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Bollywood: A Demon more seductive than Mahatma & more powerful than Indian Army?

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Forgive the analyst for adding “Mahatma” in the same line that mentions “demons”; Mahatma was a force for good, he was an unparalleled influence in Indian history, perhaps the world history- but writer borrows his reference to allude to the gigantic influence “Bollywood” exercises upon hearts and minds and other parts of the body. Urban legend defines a ‘Succubus’ as a form of vampire or demon that seduces its prey and feasts on the blood and soul of the victim. According to mythological references, it lays an irresistible trap and the prey falls head over heels for its predator. For our vulnerable jugulars, there have been many predators but none more lethal than Indian cinema.

Mahatma was a force for good, he was an unparalleled influence in Indian history, perhaps the world history- but writer borrows his reference to allude to the gigantic influence “Bollywood” exercises upon hearts and minds and other parts of the body

Bollywood and all 21 regional factions of Indian Cinema industry have been playing the demon for decades and it is only now that we realize the terror that is upon us, now that we’ve completely and willingly given in. It has seeped into our lives so vigorously, so deeply and so permanently, that it will take a lot of ‘Bol’s and ‘Khuda Ke Liye’s to create a strong enough deterrent.

The issues under scrutiny are threatening and problematic and that needs to be immediately countered. With the disadvantages that Pakistani cinema has had over the past few decades

There are dangers that need to be comprehended and damages that need to be undone. But we must first understand the entire picture; what exactly are the factors at play that are fueling and propelling Indian film industry’s outreach?

Read more: PEMRA and the fate of Indian shows

This Elephant is Mammoth: There’s the obnoxious size of that industry that needs to be understood. Catering to a billion people at home (read that again: that’s almost 20 percent of the world) and to almost another billion worldwide. Recently, with the highest grossing film of the Industry, Amir Khan’s “Dangal”, Bollywood played another card. Wizards of Bombay and Bandra released it into the wilderness of the Chinese market – creating deep impressions into “Yellow man’s heart”

Statistically, Dangal has overall earned $320 Million worldwide, out of which a staggering $190 Million was scored from China alone. That’s 40 percent of the world watching Amir Khan Wrestle with beautiful Fatima Sana. Bahubali 1 and 2 (That’s not even in Hindi!) collectively rounded $367 Million worldwide – registering the power of India’s regional cinema. Filmed in Tamil, the sequel was released in Malayam, Hindi and Telegu as well.

Pakistani film producers do not have that kind of capital, simple as that. Films are still considered a risky business and businessmen from other variants do not want to get into this

Shattering all box office records for Tamil cinema, the blockbuster stands at second place in highest grossing Indian films of all time. It is also expected to be released to an anxious audience in China; let’s see how the Chinese react and absorb the prehistoric Indian folk tales. This is how magicians use “narratives” to shape ideas of good and bad. It’ll be an interesting sight to see the Republic of China wearing ‘Bindiya’ and ‘Saari’ to eat noodle soup.

The Peril: If the paragraph above was too subtle; the Indian cinema has turned itself into a portal to access most of the world and feed the world a narrative that people all around will happily lay their hearts to, as long as it has the clichéd Indian folks singing and dancing to horrendous tunes (who are we to criticize; JPNA and Punjab Nahi Jaungi are set along similar fault lines). Not having a language barrier with the Eastern ex-wife has left us vulnerable to all sorts of visual media and soft narratives. Narratives that shape our ideas – without us realizing.

Read more: India bans movie “lipstick under my burkha”

Information warfare has never been this lethal and our enemy has never been at a better advantage.

The Pakistani cinema died a painful death in the dictatorship of General  Zia, the tug-of-war between Benazir and Nawaz Sharif in the 90s and the indecisive first few years of General Musharraf

Flawed Comparison: Yes, we have all heard stories about the golden era of Pakistani cinema and how the Pakistani film industry stole hearts in and across the border. That approach plays a key role in all of the problems we face today; we do not let our history go, be it glorious or gruesome. The Pakistani cinema died a painful death in the dictatorship of General  Zia, the tug-of-war between Benazir and Nawaz Sharif in the 90s and the indecisive first few years of General Musharraf – that whatever worth it was to begin with, in its tiny circumscribed market.

There was also the fact that Pakistani television established itself in most of the voids and left the Cinema struggling for breath. Shoaib Mansoor and the sorts have no doubt tried to step up and undo the damage but there are decades left to go. Here’s a small comparison sheet between the key elements of Indian and Pakistani Cinema:

Unit India (Bollywood) Pakistan
Revenue $5.8 Bn (2015) $9M (2015)
No of Screens 12,000 319
Cinema Adms. 190,000,000 30,00,000
No of films 1600 per year 27 (2016)
Highest grossing $320Million (Dangal) $4.9M (Jawani Phir Nai Ani)
Multiplexes 1260 73
Regional Industries 21 5

The chart is self-explanatory of the key issues in the ant-elephant comparison but there’s another demon at large here; investments. Bahubali 2, which is still running in theatres, had a production cost of $38 Million, which is more than the collective box office revenue of all the Pakistani movies of the year. Pakistani film producers do not have that kind of capital, or fraction of that market, simple as that. Films are still considered a risky business and businessmen from other variants do not want to get into this.

Read more: Pakistani Cinema’s Future: Issues beyond Raees, Mahira & Shahrukh Khan

Statistically, Dangal has overall earned $320Million worldwide, out of which a staggering $190Million was scored from China alone. That’s 40 percent of the world watching Amir Khan Wrestle

The government has called upon film producers and stake holders multiple times in the recent past to address issues such as production equipment, import levies and censor board issues but there have not been concrete measures as of yet – a comprehensive overarching vision is needed. Pakistani cinema needs talent, ideas, finance, public policy support but above all it needs a “bigger market” – how to develop it is a million dollar question.

The issues cropping up are threatening and problematic – if these adjectives do justice with the challenge. With the disadvantages that Pakistani cinema faces, it will be a long haul, but with emerging talent and an acceptance towards soft narratives; we’re hopeful. We need understanding and vision to begin with.