American films have a massive viewing all over the world, except for one country. India. That’s right. Indian film fans would rather flock to see the latest Bollywood hit than watch one that was produced in Hollywood. Hollywood only accounts for less than 10 percent of India’s box office revenue. When this is compared to China, whose box office revenue is 60 percent from Hollywood, we ask ourselves why is that so?
The difference between China and India, in terms of Hollywood’s ‘interference’ in their film industry, is the fact that Chinese producers can’t target the right audience for their films. This is usually the result of “top Chinese producers trying to compete with Hollywood with big-budget costume dramas.” These dramas aren’t what the audience are looking for anymore, making this strategy struggling to be successful. Hence why Chinese film fans would rather see the next Hollywood blockbuster than a local film.
In India, the film industry is separated to target local audiences with different local languages. The films are different between each local language, with each language having a local theme to the target audience.
China are now going through a period of “Bollywoodisation” of their own, and along with India, are beginning to have large amounts of revenue in the box office. So could we see these countries take control of global film flows from America?
This really comes down to the ability of these countries to undergo ‘cultural hybridisation’ with Western culture, in order to gain the attention of the Western world’s audience. China have been doing this for some time, with actors such as Bruce Lee, Ang Lee and Jackie Chan, being involved in ‘cultural hybrid movies’. These movies would contain sequences of martial arts and Wuxang narratives that are ‘flattened… cultural markers’ (Curtin, 2007: 289).
The success of America’s highest-grossing foreign language film – Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (released in 2000), which earned $128 million – was attributed to hybridization, resulting in ‘an Eastern movie for Western audiences, and … a Western movie for Eastern audiences’ (Lagerkvist, 2009: 370).
‘Cultural hybridisation’ in Indian films would contribute to the success of Bollywood in North America, as seen in 2008 “Slumdog Millionaire” where its cultural references connected with the audience, becoming a huge success. However, little to they realise the film was actually co-produced by a UK production company. Hence why the cultural references where easier to understand for North American audiences.
David J. Schaefer and Kavita Karan discuss another reason why Bollywood is beginning to have an effect on North America.
The content of popular Hindi cinema itself has undergone profound transformations in the years since India’s economic liberalisation in 1991. A Westernised shift in the content of popular Hindi films, which ironically may have contributed to heightened American sensitivity to and labelling of any film set in India as a ‘Bollywood’ film.
Chinese and Indian films may very well take control of global film flows from America. This will only happen however, if Chinese and Bollywood films continue to use “cultural hybridisation” in order to continue an increase in North American audiences.
Curtin, M. (2007) Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lagerkvist, J. (2009) ‘Global Media for Global Citizenship in India and China’, Peace Review 23: 367–75.
Schaefer, D. Karan, K. (2010) Problematizing Chindia : Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows. Sage Publications