The Indian film
industry is the largest in the world (1200 movies were released in the year
2002). India also features the cheapest cost of tickets in the world (the average
ticket cost only 20 US cents), and the biggest movie studio in the world, Ramoji
Film City . The industry is supported mainly by the vast cinemagoing
Indian public, although Indian films have been gaining increasing popularity
in the rest of the world — especially in countries with large numbers
of expatriate Indians.
Regional film industries
India is a large
country where many languages are spoken. Each of the larger languages supports
its own film industry: Urdu/Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu,
- The Hindi/Urdu
film industry, based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), is called 'Bollywood' (a
melding of Hollywood and Bombay).
- The Marathi
film industry is based in Mumbai & Pune.
- The Tamil film
industry is based in the Kodambakkam area of Chennai, South India, and hence
is sometimes called 'Kollywood'.
is a metonym for the Bengali film industry, long centered in the Tollygunge
district of Kolkata (Calcutta). The Bengali industry is notable for having
nurtured the director Satyajit Ray, an internationally renowned filmmaker
and a winner of many awards, among them the Bharat Ratna (India's highest
civilian award), the Legion d'honneur (France), and the Lifetime achievement
- The Kannada
film industry, based in Karnataka State, is sometimes called 'Sandalwood',
as Karnataka is known for its sandalwood; however, this term does not seem
to be in widespread use.
- The Telugu
film industry (sometimes called Tollywood) is based in Andhra Pradesh's capital
- The Malayalam
film industry is based in Kerala.
industry is usually the largest in terms of films produced and box office receipts.
Many workers in other regional industries, once their talent and popularity
is established, move on to work in other film industries, nationally as well
as internationally. For example, A.R. Rahman, one of the best known film music
composers in Indian cinema, started his career in Tamil cinema in Chennai but
has since undertaken ventures in other spheres, including international film
and theatre. Similarly, films that succeed in one language are often remade
or dubbed in others. Films like Padosan and Roja, for example, were re-made
or dubbed from their original Bengali and Tamil versions respectively, into
Conventions of commercial films
difference between American and Indian commercial cinema, is that Indian film
usually feature periodic song-and-dance routines, which, in a good movie, are
expected to move the story forward (in mediocre movies, they are poorly integrated
into the story). Songs are sung by professional play-back singers and lip-synched
by dancing actors and actresses.
films, in whatever regional center they are made, tend to be long; they are
usually two to three hours, with an intermission. They tend to be melodramatic
and sentimental, but may also feature romance, comedy, action, suspense, and
other generic elements.
In addition to
commercial cinema, there is also Indian cinema that aspires to seriousness or
art. This is known to film critics as "New Indian Cinema" or sometimes
"the Indian New Wave" (see the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema), but
most people in India simply call such films "art films".
From the 1960s
through the 1980s, the art film was usually government-subsidised: aspiring
directors could get federal or state government grants to produce non-commercial
films on Indian themes. Many of these directors were graduates of the government-supported
Film and Television Institute of India. Their films were showcased at government
film festivals and on the government-run TV station, Doordarshan. These films
also had limited runs in art house theatres in India and overseas. Since the
1980s, Indian art cinema has to a great extent lost its government patronage.
Today, it must be made as independent films on a shoestring budget by aspiring
auteurs, much as in today's Western film industry.
The art directors
of this period owed more to foreign influences, such as Italian Neo-Realism
or the French New Wave, than they did to the genre conventions of commercial
Indian cinema. The best known New Cinema directors were Bengali: Satyajit Ray,
Ritwik Ghatak, and Bimal Roy. Some well-known films of this movement include
the Apu Trilogy by Ray (Bengali), Meghe Dhaka Tara by Ghatak (Bengali) and Do
Bigha Zameen by Roy (Hindi).
Art cinema was
also well-supported in the state of Kerala. Malayalam movie makers like Adoor
Gopalakrishnan, G. Aravindan, T. V. Chandran, Shaji N Karun, and M. T. Vasudevan
Nair were fairly successful. Starting the 1970s, Kannada film-makers from Karnataka
state produced a string of serious, low-budget films. Girish Kasaravalli is
one of the few directors from that period who continues to make non-commercial
In the film markets
of South India, particularly the Tamil film and Telugu film industries, directors
such as K. Balachander, Bharathiraja, Balu Mahendra, Bapu and Ramana, Puttanna,
Siddalingaiah, Dr.K.Vishwanath, and Mani Ratnam have achieved box-office hits
whilst balancing elements of art and popular cinema. Such films include Nayagan
and Kannathil Muthamittal.
Satyajit Ray was
the most successful of the "art" directors. Many Indians knew his
name and took pride in his numerous foreign awards. Prestige, however, did not
translate to large-scale commercial success. His films played primarily to art-house
audiences (students and intelligentsia) in the larger Indian cities, or to film
buffs on the international art-house circuit.
From the 1970s
onwards Hindi cinema produced a wave of 'art films'. The foremost among the
directors who produced such films is Shyam Benegal. Others in this genre include
Govind Nihalani, Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani, M.S. Sathyu.
technicians and actors began in art cinema and moved to commercial cinema. The
actor Naseeruddin Shah is one notable example; he has never achieved matinee
idol status, but has turned out a solid body of work as a supporting actor and
a star in independent films such as Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding.
Indian cinema meets Hollywood
cinema is becoming increasingly Westernized. This trend is strongest in Bollywood,
which is importing Western actors (such as Rachel Shelley in Lagaan), trying
to meet Western production standards, filming overseas, and incorporating more
and more English in movie dialogue. Bollywood is also making hit films like
Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Kal Ho Na Ho that deal with the overseas Indian
However, the meeting
betwen Hollywood and India is a two-way process: Western audiences are becoming
more interested in India, as evidenced by the mild success of Lagaan and Bride
and Prejudice. As Western audiences for Indian cinema grow, Western producers
are funding maverick Indian film-makers like Gurinder Chadha (Bride and Prejudice)
and Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). Both Chadha and Nair are of Indian origin but
resident in the West, and who made their names in Western independent films;
they have now been funded to create films that "interpret" the Indian
cinematic tradition for Westerners.
Indian cinema is
also influencing the English and American musical; Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!
(2001) incorporates a Bollywood-style dance sequence; The Guru and The 40-Year-Old
Virgin feature Indian-style song-and-dance sequences; A.R. Rahman, India's star
filmi composer, was recruited for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams; and a
musical version of Hum Aapke Hain Koun has played in London's West End.
Some Indians have
succeeded in the Western film industry purely on their own terms without showing
any Bollywood influence, such as like the director Manoj Night Shyamalan. Indian
actors like Aishwarya Rai are getting good roles in Western films.
Indian films bring
export income and foreign prestige to India. In turn, the Indian government
gives the Dadasaheb Phalke Award annually as a recognition of a lifetime contribution
to Indian cinema. The award is in memory of Dadasaheb Phalke, considered the
father of Indian cinema.