Bollywood rekindles love affair with China
Priyanka Khanna, Apr 10 [ Sun, Apr 10, 2005 ]
- New Delhi, April 10 (IANS): After long wooing western audiences, Bollywood is fast waking up to opportunities in rekindling its long lost romance with China.
In the Cold War era, Russia and China were the destinations of choice for Indian films. But with Hollywood taking over markets in the East, the Hindi film industry slowly faded away.
All that seems set to change, with Bollywood finally heeding to the call of India's Look East policy.
As if to mark a change in the stance, a prominent Chinese magazine featured Aishwarya Rai on its cover alongside Oscar-winner Zhang Ziyi on the eve of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India.
"Forget the West. Indian entertainment industry needs to concentrate on the Middle-east, Pakistan and East, where it has better chances," trade analysts say.
China was the focus at industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's annual global convention FRAMES on the business of entertainment.
The summit took place April 4-6 in Mumbai, with nearly 125 speakers addressing close to 1,500 delegates from more than 20 countries. Some of the biggest names in the media and entertainment industry participated
Sing Wang, CEO of TOM Group Ltd, and Vivek Couto, executive director of Media Partners Asia Ltd., presented a holistic view of the lessons to be learnt from China's entertainment market.
In hindsight, it seems amazing that at a time when pop culture was virtually non-existent in China, many a Chinese citizen had Indian film songs on the tip of their tongues.
Chinese aged from the early 30s to late 70s may fondly remember sitting in front of the black-and-white screen and humming to the tunes of films like "Awara" or "Noorie".
Almost five decades after Indian showman Raj Kapoor won Chinese hearts and created awareness about the magnetic power of Indian cinema's songs and dances, films from India are once again conquering the virtually impregnable Great Wall.
In China, Bollywood concerts held recently have been an amazing success.
Films like "Kal Ho Na Ho," "Lagaan," "Saathiya," "Bhoot" and "Main Hoon Na" were among the 20 films recently screened at a festival in China.
Similarly, there was a separate segment devoted to China at the International Film Festival of India held in Goa.
Though China has imported several films like Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Anand", Dharmesh Darshan's "Raja Hindustani" and Shekhar Kapoor's "Bandit Queen" in past years, there was no mechanism for releasing Indian films in their theatres.
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"Lagaan" was the first film from India in recent years to get a theatrical release there.
The recent years have also seen a surge in popularity of Indian films among the Chinese, who are otherwise seen to be obsessed with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been routinely advocating the Look East policy.
Hot-and-happening Indian star Mallika Sherawat seems to have been fast in sizing up opportunities when she signed up for a film with Jackie Chan.
It is now the turn of choreographer Farah Khan to master the nuances of Chinese dance.
After getting international recognition for her work in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Bombay Dreams", Farah has been approached by Hollywood producer Andre Morgan of the "Million Dollar Baby" fame to choreograph the Chinese musical "Perhaps Love".
The trickle of Indian talent into the Chinese market seems set to turn into a flood.
With India's and China's entertainment giants cosying up, Hollywood looks set for a royal ditch.
Of late, there is a realization in Asia that Asian cinema has been too caught up with the West.
"India is the only country in Asia with a strong domestic box office. Local cinema has collapsed in other Asian countries after the quota system was given up," says Philip Cheah, director of the Singapore International Film Festival.
According to him, Asian cinema has come of age and in the past three years "there has been a hysteria about Asian cinema in the West".
"Indian cinema created a buzz in Japan two years back. It has also done well in film festivals abroad," he added, though pointing out that "in terms of box-office revenues, however, all Asian countries seem to have lost out to Hollywood".
Arguing that Asian cinema can be promoted only by creating an appreciation for it in this part of the world, Cheah has some pointers for Indian government.
He says that in Singapore, authorities are going all out to encourage film production.
The increasing reliance of Bollywood on revenues from export is further likely to fuel growth of Asian cinema.
Ever since the industry spun out more cash from selling overseas in 2004, it is banking more and more on making money from exports.
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The industry has generated around Rs.5 billion globally in 2004, up from about Rs.3.5 billion in 2003.
Leading the list of Bollywood's international blockbusters are "Hum Tum", "Veer Zaara", "Main Hoon Na", "Dhoom" and "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi."
The number of films making it to overseas shores are at about 130 to 140, with the lion's share being routed through the Indian Film Exporters Association (IFEA).
Bollywood's traditional market internationally, spans the US, Canada, Britain, west Asia, South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
Now, there is a concerted move to prise open new markets across Spain, France, Brazil, China and Japan.
"Though, there have been some theatrical releases of Hindi and south Indian films in Japan, movies in China and Japan are more keen on picking up television and video rights," trade observers say.
"A few deals have also matured. Talks are also taking place with industry bodies to stage film festivals in China and Japan."