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Global As Local

Friday, April 24, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

Last week, I wrote a piece titled Local As Global about Marathi films making an international impact. Now it’s time for global as local—reports say that Fast and Furious 7 is the first Hollywood film to reach that magical milestone of Rs 100 crore at the Indian box-office.

Furious 7  was dubbed into local languages and did well everywhere. If this hasn’t got Bollywood worried, it should. So far, the strong local industry prevented a takeover by Hollywood; some films dubbed into Indian languages were successful, and some even touched blockbuster level, but this film beat every local release flat. (The Avengers: Age of Ultron released this week is also very likely to be a money spinner in India.)

Bollywood has always been a bit complacent, because it was sure of its audience numbers. Over the years, multiplex audiences have been getting younger, and also clued into international cinema. They would rather spend their money on a film that gives them full-value entertainment, rather than a shoddy Hindi film. Now there is a clear divide between multiplex and single audiences that only two or three top stars can bridge.

Bollywood films with major stars do make the 100 crore kind of big money, but others just scrape through. In terms of their plots and narrative styles, Hindi films have lost their grip on the audiences, either because they are just not appealing, or because they are so heavily inspired by foreign films. The big studios can do the Hollywood-style action extravaganzas with stars, but others simply look like poor imitations of foreign films, or Southern films that are gaudier versions of Hollywood actioners. If audiences can get the real thing at the same price, why would they spend on substandard fare? And if they can get to see Furious 7 kind of high-octane action, in their own language, out goes loyalty to the local product!

For many years, there was restricted entry for Hollywood films in India, but now some films are released here before America, because there is a big enough market in India and Asia for Hollywood studios to take that decision. Hollywood films have posed a risk for the cinemas of many countries—UK cinema has not been able to rise above Hollywood; China and even France control releases of Hollywood films to protect local film industries. It is only a matter of time before Bollywood producers also start to demand curbs on Hollywood imports.

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