Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of Stars and Superstars

Bollywood can lay claim to be the torchbearer of the Indian entertainment industry to the rest of the world. It is leading the way in the fight for recognition for films other than those made by Hollywood.

But is this overbearing presence of the big brother of Indian cinema slowly but surely killing the regional cinema of India?

Let us start by looking at the size of the Indian cinema industry. It is an $8.9 billion industry, with almost 4 billion people visiting cinema halls every year.

Now that is one big cake that everyone would love to have a share of.

On pure statistical terms Bollywood has the biggest share of this cake. The popularity of Bollywood stars have to be seen to be believed. Earlier the only place they used to rule was the cinema halls. Now they have invaded our roads, our living rooms and even our bathrooms. They ask us to buy everything from chocolates to chayawanprash. They are screaming from the idiot boxes asking us to buy the idiot box that “they use”.

A lot of artists’ crossover from regional cinema to the Hindi film industry pulled by the lure of BIG money. The superstars of the Hindi film industry enough pay tax each year to probably wipe off the debt of many small African countries.

But does all this mean that the regional movie scene is losing out to Bollywood.

The answer would be no.

Surprised?? Why??

In a country like India which has around 114 main languages (not counting the thousands of dialects), the dominant language is Hindi. But it covers only the Hindi belt in the north and Maharashtra (coz it houses bollywood). The entire south is dominated by their own film industries. In fact, the Telegu film industry is home to the second only to bollywood in terms of movies made. A number of top Hindi film actors have been a part of these regional films over the years.

The Tamil film industry too holds a major stake in the Indian film industry. It has produced some of the finest artists that have graced the silver screen. In fact the only star in India who can challenge the legendary Amitabh Bacchan in popularity votes is from the Tamil film industry. Rajnikanth enjoys demi-god status in TamilNadu and has fans from Singapore to the US.

Malayalam films have dominated the National awards for years. Many have been remade in Hindi which proves that imitation is the best form of flattery.

Bengali films were among the first Indian films to make an impression in the west with filmmakers like Satyajit Ray leading the way.

Marathi films are fighting back in their homeland after going into obscurity for a couple of decades albeit with some strong political backup. The general increase of theatres showing Marathi films shows an increased interest in Marathi cinema.

The sheer number of people in India and the cheap availability of cinema here have given a variety of choice for people to choose from. All forms of cinema in India have an opportunity to shine. So what if the brightest star in the constellation is bollywood. It takes all of them to form a constellation right :)

P.S. this post was added to be part of a blogathon :) so no more serious stuff after this :)