The never-ending debate goes on. But is the competition really there? Or are they just two complementing terms written on either side of a word? The story behind the Indian Film Industry (the biggest in the world) is that of broadening horizons and vertiginous ambition. It has always been home to what Salman Rushdie has called the “epico-mythico-tragico-comico-super-sexy-high-masala-art”.
This is Indian Film Industry, where even this hyperbolic prose seems understated. Hollywood, on the other hand, is the movie industry of the West which usually aims to satisfy its audiences with one storyline, one track in a very effective manner. The viewers, chiefly Indian, throng a theatre to experience a mixed cinematic experience of family, romance, drama, action, clearly proving that the main notion of Hollywood’s one track storyline is against the expectations of Bollywood followers. This is the reason why Indian films are twenty times harder to make as compared to their western counterparts.
But somewhere the two really differ, and unfortunately for the worse, is the organization. Despite the hype surrounding Indian Film Industry’s increasing influence in the world movie industry, it is a long way from being a threat to Hollywood’s influence. In terms of revenues, the success of Hollywood movies does not depend on ticket sales alone. It follows the time-tested ‘franchise-formula’ where a major part of the revenue comes from other segments like TV networks, magazines, home-videos, merchandising etc. Bollywood has toyed with the same line with Hum Tum and Waqt, but it is a crtitical resource that needs to be exploited very carefully to contribute to the the profits: something which Indian filmmakers still needs to learn.
Another facet is the financing. Till a few years ago, 70 per cent of the money the for movies made in Mumbai came as liquid cash from traders in real-estate, jewellery and the Mumbai underworld or unnacounted money. Even though with time things have improved, the financing of Bollywood movies is still a shady business coming largely from the non-organised sector and with virtually no financing from the banking sector. This is unlike Hollywood, where production studios and the organised sector treat it as an industry and there exists a well-established network, a well-channelised flow of funds and accounting of sources of such funds. The Indian Film Industry was officially recognised as an ‘industry’ by the government only in 1998, introducing regulations for accountability but there are miles to go before achieving such a status.
With the laws and statutes governing the Indian version, autonomy in functioning is a long road to walk. With A. Ramadoss breathing down their necks by disallowing creativity in myriad forms, and the Animal Welfare Board creating hurdles in filming animals, half the time of the producers is spent on fulfilling obligations and making rounds of government offices. The same can also be said for the Censor Board which fails to realise the changes in the average Indian cinemagoer’s psyche and mentality, and the Religious Comittees with their claims of their religion being portrayed in bad light.
Now moving to a little on the wild side, towards the jhatkas and matkas! The Big H has been unfortunate for it has never experienced a salute to an item number. And love-making scenes in Hollywood are not characterised by suggestive sounds and flowers banging against each other. Furthermore, there is no Rajnikanth or anyone similar for miles, who has the audacity to try to keep the audience captivated with nail-biting (read popcorn throwing) action sequences.
Whatever said and done, it cannot be denied that the Indian Film Industry is catching up with a surge in talent and creativity. Movies other than mainstream cinema are being tried and tested with success. This is where we should learn from our distant cousin: there is no strict format for success. Even today, movies such as Monsoon Wedding, Loins of Punjab, Bride and Prejudice, which portray the human way of thinking in the world scenario today and do not cater to the average mixed-emotion Indian, are hitting cinemas. Kissing and nudity is being accepted; going against the norms of life is not new. But with the continuing anger and hostility against nudity, fanaticism against religion, never-ending obligations and management problems, it will just remain a business. The idea of good cinema still seems far-fetched.