The failure of several big-budget Indian films last year, both at home and abroad, has forced Indian filmmakers to experiment with new themes.

A three-hour, big-budget Hindi movie of boy-meets-girl theme, with top stars, lavish sets, spectacular scenes set in New Zealand and Switzerland and extravagant song-and-dance numbers, costs about $7m to produce. But this kind of cinema that Hindi cinema is famous for worldwide is now struggling for survival.

Export is one of the only areas where there is a glimmer of hope. Currently the Indian cinema exports earnings stand at $200m a year despite rampant piracy.

Over 118 Indian films were exported in 2002 - of which the most successful were Devdas, Kaante, Saathiya, Humraaz, Raaz, Dil Hai Tumhara and Awara Pagal Deewana.

According to Manu Savani, an Indian exporter based in Los Angeles, "30,000 DVDs of Devdas had been released in USA in the first week of the film's release last year". It is estimated that piracy of Indian films leads to an annual loss of $500m internationally.

Now there are at least three new trends emerging in films being produced in Mumbai. First there are a spate of productions dealing with taboo subjects such as sex. Another group of Indian filmmakers are announcing period epics or films on famous Indian historical personalities. And the third genre is the low cost youth-oriented Hinglish (Hindi-English) productions.

The surprise success of Pooja Bhatt's sensual film Jism, (pictured) in January has resulted in Bollywood filmmakers venturing into the unexplored territory of sex. Deepak Tijori whose film Opps deals with male strippers told Screen International: "Opps is a very modern version of portraying sex. It's got the elements of sex but is not a sex film. Sex, in our country is controversial".

Tijori was at the recent AFM seeking international distributors for Opps. New films such as Kaizad Gustad's Boom, Mahesh Dattani's Mango Souffle and Kushan Nandy's 88 Antop Hill also have a share of sexual content, while filmmaker Pankuj Parasher's Inteqaam will be the first erotic thriller produced in India.

The production of epics and historical dramas is the second trend in the Hindi film industry. Indian film Director Rajkumar Santoshi's Mahabharat, based on Ancient Indian epic, is likely to be the most expensive Indian film ever made, with a budget of $22m.

Sahara Group is producing a feature film on the life of Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose titled Netaji The Last Hero directed by Shyam Benegal. The $2m film will be shot on location in India, Germany, Uzbekistan, Burma and Japan.

A private trust: Maharani Padmini Devi Prathishthan, has announced a biographical period film on the life of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called Indira Gandhi: A Tryst With Destiny. Manisha Koirala will play the lead role in the $4m movie. Nittin Keni is the producer and it will be directed by N Chandra. The film is being planned for a Dec 2003 release.

It's also the success of films with an English accent such as Monsoon Wedding, Bend It Like Beckam and Bollywood Hollywood that has created a new trend in Mumbai.

About 15 Hinglish movies including: Lets Talk, Jhankar Beats and Big City Blues are due to be released this year, including includes Director Sumeer Sabharwal's Valentine Days - the first Hinglish film starring an American, actress Sita Thompson.

A Hinglish film Mr And Mrs Iyer, the story of a married Hindu woman who falls in love with a Muslim man against the backdrop of religious riots has already done well at the box office.

Meanwhile the Government of India has announced that it will assist Bollywood in the export market with subsidies for participation at Cannes and other film markets.