Monday, February 14, 2005

Why Bollywood faces hostility

The strange case of the Hindi film industry is symptomatic of all that is wrong with our (not the government or administration, but the public) approach to problems.

Instead of attacking problems at the root, we hit out blindly at anything else that appears to be in the way. In fact, we hit out at anything else that seems to be doing well. If an immigrant is making money in our city, throw them out. If we can't beat the competition, burn down the competition. If we can't make more money than Hindi film-makers, let's ban Hindi films.

Most regional cinema is extremely hostile to Bollywood (and when I say regional, I also include the film industries of other countries in the subcontinent, like Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh). This is not because Bollywood turns out so much trash (actually, so does Hollywood and Lollywood and all woods everywhere. I don't see why Hindi films should be singled out for so much trash generation).

The film industries from other neighbouring countries and our own states are hostile because no one wants to watch their films. That is, since they have the option, people seem to not prefer a Kannada or Telegu or Nepali film, over a Hindi film.

Hindi films are more or less flourishing. At least, in comparison. And local cinema is often floundering, struggling for survival.

And the reaction?
The regional film-makers scream 'foul' and begin pressurizing theatre-owners to stop screening Hindi films. Or to at least delay their release by a week or two, so that movies made in other languages stand a chance. There are stand-offs. There are protests. There are more losses in all related industries. Theatres shut shop. Jobs are lost. Nobody wins.

I will not go into the other, more pertinent, issue of regional cinema not producing enough work of quality. I will not bring up the issue of regional film-makers producing films that look like bad copies of popular Hindi films. I will not even say that maybe there's nothing very wrong with the aam junta prefering bad Hindi films to good, 'social-theme' Marathi or 'sensitive' Bengali films.

Let's just focus on the problem at hand - regional cinema is being edged out of the business.

Hindi cinema may or may not be responsible. After all, there are places where theatre-owners have not screened Hindi films and audiences have just refused to turn up.

If budgets are the problem, the regional industries ought to ask the states' relevant cultural deprtments for more grants.

If theatre-owners are refusing to screen regional movies, that is a real problem.
The Maharashtra government did resolve this partially by insisting that at least one show in each multiplex be that of a local-language movie (I'm not sure whether this applies to Marathi films only, or to all regional films). In fact, Marathi actors agree that the local industry has been mis-using government subsidies (making movies in Marathi just to can avail of the subsidy; making a film in Rs 5 lakhs and swallowing the remainder of the Rs 10 lakh subsidy, etc).

Last year, Shwaas ran for several weeks in Bombay (moving from one multiplex to another). It got nominated for the Oscars as well. It found its own niche audience. I don't know how much money it made, but I, for one, was glad to see it being screened.

There's optimism. There's hope. There's energy in Marathi cinema, today.

Marathi actors agree that it might change the way the industry has been reacting to Hindi films. They might start making better stuff themselves rather than just complaining of step-motherly treatment. If a movie is good enough, the Hindi cinema guys will be queueing up for remake rights, or will dub the film into Hindi.

All I can say is - amen!

1 comment:

Morquendi said...

Whether it's small-time English language film makers fighting Hollywood or Indian local-language producers fighting Bollywood, I believe the future is in producing better, sharper scripts and finding good unheard of actors.

There's no way the small-timers can match grand scale of the big budget productions, regardless of whether they're competing with Hollywood or Bollywood.

There are many many people who have battled against the rule of Hollywood and who have made it big (Robert Rodriguez being my fav).

Big budget movies may be shot better. They may have grander sets. They may have star power. They may have fancy scores. But often have terrible scripts and mass-produced plots.

All the small-timers have to do is give the people what they can't get from a big budget movie. Use local languages and local nuances creatively and help your audience identify with the movie. Once you do that you have them hooked.

Just the theory I go by...

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