Bollywood Beyond Borders
Hindi cinema has travelled a great distance since 1913, when Dadasaheb Phalke made the first silent feature film Raja Harischandra. With global demand and appreciation, Bollywood movies are now trending across the world.
It was 2006. I was wondering through the grand Spice Bazaar in Istanbul. It felt like home – the familiar fragrances of cinnamon, cumin, bay leaf and a host of other spices. But what made it even better was a local merchant singing “Awaara hoon” as he beckoned me to his stall! I had heard of the Raj Kapoor-starrer film’s song being a hit in erstwhile USSR. At a nightclub in Warsaw, I tried to match steps with my Polish friends as they grooved to Tere bina kick mujhe milti nahi and failed miserably! It is no exaggeration. Bollywood songs are hummed from Malaysia to Morocco, its films are rented in Kuala Lumpur and Kenya and its stars are feted from China to Columbia and cast in wax at Madame Tussauds’. Our brand of cinema is dubbed, subtitled and thriving in the unlikeliest of places now.
A Cologne-based publisher of Indo- German parentage, Nasim Khan recognised the rapidly growing demand for information related to Hindi cinema and all things Bollywood. In 2006 he launched a glossy Germanlanguage Bollywood magazine called Ishq. Germany was first properly introduced to Bollywood that same year when a private TV channel aired a hit Bollywood film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Nasim Khan, who also partners with a Bollywood distribution company, said it was a surprise hit. “More than two million people watched it.” The movie had a huge impact on German women. He summed it up rather nicely: “Bollywood is actually filling a gap that has existed in the Western society for 30-40 years. Passionate love, romance, were missing in Hollywood. It is strong on technology but a lot of feelings are gone. People want to cry, they want to laugh in this world. They are searching for these moments. Bollywood is filling these gaps.”
Making Business Sense
Over the years, Bollywood has emerged with its own distinct identity in the global film industry. Bollywood is the global leader in production of movies with a staggering 27,000 featured films and thousands of short films. Globalisation is often misrepresented as the growing influence of the western culture in the world and so we tend to state that Hollywood is influencing Bollywood to a great extent. Globalisation is not only related to the spreading influence of the western culture but also of eastern culture.
Historically, the film industry in India has grown at a growth rate of over 10%. Going forward, the industry is expected to grow at 11.5% year-on year reaching total gross realization of INR 238 billion ($3.7 billion) by 2020. “The overseas market is still not a full-fledged revenue course for Indian cinema but it’s surely on its way. The audience, distributors and exhibitors are more receptive to Indian content now then they have been in the past. Indian content is transcending beyond the diaspora audience in the overseas markets,” opines Aamir Khan, who starred in Dangal, that made Bollywood realize its potential in China. In 2017, Secret Superstar reaped nearly $120 million in China, according to a report from Deloitte India and the Motion Picture Distributors Association (India).
The Indian film industry grew 27% in 2017 on the back of box office growth in both domestic and international markets, according to a report by EY and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). Foreign talent also seems to be making a beeline to crossover.
Passionate love, romance, were missing in Hollywood. It is strong on technology but a lot of feelings
are gone. People want to cry, they want to laugh in this world. Bollywood is filling these gaps
The party for Bollywood has only just begun. It is not just about our divas sashaying down the red carpet at Cannes, but also our films being feted at several other global film fests. From among those who discovered India’s potential quite a few years ago, we have to say Jai Ho to Hollywood director Danny Boyle. With an ensemble cast comprising big Bollywood and Hollywood names, the Oscar winning director didn’t just shoot in India, but also held a premiere in Mumbai, where his story was based. From production houses collaborating with international players to several directors looking at Bollywood for inspiration – Bollywood has become magnetic! Anurag Kashyap admitted that, “Yes, Sight and Sound critic Naman Ramchandran first told me this. So, when I met Quentin in Venice I asked him whether the Manga sequence in Kill Bill was inspired from an Indian film and he excitedly remarked, ‘Yes, I saw this Indian serial-killer film which showed violence as animated.’. Christien Tinsley (who worked on movies like Catwoman), and Dominique Till of The Lord Of The Rings fame, came with their bags and their makeup kits a couple of years ago, when they transformed Amitabh Bachchan into Auro everyday for Paa.
“Synergies are matching, the possibilities are immense. India has the sec ond largest
population in the world. Indian cinema and Bollywood have a global impact.”
It is perhaps the verve, the energy and the completely different identity of Bollywood films that it seems Hollywood films are now following suit. Once blamed for lifting ideas from Western films, it is a sweet turnaround that several Bollywood films have inspired their Hollywood remakes. The Indian cinema industry has made its mark at an international level and is only reaching new heights with time.