BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Talking Point: South Asian Debates  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 8 November, 2002, 17:05 GMT
Has South Asian cinema lost touch with its roots?
The London Film Festival opens on Wednesday with a strong contingent of South Asian films on the bill.

This comes at a time when South Asian films are becoming increasingly popular among cinema goers worldwide.

The widely acclaimed Lagaan was a contender for an Oscar last year and the industry is hoping that the Bollywood blockbuster Devdas will make the Academy Award shortlist this year.

But in spite of the international success audiences at home have stayed away.

A survey carried out last week estimates that the Bollywood film industry has lost more than thirty million dollars since the start of this year as release after release has flopped.

So where does the future of South Asian cinema lie? Has the time come for smaller independent filmmakers to make their mark?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

If the movies had half the quality in script and music and artistic capabilities of the "stars" as the ones of the past in the era of Sanjeev Kumar and Nargis or even the ever green "Dev Anand", or to go further back to Dileep Kumar et. al. our movie industry, with today's technology and marketing could dominate the world. People love fairytales, but not as blatantly weird as the ones they show now. Bollywood needs to reassess and bring on a new face.
Miriyam, New Zealand

Bollywood scriptwriters and directors lack originality

Rohan, India
Bollywood scriptwriters and directors lack originality, which is obvious from one flop after another in the recent past. Just to keep up with the quantity of the production the writers, producers and directors are producing movies and songs which are remake movies and remixes of songs from the generation past. Same with the Hollywood they started producing remakes of old movies. The same stories are being told for younger audiences with newer technology which was not available a half a century ago.
Rohan, India

Indian films, had a specialty, that is taking the audience into a dream world. Not many in the audience want to see the hardships of a rickshaw walla or a single mother! That's the Indian masses for you. The unfortunate thing is the dream world suddenly expanded. The dreams have taken international flavour. The producers have suddenly forgotten from Kashmir to Kanyakumari we have so much untapped beauty within our own country, but they have to shoot their movies abroad. Can still live with this. But, the film wallahs promoting their own offspring! Still ok. But now these offspring lack the discipline or exposure to real world the previous hard working film wallahs had. They demand astronomical sums with minimum talents.
Lakshmi, USA

With the level of piracy film industries are facing world wide, it is no surprise that movie grosses are down.
Fawad Arain, Pakistan

Bollywood in the near future will lose touch with its roots for sure. There has never been a good Bollywood movie and there never will be. The only reason that it managed to survive is because it had a monopolistic hold on the Indian movie market. But now with the digital age and the internet, you'll see a lot more small time movie makers come up and destroy Bollywood.
Shankar, USA/India

What Bollywood needs to do is to make films with quality scripts. The boy meets girl, two kids - one police man the other gangster reunited, needs to be improved. India can progress further if Bollywood stops churning out films that do not show true reality. Where in the world would you see an actress and actor singing a dance routine, one moment in America and then in France in front of curious onlookers?
Sanjay Khosla, London, UK

We've seen a few attempts to make Bollywood more 'international' - such as 'Monsoon Wedding'. But the fact remains that Bollywood has a stagnant clientele, which consists of local residents and the large Indian diaspora. Frankly, how many foreigners would go to see a 3-hour long film on a dipsomaniac in the middle of a love triangle? If the industry is to be made truly international, the content of the movies would have to change so as to cater to foreign tastes, without imitating Hollywood. And I think even the directors are growing increasingly aware of that.
Akhil, India

I'm glad people have stopped watching most of the nonsense. It is only when customers demand quality will they get it.
Sudarshan, USA

It is on the right path to earn its name in a culturally seamless world.

H. Singh, USA
Bollywood had been a great success story. Imagine a third world country having such huge audience from Singapore to Russia to remote parts of Africa. Its attempt to attract mainstream western audience may have briefly alienated the its home based fans, but judged from its past success I believe it is on the right path to earn its name in a culturally seamless world. Good luck Bollywood you are simply the best!
H. Singh, USA

Bollywood has and always will remain an illusion for cinemagoers looking for retreat - it is escapism at its most gaudy and far-fetched best. But this constant attempt to ape the West has done more harm than good, and it is here where Bollywood Men-Who-Matter should realize that sticking to simplicity works best. Leaving the escapist "mass-targeted" films aside, take a look at movies like Roja, Dil Se, Lagaan - they were simple, had simple stories, and touched some nerve with the audience. They were humanistic. You need movies like that if you want to cater to the elite class, the growing educated, informed, techno-savvy crowd. But if you just want to be entertained, sit back and catch a Govinda flick - I assure you, the roots are still there.
Jamie Alter, USA

Bollywood should learn to create originality. It has been copying Hollywood from quite a long time. There were movies like Bombay and others which are popular had retained the originality of India. I wish to see more of those movies than action movies which is just a bad copy of Hollywood movies.

