By Natarajan Vidyasagar
The Indian film industry, which produces the largest number of movies in the world, is on the cusp of a radical transformation and its steady rise in the global M&E space is clearly visible.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he watched Aamir Khan- starred sports drama Dangal and liked it. This underscores the growing influence of Indian cinema and its increasing global footprint.
There is a steady growth in the visibility, volume and cultural visibility of India – from Bollywood to Bhangra music, from mobile telephony to India’s influence in Silicon Valley – India has revolutionised in the production, distribution and consumption of images and ideas.
Last year turned out to be the most successful year for Indian films which were exported to more than 35 global territories internationally. USA, UK, China Gulf, Australia and Canada topped the list of Indian films in overseas territories. Around 125 movies (Hindi and regional films) were released in overseas theatrical markets in 2018.
Hailed as the best Indian movie of 2018, Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun, an official adaption of the French short film The Piano Tuner, had a successful run in China. Made at a budget of less than $5 million it raked in around $50 million in box office collections in China.
China alone accounted for $272 million in box office collection for 10 Indian films in 2018. “Indian films have been gradually making inroads both through the co-venture route (which films do not form part of China’s quota of foreign films) and co-production treaties,” says a recent EY report.
Indian films also made inroads into Saudi Arabia which lifted its decade old ban on cinemas, allowing theatres to open in Saudi Arabia.
Indian filmmakers have embraced new ways of telling stories, and this is increasingly visible on global platforms. “Indian content is in big demand and new avenues are opening up, for example China. The local market is huge in India, which is the only country in the world with nearly 12 dialects per language. As the dubbing industry is growing, all platforms are realising the value of localisation. The popularity and footprint of the platforms is increasing immensely due to this and this has resulted into emergence of Netfilx and Amazon, who are setting up offices in India and producing India specific content for global market as well,” says Manish Dutt, MD, VR Films & Studios.
There’s no doubt today that Indian cinema is India’s soft power and is seen in over 100 countries. Thanks to platforms like Netflix, it is instantly visible and experienced now.
Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui happened to be vacationing in Italy on the day that Sacred Games, the critically acclaimed Netflix political thriller in which he stars, was released online around the world. Just couple hours after Sacred Games was released, Nawazuddin got recognized on the streets in Italy. There are examples of new narratives, fresh stories, unknown stars, women power and successful films in regional languages across Indian movie production centres. That sums up the changing landscape of Indian cinema in 2018.
The Indian movie industry is a gargantuan entity. From its seven production centers, India produces nearly 1,800 films in 20-odd languages a year – more than the output of China and the US counted together.
The success of small budget films like Badhaai Ho (Amit Sharma), Andhadhun (Sriram Raghavan), Stree (Amar Kaushik) and Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) proved that Indian film audiences’ consumption habits are changing.
They are looking for new narratives, new genres than formula films. If the content is mediocre, however big stars may be is getting rejected at the box office. Most of these small budget films were made on a budget of less than Rs 40 crore but yielded at least thrice the amount at the box office. Raazi made almost Rs 200 crores!
The year 2018 also proved that films laced with good content and powerful performances can overpower the stars who ruled the box office collections of Bollywood films over the years.
Fox Star India Studio’s film Sanju emerged as one of India’s all-time blockbusters at the box office followed by Padmaavat, Simba, 2.0, Race 3, Baaghi 2, Badhaai Ho, Stree, Raazi, and Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety.
Apart from these, films in regional languages such as 2.0, KGF Chapter 1, Rangasthalam, Bharat Ane Nenu, Kaala, Arvindha Sametha Veera Raghava and Geeta Govindam performed well in terms of box office collections.
Industry experts maintained that 2018 also saw emergence of OTT platforms as an alternative for theatrical release as well as for films which had a good run in cinema screens. However, for small budget movies, video OTT platforms (like Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Zee 5, Netlfix, Eros Now) have opened a new market place.
“OTT is the new field for TV drama and independent film making. It has changed everything, scripts, budgets, quality of art, even the list of senior crew and actors prepared to work on the smaller formats,” says producer and filmmaker Bobby Bedi, currently producing over a dozen web series.
“I have viewed more and better drama in the last two years than I have viewed in the last 20. Never a fan of ad breaks, I never saw films on TV and my lifestyle rarely permitted me to plan a film outing unless it was really ‘one of those big ones’. Today I look forward to my post dinner two (maybe three) hours of viewing across a range of content. Addictive web-series and films I couldn’t see.” Bedi adds.
The Government of India has recognized India’s Audio Visual Sector as one of the Champion Service sectors for export growth. India is also one of the most liberated media markets in the world. The country offers highly liberal policy environment for investments in film sector.
From talents (both on-and off-screen), to locales to an industry-friendly Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, India is already a one-stop destination for global filmmakers. The establishment of Film Facilitation Office (FFO) by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting as a single window clearance for film shooting across India, and the ease of doing business, have made India a very attractive destination for film business. Many State governments in India are aggressively wooing global filmmakers in their regions.
Many Indian companies have created top-end studio facilities in India that serve as single windows to fulfil the needs of the M&E industry. Their international business model offers local and remote clients the opportunity to produce and co-produce and distribute content anywhere around the world.
(The list includes commercial hits and small budget films which made huge Box Office Returns)
India measures 3,214 km from north to south and 2,933 km from east to west with a total land area of 3,287,263 sq km.
29 States, 7 Union Territories
Hindi, English and 21 other national languages.
Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Jharkand, Delhi, Maharashtra
Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Thiruvanathapuram, Cuttack
No.1 Mobile broadband market in the world
(This article first appeared on Cannes Market News, the official daily of of Marche Du Film, Festival De Cannes on May 15, 2019)