– . – Overseas Outlook
India: East Meets West
Leading journalist and film industry consultant Ashanti OMkar looks at the increasing influence that Indian cinema is having in the West… and why it’s so much more than just Bollywood.
The term ‘Bollywood’ may be deplored within India’s film fraternity, but the word is now officially recognised in the Oxford English dictionary and, due to its immense popularity in the overseas markets and a huge diaspora of South Asians, Indian cinema as a whole has been branded with the term—which actually pertains to popular formulaic Hindi films. In reality, India’s immense movie industry is split by diverse and distinct regions, with a yearly output of over 1,000 films. Hindi films are the most visible abroad with Tamil and Punjabi following suit, alongside smaller pockets of Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Bengali cinema and films in many other dialects. Very few of these films will be seen on the silver screen outside India, yet they are part of a thriving piracy industry, both online and on DVD.
But Indian cinema has certainly grabbed the attention of the West, and while niche cinemas have been showing Bollywood fare for decades, the fact that the multiplexes are now screening Hindi, Tamil and Punjabi movies alongside their Western counterparts means that Indian films are becoming commonplace in worldwide box-office charts.
While younger generations of Asian film fans are helping make it a serious business abroad, Indian cinema continues to gain recognition at international film festivals and win major world awards. Although technically not an Indian film, Danny Boyle’s award-winning Slumdog Millionaire was seen as an Indian production thanks to its setting and cast of actors, including Anil Kapoor (who will join Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 4), Britain’s Dev Patel (The Last Airbender) and Freida Pinto (Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger). And, it has propelled the likes of composer A.R. Rahman and sound technician Resul Pookutty to the Academy Awards and BAFTAs, individuals who have done groundbreaking work previously in Indian cinema.
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