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Can Bollywood Go Global?

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Can Bollywood Go Global?

Submitted By:

Divyanshu Rastogi 0134/52


The case talks about the opportunities and problems that the Indian film makers face in reaching out to the international film business and market. It provides a historical view by detailing the journey of the cinema and how Hollywood emerged as the global leader in the film industry worldwide by the 1920’s. Although some movie industries were sustained in other regions including the United Kingdom and France, their films and offerings had restricted international appeal and audience. It also focuses on the rise and development of the Indian film industry and the entire industry as well. Bollywood films, which are made in Mumbai usually are the most famous and acknowledged amongst the Indian film industry which also includes other genres like Tollywood, which constitutes of the movies made in the state of Andhra Pradesh (and now Telangana as well) and caters to Telugu films. The Bollywood movies are generally melodramatic and musical. There are other local language films made in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal as well. Bollywood films in specific have done well in Southeast Asia and are fairly popular amongst the Indian populace. It also brings to light the challenge of whether Indian content films can rival with Hollywood in international markets and to how extensively a modification in content is required for this approach to be successful.

History of the World cinema

The Cinema first came into existence in France in 1894. It was Louis Lumiere who invented a device called Cinematographe, which acted like a portable single unit camera and movie projector. The first movie was premiered on December 28, 1895. In the meantime, Thomas Alva Edison had also invented kinetoscope in 1891. The Kinetoscope was designed for films to be viewed by one individual at a time through a peephole viewer window at the top of the device.

During the early years of Cinema’s inception, Europe had dominated the global cinema, however, after about 15 years or so France, Italy & Denmark had turned into leading exporters of movies. There was also a time when French industry enjoyed over two-thirds of the global market share. Pathe Freres entered the United states in 1904 and by the next 10 years the company had 41 offices around the world including india and Singapore. American dominance emerged during World War 1. By 1918, movies were exported all over Europe except for Germany. The initial industry was setup around New York. This made producers vulnerable to being pursued by agents of Edison. So the industry shifted to a “sleepy rural suburb” outside Los Angeles called Hollywood. (as it had added benefit of fine weather all year round.)

In some time, Hollywood dominated the industry. The four major film producing companies were:

  1. Paramount
  2. Warner Bros.
  3. RKO
  4. Columbia

It left the domestic film makers free to compete with each other, which they did aggressively. They used growing revenues to fund longer films for mass audiences, and especially to pay more for actors. Star actors emerged, whose celebrity guaranteed the success of the films in which they appeared.

Indian Film Industry: A brief History

The first Indian movie, a silent film titled “Raja Harischandra” was released in 1913. It was directed by the great Dadasaheb Phalke, who was also known as the father of the Indian film industry.

The 1920s then saw the introduction of the Hollywood-style studio system into Indian cinema. This was followed by some significant changes to the industry in the 1930s, both technically and stylistically. The first ‘talkie’ film called “Alam Ara”, was produced in 1931, and it advertised itself as a movie with “all talking, all singing, all dancing.”  The drama-music form of the film tapped into the long tradition of Sanskrit theater and storytelling. Though the plot of the film was weak, the film’s instant success acted as an impetus and let to the shift towards talking movies. This move was a major change since it altered the key characteristics of the ideal film ‘hero’. In silent films, brawny and athletic actors were scouted. However, talkies required actors with screen presence and command over the language. Alam Ara deserves a special mention here because it heralded the trend of films causing complete public pandemonium- witnessing emotional audiences, jostling crowds, and a fervent fan following- a phenomenon somewhat unique to the Indian film industry and very much alive amongst modern day cinemagoers. With the end of colonialism, Indian popular cinema emerged as “India’s sole model of national unity” and films were used as a tool for social critique.

Main functions of the Indian Film Industry:

  1. Production: Till recently, it wasn’t recognized even as an organized industry. Funds to support films usually came from mafia. It was only in 2001 that it was recognized as an official industry, and so money eventually started to come from legal channels like banks etc.
  2. Distribution: Initially, movies were released first in big cities with new prints and then moved to smaller cities with worn-out prints. But this is a thing of the past and the scenario has changes drastically over the years. Films are now usually distributed through server, telecom & satellite technology.
  3. Exhibition: As of 2011, there were around 12800 screens in India. And India has one of highest entertainment tax as compared to many other countries. In the last 5 years or so, there has been a major shift from single screen to multiplex culture. And now big companies opening multiplex theatres in contrast with family owned single screen theatres. But they represent only 10% of screens. However, this number is slowing increasing. Outside companies are coming to setup theatres in India as well which is a signal that Indian film industry has huge potential. (Mexican multiplex chain cinepolis is planning to introduce 14-screen megaplex)

Content Genres in Indian Film Industry

The contemporary cinema industry in India is divided into the following distinct categories:-

Masala films – Indian audiences typically favor long, epic romances in movies. The soundtrack of the film, the picturization of songs and the clout of the leading stars appeal to the audiences and are used aggressively in marketing a film. State of the art special effects, graphics and cinematography all contributes to the increasing budgets of Indian films. As for the content of films, there remains a general focus on conservative family values but these topics are presented in modern, urban settings.



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