Bollywood has to move away from the mass production mentality and focus on quality. The success of a film like Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai both in India and abroad goes to show that quality sells. Bollywood directors and producers - please strive not to insult the intelligence of the masses. The masses have evolved and expect more from you.
Amrita, USA

People are tired of the falseness of those repetitive images

Kanu, India
Bollywood is selling dreams to the Indian masses, and over-the-top idealism to the West. Shooting in the West, and showing lavish spectacles of wealth and grandeur, they are appealing to an audience they assume does not want to deal with facts, and they are failing because people are tired of the falseness of those repetitive images.
Kanu, India

Mainstream Indian cinema was and is never in touch with its roots. It creates a fantasy world into which the viewers could escape into, away from their real life problems. Films that portrayed stories in touch with the real world, usually called art movies, would appeal only to a few people and most of them Elite Indians - with the rest being foreigners. Now a lot of Indian yuppies living abroad, having been exposed to quality products in all walks of life, expect the same from their cinema too. And the Indian film industry is responding, with new themes. The Lagaan theme, though not entirely new, is well packaged to appeal to anyone in the world, while still allowing people on the sub-continent to identify with the movie. However most of the movies are still out of touch with the roots as they always have been. More so in Music, Fashion and Language, where MTV influence has taken its toll. This is how change comes, and it is inevitable.
Mani, USA

A love story sells in any language, anytime, anywhere. Ditto Boy-makes-good stories, the impossible quest, the whodunit, and everybody enjoys a comedy (though what is funny varies from culture to culture). Why would successful Bollywood want to kill its home audience? Bollywood films are not shown in America, except in a very few cities with large Indian populations. They may get awards, but they'll lose money.
Kathy Willsea, USA

It is the Indian market that will remain loyal

Peter, Australia
Bollywood must concentrate on its internal market before worrying about international success. Popularity may be increasing abroad, but it is the Indian market that will remain loyal. Perhaps this will force Bollywood to revaluate its films and improve
Peter, Australia

Bollywood has definitely lost its roots. There is a craze in the Bollywood establishment to emulate everything Western in nature and image. Such aping is a recipe for failure because the majority of audiences in India haven't changed much in terms of how they perceive Indian culture. Bollywood directors/producers definitely need to rethink the way they create their movies and not use the same old stories they have used for ages, but at the same time they have to realise that blindly aping Western style movies to get a few claps from Western audiences is not really going to gain Bollywood many admirers
Nitish Dass, USA

When I watch Bollywood movies I am amazed to see the villages, people and situations in the movie. They all are superficial and fake. The movies don't show real life.
Virendra Pratap Singh, India

They need to make movies that apply to us, not our parents

Ron Deb, USA
The future of South Asian cinema lies where the future money lies; second generation Indians abroad. They need to make movies that apply to us, not our parents. Movies like American Desi come to mind. Maybe it's time to step away from the Cinderella-Prince Charming (or vice-versa) storyline and try to reach a new more receptive public.
Ron Deb, USA

Bollywood is just beginning to explore new frontiers. With more exposure to international audiences and the success generated by such films as Laggan and Davdas, Bollywood will soon realise that quality films aimed at international audiences will be more profitable than the thousands for copycat themes produced for local audiences.
Hari, USA

Good productions and outstanding movies will sip through to the public

Igonikon Jack, USA
The challenges foreign motion-picture investors and entrepreneurs face is marketing power. Given time, good productions and outstanding movies will sip through to the public through the grapevine, media or theatres.
Igonikon Jack, USA

Bollywood has to come up with different stories. It cannot make hundreds of movies on the same story line.
Mooda Saein, USA

The exact same thing happened to the Australian film industry after the international success of such films as Gallipoli and the Road Warrior saga. They're selling their soul for what they imagine will be a perpetually receptive audience abroad when, in fact, the Bollywood craze has already crested here in the States.
Robert del Valle, USA

South Asia Debate
Listen here

In the lens



See also:

06 Nov 02 | Entertainment
21 Oct 02 | Business
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asian Debates stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asian Debates stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |