Silver Screen Sorrows

The film industry is one of the world’s most dominant audio-visual media, and spearheads the information and awareness hegemony against ignorance of common social issues as well as important political ones. It is no wonder that some of the fastest growing nations on earth derive a considerable fraction of their GDP from them. Ever since the advent of the television, and its encroachment into the spaces of print and audio media, the movies have been able to spawn greater audiences as well as critics. Messages that they come to convey are easy to understand and comprehend, and their availability in various languages defies the probability of information localisation amongst major groups of the population. More over, owing to their inherent style of dramatics and character play, it is entertainment on the house if only you can pay up for the theatre tickets. They seem to breed even a fashion conscious worldly wise generation as the years progress!

India, as one of those fastest growing nations, has a dominant film industry thriving in mainly two regions of the nation: the central region, the home of Bollywood, and the southern region, home to the Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu industries. Together, they form the largest filmdom in the world in terms of number of movies produced and ticket sales. The Central Board of Film Certification has stated that “every three months an audience as large as India’s billion-strong population visits cinema halls”. There were a record number of movies, 877, produced in the year 2003 alone. Considering the magnanimity of the bosses behind this movies, it is only common that we face such statistics. However, amongst these regional industries, Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, is the largest branch, with an approximated annual collection of USD 1 – 1.5 billion through tickets. Funding for these movies comes from a few large studios as well as private contributors. Earlier, Indian banks and financial institutions were forbidden from lending money to these production houses; this ban has now been lifted. Owing to the inadequate regulation of monetary influx, some of the movies are also partly, or sometimes wholly, funded by the Mumbai underworld (for ex. Chori Chori Chupke Chupke).

The industry seemed to have been firmly established in the Indian soil by 1931, when Ardeshir Irani’s Alam Ara, India’s first sound film, was released. Earlier, in 1913, Raja Harishchandra by Dadasaheb Phalke was the first Indian film. Over the next 20-30 years, most of the regional film industries shifted over to sound filming, and by the 1940s, around 200 films were being produced annually. Colour crept into Bollywood in the early 1950s, but were a commonality only in the late 1960s. Around this period, the genre of the films tended noticeably towards romantic musicals and melodramas. As the 1990s dawned, the films swung back to family centric romances, making stars out of a new generation of actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Kajol and Madhuri Dixit. Comedies were also widespread, spearheaded by actors like Govinda, Akshay Kumar, Karishma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon. Incidentally, this decade also marked the successful creation of art and independent movies, which were hailed by fans and critics alike.

At the start of the 21st century, Bollywood saw a new and immense surge in the popularity of its films with the utilisation of better equipment, improved cinematography and innovative story lines. With the construction of multiplexes around the globe, and also a growingly predominant Indian community overseas, Indian cinema expanded its reaches to greater audiences spanning a plethora of cultures and backgrounds. As the returns grew, so did the investments, luring in foreign businessmen to spend their money on this lucrative trade. And around this time of sconomic boom was planted the sapling that is today known as the concept of globalisation.

Box office bosses looked to maximise their profits, and the most convinient solution happened to be the targeting of mass audiences. This move resulted in Bollywood resisting investment in movies that targeted narrower audiences, thereby no longer representing the face of Indian entertainment and Indian education per se. The doors were shut to small-time investors and prospective producers and actors. The band wagon had to continue to roll, and it seemed that if you couldn’t beat them, you eventually joined them. Further, the increasing investments saw the clout of those at the top also rise. Now, with the localisation of power, the delocalisation of interests was neglected: movies were made if only they were appealing to these bosses. Smaller industries were confined to their parent regions and were unable to move out of their cocoons as the markets grew more and more dominant. This era spearheaded a hegemony of sorts with Hindi cinema stealing the limelight away from movies that had greater potential if only they had people watching them. The new techniques available for movie making, coupled with the paraphernalia that went with it, drew on a large number of talented movie-makers, only to put them down in favour of those who seemed capable of drawing in the bills. It is as if you pinch a sleeping baby to wake up, and then rock the cradle to send the baby back to sleep again.

Bollywood is a portmanteau of Bombay, now Mumbai and the capital of the Hindi state of Maharashtra, and Hollywood, its American cousin. Owing to the development of each state in a different manner, and also due to their classification on a lingual basis back in 1950, the northern regions of India now reflect a greater cosmopolitanism than the south, which is more conservative and abiding with its root cultures. Owing to insufficient segmentation at the box office and the drive for a greater output-to-input monetary value, Bollywood, in its move to target broader audiences by the year, has increasingly integrated the values of the Western cultures. India being dominated by a large middle-class community, a loss of identity streaming from entertainment with which you find hard to establish a connection becomes gradually unavoidable. The need to stay in line with your cultures and traditions is not mandatory, I agree, but to retain them in at least a few aspects of the movies you are producing is necessary. Women bearing all on the big screen is sensationalistic enough, but is this who we are?

Furthermore, owing to the large (monetary) volume of this market, the impeding recession in global economies spelled the sudden shrinking of it. The reliability that Bollywood had generated in its founding years now seemed overbearing, consequently giving birth to investment concerns. Due to the variational dependencies of India’s economic growth with this industry, the lack of safeguarding measures against such mishaps was reflected in an increased inflation rate (up to 14% as opposed to the critical 12%) within the country. This tempted the Mumbai underworld to get involved, who began to provide funding for some of the productions – the result? Black money disappearing into the maze of the market, worsening the economic recession.

Now, the allowable infrastructure, freedom and flexible for the regional industries is dependent on the local government to a great extent. The volume of money floating in the market, being sufficiently regulated, is pinched at the top before it can cascade to the bottom, leading to a monetary localisation. The markets up north may not have realised this, but
since it does happen, there is an indirect regulation of money in the southern circles also. Finally, Bollywood has continued to be the most lucrative of industries in India, but only a representative de facto. The post of representative de jure has been regained by those businesses that equiprioritatively dealt with money as well as the needs of the people who made use of them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s