Bollywood blockbuster away from going global
BUSAN, South Korea, Oct 2, (Agencies): One of Bollywood’s most successful producers believes the current generation of Indian film-makers is set to conquer the world — by moving beyond the traditional song and dance format.
“India is still to find its “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” but it’s only a matter of time,” said Amar Butala, the producer behind the smash hit “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, the second-highest grossing Bollywood film of all time.
The Chinese-language martial arts epic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” directed by Taiwan’s Ang Lee was a hit when it was released in 2000, going on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
It collected an estimated $128 million from the international box office, still a record for a non-English language film and more than double the second-highest all-time earner, “My Beautiful Life” (1998) from Italy.
“As younger film-makers in Bollywood change the way our films are made — whether it be the stories we tell or the use of song and dance — in the coming years we’ll see more and more Bollywood films reach out to the international audience,” said Butala.
He was speaking to AFP before the screening of “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” at the 20th Busan International Film Festival, the pre-eminent event of its kind in Asia.
The film has taken an estimated $91 million globally so far — placing it second only to the 2014-released comedy “PK” ($114 million) — and it follows the relationship that builds between an Indian man and a Pakistani girl trapped in India.
BIFF kicked off Thursday with the world premiere of Mozez Singh’s “Zubaan”, the first time a Bollywood production has opened the festival.
Singh’s debut is a coming-of-age story about a young man who uses music to learn lessons about modern life. Other Bollywood films on the programme here include two productions tapping into the industry’s traditions — and star-crossed lovers — in “Masaan”, an award winner at this year’s Cannes festival, and “O Kadhal Kanmani”.
The festival is also showcasing the rising stars from India’s film industry beyond Bollywood and Hindi-language movies.
Independent filmmaker’s Hari Viswanath’s debut “Radio Set” — about an old man alienated from his children — is in the running for Busan’s main New Currents award for first and second-time Asian filmmakers while the Assamese-language “Kothanodi”, looks at the trial and tribulations of four mothers, also makes its world premiere.
Butala believes the success of his film — directed by Kabir Khan and starring current Indian box office king Salman Khan — has been down to its positive message, and that Indian filmmakers as a whole are now exploring a wider reach of topics, removed from the romances normally associated with Bollywood.
““Bajrangi Bhaijaan” is an incredibly positive film,” said Butala. “It’s rare for a film to take such a balanced view of both India and Pakistan, without taking any sides. This touched an emotional chord.”
While there are more than 1,000 films produced across Indian every year, making it by far the world’s most active film-making nation, outside the country these films have only previously been watched by the Indian diaspora, according to Butala. But he believes times are rapidly changing.
“Film-makers in India like everywhere in the world want their films to travel, to reach out to even larger audiences,” said Butala. “A mainstream Hindi language film is yet to successfully make that giant leap. But I think the opportunity to do this is ripe.”
There are 16 Indian films among the 304 productions screening at this year’s BIFF, which will run until Oct 10.
Meanwhile, producer Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment will launch domestic and international distribution wings beginning with Busan opener “Zubaan” which the company co-produced with director Mozez Singh’s Metamozez Entertainment. Sikhya will follow up with releases for Cannes selections “Peddlers” and “Monsoon Shootout” and festival favorite “Haraamkhor.” In India, Sikhya and Metamozez are working closely with veteran distributor Anil Thadani to release “Zubaan” at the end of the month.
For Asia, Monga expects the Busan market to be beneficial for “Zubaan.” “For the last year I’ve been thinking about southeast Asia and how we are all one continent,” says Monga. “We personally consume Korean films, but they don’t really come to India, nor the cinema of Japan. The market in China is really growing. So there has been an ambition as a producer to put out content that will speak to an Asia market. I feel that ‘Zubaan’ gives me an opportunity to be at Busan and hopefully be able to penetrate Indian independent cinema into the southeast Asian market.”
For Singh, opening Busan is the culmination of a process that took nine years. He took seven years to develop the script, with co-writers Sumit Roy and Thani coming on board for the last three. Meanwhile, he served as co-producer on “Peddlers” and “Haraamkhor” and also produced and directed several episodes of television chat show “On the Couch With Koel. ““I’ve always been interested in the idea of faith, what it means to me, what it means to people, how it can become an anchor and save you in moments of crisis,” says Singh about “Zubaan.” “What really interests me is people who are faithless, people who don’t believe in anything except their own selves and sometimes that manifests into egos. I wanted to use music as a metaphor for faith because I felt that just telling a story about faith might become esoteric and a bit too philosophical.”
“Zubaan” is a rites of passage tale about a young man from small town Punjab who travels to the big city, Delhi, where he eventually rediscovers his faith and must now choose between honesty and success.