They actually go together well.
Naveen Jindal, 71, has been living in the UK since the ’80s, but it is still important to him to end his tiring day with his favorite Dosa and a Punjabi or Bollywood film that would remind him of home. “Sometimes I don’t really get the plot, but listening to a very familiar song and sitar-based compositions make me happy, complete my day.”
He also admits that though his children and granddaughters still watch Bollywood movies with him, their love for Hollywood movies, typically dubbed in their own language, is undeniable.
“My generation didn’t grow up with these ‘English films.’ I saw my first Hollywood movie when I first came to the U.K.—it was Star Wars, I think, and I didn’t really like it,” Jindal said, showing off his 50-inch LED TV that got nothing but Indian cable channels. “During weekends I get to watch American films with Prachi, my daughter, on Blu-ray, but it’s a house rule here that we only watch Indian shows on weekdays.”
Indeed, gone are the days when Indians will only watch Punjabi and Mumbai-based films. Globalization led to the massive influx of Western films in the country. This has somewhat changed audiences’ idea of their local movies as simply the best, especially that most Hollywood films arriving in the country are the high-budget, CGI-heavy ones.
The year 2012 marked the first year when the biggest bunch of US-Indian co-productions started to hit the country. It was also the year when it proved that it wasn’t working and appealing to the younger crowd as it had planned to be and that most Indians would still prefer locally produced films to those of made and led by whites.
Despite that, one undeniable fact is that Hollywood remains a formidable competitor in the land. Western movies, like in any non-US areas, continue to invade the nation, slowly and gradually shaping younger viewers’ notion of their local movies. Prachi Jindal, 29, Naveen’s youngest daughter, confesses that she only watches mainstream American or British films her friends suggest to her. She doesn’t really "Google" other films that way she does with Bollywood movies and actresses. “Indian films remind me of my short vacations in Bombay, that’s why I like watching them,” pines Prachi, who only gets to visit her home country during summer breaks.
In terms of quantity—or numbers of films produced and released annually—Bollywood is bigger than Hollywood. In 2012 alone, as reported by Forbes, the Indians led the global production number at 1, 602 produced films. In the same year, Hollywood only produced 745.
However, in terms of revenue, it is still far from becoming a global leader. For example, global hit 3 Idiots, a comedy, earned only $71 million, 2.7 percent smaller than Avatar’s global sales. The James Bond-esque Ek Tha Tiger, which earned a then-record-breaking revenue of $59 million, remains 2.9 percent smaller to what Titanic has achieved, which was $2.1 billion.
Perhaps the most valid assumption behind this is the language, as there are still more English-speakers around the world. Add to this the reality that most educated Indians know how to speak the language. But as more English-speaking Indian (or with Indian roots) actors grace Hollywood—e.g. Dave Patel, Om Puri, Noureen DeWulf, Irrfan Khan—interest in Indian-produced films is also getting bigger.
Fast-forward to 2016, it’s now safe to say that it’s no longer a rarity to see a local film being juxtaposed with a Hollywood film in India. “Let alone be released on the same date,” said Naveen. He also noticed that most kids watch movies straight from the Internet, a thing that remains alien to him. Surely, the Indian movie market will continue to grow as streaming, another new platform gaining leverage in the country, becomes more popular among the younger audience with the help of telco companies and foreign firms like Vodafone and 5BARz International.
With an improving internet infrastructure and expanding film market, it’s now hard to stop foreign producers to sell their films in a very promising market. This might be a negative thing to some, but Indians are willing to adjust. “The last time I was there I was amazed to see that cinemas were no longer 100-percent Indian as they were during my ’20s. Maybe it’s bad for me, but not for the next generation, especially to my grandchildren,” says Naveen. “Times have changed, and we, the aging ones, need to come to terms with it.”