Indian Cinema: On the cusp of dramatic growth

The Indian movie industry is a gargantuan entity. From its multiple production centres and in 20-odd languages, it produces nearly 2,000 films a year – more than the output of China and the US counted together. In 2015, 1910 million movie tickets were sold in India. Compare that with the United States (1268 million) and China (830 million) and it becomes clear that in the game of statistics the world’s most prolific film-producing nation occupies pole position. In hard cash terms, however, the Indian entertainment industry has some way to go before it can catch up with the US and China.

Mumbai, the metropolis in western India that is the hub of the pan-Indian Hindi-language cinema, accounts for around 40 per cent of the industry’s box-office revenues. Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata, Guwahati and Bhubaneshwar, which produce what are described (for the sake of convenience) as regional films, mop up the remaining 60 per cent.

Over the past few years, the concept of the pan-Indian film has expanded to include features made in the south of the country, especially in Chennai, the Tamil cinema headquarters, and Hyderabad, which produces Telugu films. Rajinikanth, a Tamil movie megastar whose appeal transcends geographical boundaries, commands a nationwide following. Every film starring Rajinikanth is an ‘event’ for his fans: his upcoming film, 2.0, a sequel to the 2010 sci-fi actioner Enthiran, is no exception.

The recent Bahubali 2: The Conclusion, a follow-up to 2015’s Bahubali: The Beginning, has given the Telugu movie industry a huge fillip and signaled a dramatic shift of some of the power away from Mumbai. The film, dubbed into Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam, is a mammoth hit. For a while it had the distinction of being the biggest ever box-0ffice grosser in the history of Indian cinema until it was eclipsed by the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal, which tasted unprecedented success in China. Two previous two Aamir Khan releases, 3 Idiots (2009) and PK (2014), also played in China and enjoyed a degree a success. But Dangal, the story of an ageing wrestler who grooms his two daughters to become champions in the sport, has scripted a rousing new chapter.

By all reckoning, the national big box-office powerhouses are in Mumbai – Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan. A barely known Prabhas, who plays the eponymous hero in Bahubali, has taken everyone by surprise by breaking into the big league once reserved for the Bollywood royalty and the one and only Rajinikanth. So the Indian cinema scene is changing, especially at the top of the heap. But there are problems galore in seeking to power the industry by the means of the sheer box-office clout of a handful of stars and the razzle-dazzle of computer generated imagery. Content often tends to take a backseat in such a scenario.

These are exciting times indeed for epic-sca