Business Today

Bollywood movies: Rock On

     Print Edition: Jan 6, 2013

The 2009 Aamir Khan starrer 3 Idiots has been screened at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and has not only Hollywood, but also Chinese and Italian filmmakers lining up to acquire remaking rights.

The 2010 Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster My Name Is Khan strode triumphantly across the Islamic world, drawing ecstatic reviews from Egypt to Indonesia. There are more than a dozen highly-popular blogs devoted to Hindi cinema by westerners who have no other connection with India, and in many cases have never visited the country.

Interestingly, a number of them reveal an unabashed preference for masala Hindi films rather than the arty variety. Most leading English newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic carry reviews of select Hindi films - recent ones widely reviewed have been Talash, Jab Tak Hai Jaan and English Vinglish.

Rs 10,000 cr current turnover of Indian film industry.

Has Hindi cinema vaulted past the language barrier to become truly global? It is in the process of doing so, feel industry watchers. It is winning larger audience in countries which have sizeable populations of Indian origin - such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and West Asia - suggesting that locals there, too, are not entirely oblivious to its charms. But it is also gaining popularity in places such as China, Taiwan and South Korea, where Indians are few.

"The overseas collections of bigbudget movies are over 30 per cent of their total earnings," says Smita Jha, Leader, Entertainment and Media Practice, at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The average, however, is still around 10 per cent. But sustained growth is predicted - overseas film revenues will rise at a compound annual growth rate of 10.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016, says a 2011 report by consulting firm KPMG, while domestic increase in the same period will be just 9.4 per cent.

No doubt the non-resident Indians (NRIs) remain the bedrock of Hindi films' overseas earnings. Apart from Hindi films, Bhojpuri ones are a big draw in Mauritius and Fiji, while Malayalam films have an assured audience in West Asia. "The existing markets are saturated," says Jha. "The new markets are a value-add."

The decision of leading Hollywood studios such as Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros to start producing Hindi films is another indicator of their growing importance. Bank financing and film insurance were never heard of in the context of Hindi films until some years ago, but now are fairly common. With content becoming more varied, and form growing increasingly hi-tech with 3D and special effects to match those of Hollywood films, Bollywood's future looks rosy.

Anand Adhikari

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