rawail rejected the argument that the creation of an acting school was an implied criticism of standards across Indian cinema, which churns out up to 1,000 films every year.

"The level of acting in India is very good," he said, reeling off the names of stars such as actor-producer-director Aamir Khan and recalling powerful moments in some of their best-known films.

"But younger people who want to get into acting want to get trained and go to the better schools. We re looking for potential."

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Aug 11, 2009
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