The Studio Works

The debate on whether homegrown Bollywood production houses and independent studios can compete with Hollywood studios keeps surfacing from time to time.

Written by EXPRESS FEATURES SERVICE | Published: April 10, 2012 1:27 am

The debate on whether homegrown Bollywood production houses and independent studios can compete with Hollywood studios keeps surfacing from time to time. But it took a new turn at the Screen Big Picture event on Saturday,when a panel of distinguished people from the field — Sanjeev Lamba,CEO, Reliance Big Pictures; Shrishti Arya,Head,Rose Movies; Swati Shetty,President,Balaji Motion Pictures; Siddharth Roy Kapur,CEO,UTV Motion Pictures; Uday Singh,Managing Director,Motion Pictures Association India — discussed the topic keenly.

Lamba kickstarted the discussion by saying that the homegrown studios do have a chance of competing with Hollywood studios. “The reason for this is that the comparative advantages that Hollywood enjoys in the rest of the world are not necessarily available in India. We are the only country in the world where Hollywood makes 5-7 per cent of the box-office income for their product. Almost every other country in the world — be it England,France,Germany,Russia,Japan or Mexico — the Hollywood share is over 40 per cent. The Indian consumer is fiercely domestic,” said Lamba.

Roy Kapur,too,agreed with his observation. “Hollywood has realised that they are up against a glass ceiling because Indians want to watch homegrown content. Despite their efforts,they’ve realised that Hollywood studios need local support to make local content grow in India. One way of doing so is by doing what Disney has done with UTV,which is to join hands with a company that is already developing content locally and has a successful track record,” he said.

The involvement of Hollywood in India isn’t new. It has been dominating the Indian television for nearly two decades now,said Lamba,citing the example of channels such as Star,Sony,Colors,ESPN and Cartoon Network. Singh,however,maintained that the television business also took time to figure out. “We dubbed serials in local languages initially but that didn’t work. We learnt along the way that we need to have content that will be locally relevant,” he said. Singh also pointed out that despite Hollywood studios coming to India,one must bear in mind that the Indian studios such as Yashraj,Excel and Vinod Chopra Films have not stopped making the movies they want to produce. “This is a great time to collaborate and it is a win-win situation for both parties. It’s not a zero-sum game. If these two big industries got together,it would be fantastic for the overall progress of storytelling across the world,” added Singh.

The entry of Hollywood studios to the Indian market has its benefits. It has made Indian studios follow the international system. “In the international market,everybody’s job profile is very clearly demarcated,but here,we’re still a little myopic,” said Arya. Shetty believes that Hollywood studios have also helped in opening up little pockets for experimentation. “Today,Anurag Kashyap is going all the way to Cannes or some other international festival. Some day,some studio can make it possible for Kashyap to co-direct a movie with Tim Burton. It could be an Indian story made with two different cinematic sensibilities . And that is something that Hollywood studios could bring to India. At the end of the day,it’s not really their money India is looking for,but their value,” added Shetty.

The growth of homegrown studios has also made sure that Indian films get a wider audience. “So far,we have been able to get them to a South Asian diaspora. Now,we want to leverage the synergy to expand the reach to a wider audience,” said Roy Kapur. Lamba cited examples of Kites,which was the first film to be released in Latin America,and 3 Idiots,which got 900 screens in China. “It is just the desire to take your film as widely out as possible. If you’re going to sit here and do your age-old broker business,you’re going to get a certain result. If you make the effort of actually going out and building offices and bringing in people who understand the international scale,why can’t an Indian company compete on an equal level?” questioned Lamba.

The debate will appear in the Screen special issue dated April 13,2012

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