Indian Cinema

Indian cinema is considered to be the world's largest film industry with respect to the number of films it produces and the number of people employed within the film realm. The size does not refer to finances. In this regard, Indian cinema and Western cinema work according to very different budgets.

Indian cinema is sometimes referred to as "Bollywood," a name that has now appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary. To many the title is deemed to be pejorative. Amitabh Bachchan, a prominent film actor in India, has explained that the word "Bollywood" is condescending. Moreover, he considers it to be degrading, and joins other critics in questioning the validity of using a Western name to depict an art form from India. Bachchan refers to the cinema of India as the Indian film industry or Hindi film industry.

In 2002 London became home to an "Indian Summer." The image of India was splashed across shops and market exhibitions, and in cinema screenings too. Indian song and dance were featured in "Indian Summer," as well as the theatrical melodrama form. The highlighting of Indian culture contributed to a greater awareness of and interest in Indian cinema.

The focus on Indian cinema reached an ever higher level of recognition when the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) was hosted in Sheffield, Yorkshire, in June 2007. Prior to this date, Indian cinema rarely appeared within the Western film domain, and was far removed from what was and is perceived as "mainstream" film.

Amitabh Bachchan, dubbed by critics the "godfather figure" of the Indian film industry, was heralded by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) as a "screen icon." This was an immense step for the film industry in India, as prior to such recognition it was felt that Indian film lacked a level of respectability in the rest of the world.

Shilpa Shetty, an Indian actress who featured on Britain's Big Brother television show, became well known to the British audience, bringing Indian actors even closer to British soil.

Some skeptics suggest that it is perhaps the economic boon as well as a political incentive that has fed the interest in Indian feature films. Statistics have shown an amount in excess of 200 million pounds sterling being contributed by the Indian film industry to the United Kingdom. This refers to revenue accrued through actual filming, and via the film distribution and exhibiting that takes place in the United Kingdom. The IIFA ceremony in Yorkshire did much to boost tourist trade as well as marking the area as a good region for film production.

The main center of mainstream Indian or Hindi cinema is in Mumbai. Types of Indian film vary according to subject matter, type of film and language. The 1990s saw a variety of styles such as big-budget romances, gangster and realistic genres, and remakings of classics. Since the beginning of the new millennium, new trends have emerged, bringing Indian cinema in some instances closer to an incorporation into the global field.

Indian cinema is in certain ways different from Western cinema. This is primarily seen in the length of the film, which may be anything from three to four hours. Music and dance are key features of Indian cinema. A devotion to family is a crucial element of the subject matter of the films. The budget for an Indian feature film is usually low cost compared to Hollywood, with estimates that a major Hindi film has a lower budget than that of a Hollywood trailer.

Hindi films are often set as escapist epics. Although there are trends to include social issues and to reach a diverse broader audience, the predominant theme has been of an escapist nature. Bachchan has commented that Indian films are made for India, "for that common man who lives in substandard conditions, who is unable to have the kind of money that would enable him to live a comfortable life. At the end of his hard day's work he wants to come and escape into a world of fantasy, which is what he finds in a Hindi film. So we need to look after him."

In the new millennium, Indian cinema is addressing changes that need to take place. At the same time, however, there is immense pride in the values surrounding family and culture, and there is an intention to ensure that the art reflects this.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema
Tejaswini Ganti.
Routledge, 2004
Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film
Jigna Desai.
Routledge, 2004
The Cinematic Imagination: Indian Popular Films as Social History
Jyotika Virdi.
Rutgers University Press, 2003
Bollywood
Ninian, Alex.
Contemporary Review, Vol. 283, No. 1653, October 2003
Rethinking Third Cinema
Anthony R. Guneratne; Wimal Dissanayake.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Rethinking Indian Popular Cinema: Towards Newer Frames of Understanding"
Framing the Feminine: Diasporic Readings of Gender in Popular Indian Cinema
Ram, Anjali.
Women's Studies in Communication, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 2002
Culture and Global Change
Tracey Skelton; Tim Allen.
Routledge, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 24 "Bollywood versus Hollywood: Battle of the Dream Factories"
The Media of Diaspora
Karim H. Karim.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Nation, Nostalgia and Bollywood: In the Tracks of a Twice-Displaced Community"
Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies
Matthew Tinkcom; Amy Villarejo.
Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Queer Bollywood, or 'I'm the Player, You're the Naive One': Patterns of Sexual Subversion in Recent Indian Popular Cinema"
Shakespeare, the Movie II: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, Video, and Dvd
Richard Burt; Lynda E. Boose.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "Shakespeare and Asia in Postdiasporic Cinemas: Spin-Offs and Citations of the Plays from Bollywood to Hollywood"
Cinema and Nation
Mette Hjort; Scott Mackenzie.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Fragmenting the Nation: Images of Terrorism in Indian Popular Cinema"
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