Increasingly, filmmakers have discovered that there is big money to be made outside India, as Bollywood is on its way towards becoming a global brand with the success of films like Monsoon Wedding and Bend it like Beckham in the international arena. The panel for the session on 'Bollywood goes global' included names such as Karan Johar, Rachel Dwyer (Reader in Indian Studies and Cinema Department of South Asia), Ramesh Sippy, Anupam Sharma (Producer/Director) and Govind Nihalani.
For Bollywood, the domestic market vis-a-vis foreign shores is in the ratio of 70:30. After all the money that's poured into exotic locales and scenery, barely 5-10 per cent investment goes into marketing the film on foreign shores. Whereas, a healthy percentage would be in the region of 30-40.
Filmmaker Karan Johar said, "Through history, you can pick films that have the capacity to move you, but once in this generation, there are movies that work universally. Its been a long journey for Indian cinema, but you now have minds like AR Rahman, Ashutosh Gowarikar and Mira Nair who are successfully marketing the Hindi fare abroad. Bollywood films may have been dismissed as all song and dance at one time, but today, its precisely what works for us. The fact remains that a film is true to its native audience, it will make an impact with viewers irrespective of ethnicity. The minute you lose that unique selling point, it just wouldn't work."
Johar also pointed out that though many of the Hindi films are rich in content, adequate stress is not given on marketing them abroad. He states, "A film like Lagaan made it on the world map, on the merits of its plot and story-line…it did not have to do much marketing for itself. However, Dil Chahta Hain, despite its popularity in India did not find much of an audience abroad primarily because it was not distributed and marketed well enough."
Meanwhile, producer Govind Nihalani asserts that if Bollywood wants to make it as a global player, it will have to transform itself according to global standards of entertainment. He states, "It must be pointed out that we tend to be over-dramatic while doling out filmi content, and most of the melodrama is not easy to digest for the people outside. The values that our films stand for, and the song-dance sequences which are a product of folk narratives, cannot be understood by global audiences. In the battle for the audience pie, the best bet is going global. At the moment, we haven't even scratched the surface of the global market."
Nihalani added, "The questions that you need to ask is, how many films succeed in USA which are from ethic origin?" Inspite of so many Spanish settlers in the country, their films have not made much of a mark. The answer is in making certain adjustments in the narrative style and tailoring it for global audiences. And then promoting and distributing it in a professional way, perhaps with adequate support from organizations abroad."
Kacon Sethi, CEO, K Sera Sera said, "Lagaan's nomination for the Oscars has out India on the world map, the same is the case of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams which consists of Indian ingredients but was honored in Westend and Broadway. The Indian entertainment industry is currently pegged at US $ 53 billion, while the global entertainment industry is pegged at $ 300 billion. Bollywood turned global is seeing revenues of $2 billion, while Hollywood overseas fares as much as $60 billion. The difference is there for all to see. There is a need to follow global standards and procedures, as far as creating content goes…and we need to market films better in the overseas markets."
Meanwhile Filmmaker Ramesh Sippy said, "Bollywood is going global, and there is no denying that fact. Beyond the borders of India, there is a world that waits to be entertained. Hollywood has realized this, and has pushed itself assertively. In order to propel ourselves in overseas markets and seek the maximum benefits, we need to have good marketing techniques in place. It's not just about making a good product...it's about how to sell a good product. Few people paid attention to this till recently."
Earlier, all Bollywood films were targeted only at the domestic audience. Today filmmakers are taking extra care to ensure that films also appeal to the international audience, by increasingly opting for the NRI element.
However, the large consensus amongst the panel, was that song and dance films in addition to frothy romantic tales, work far better amongst international audiences as opposed to stark and real content.