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How Bollywood is Gaining Global Popularity


By Arindam Bhunia

“Life and death is in the hands of God. You can’t change it ..we all are puppets of the theatre whose string is tied in the fingers of God.. when, who, how someone will die …no one can tell that. So my friend life should be big not long…”

No, it is not an inspirational quote by any famous personality, these lines are dialogues from the very popular Bollywood movie Anand. Generally films or movies are considered to be an important art form and mostly a source of popular entertainment. But Bollywood movies especially in India are not only a well received source of entertainment but also a powerful medium for educating or indoctrinating the citizens, for whom Hindi movies are larger than life and mythical. And I think I did a mistake, not only in India, Bollywood movies have seized the hearts of the people of other countries too. So this edition of Cult Critic we will show you how Bollywood movies are progressing in its popularity throughout the world.

From the glitziest of entertainment to the sparest of intellectual abstraction, from lavish spectacle to minimalist poetry, issues of gender, issues of politics, poverty, Bollywood movies encompass them all. Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world in terms of the number of people employed and the number of films produced. In the year 1913 the great Dadasaheb Phalke made the first silent feature film in India ‘Raja Harischandra’. And in 1931 the first Indian sound film, Ardeshir Irani’s “Alam Ara” was a major commercial success. That was the beginning of world’s one of the most eminent and booming film industry. Historically, the film industry in India has grown at a CAGR of over 10%. Currently, the film industry grosses total revenue of INR 138 billion ($2.1 billion). Going forward, the industry is expected to grow at 11.5% year-on year reaching total gross realization of INR 238 billion ($3.7 billion) by 2020.

Indian film industry is dominated by Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, contributing 43% of the revenue while regional and international films contribute the remaining 50% and 7% respectively. Within the regional film industry, Tamil and Telugu are the largest segments comprising approximately 36% of net box office revenues followed by Bengali, Kannada, and Malayalam films. Currently, international films is a small, but growing segment, driven by rising numbers of English and other foreign language speakers, as well as rising numbers of international movies witnessing dubbed releases across the country.


During the 1940’s cinema in Bollywood accounted for nearly half of India’s cinema halls which had grown to 85% of all film revenues in India as of 2016. Indian films have been screened in markets around the world since the early 20th century. As of 2003, there are markets in over 90 countries where films from India are screened. During the first decade of the 21st century, there was a steady rise in the ticket price, a tripling in the number of theatres and an increase in the number of prints of a film being released, which led to a large increase in the box office collections. Here’s a compilation of Bollywood films since 1990 that have made a great business worldwide.

The domestic box office contributes to the majority of the revenue, representing 74% of the total industry. Cable and satellite rights and online/ digital aggregation revenues are the fastest growing segments, and are expected to grow at a CAGR of about 15% over the period FY15 – FY20, driven by rising demand for movies on TV and increasing smartphone penetration across the country respectively.



Multiplexes have witnessed significant growth across major Indian cities and continued penetration in smaller towns. Investments in multiplexes are mainly driven by improved per-ticket realization, rising urbanization, and growing disposable incomes. Multiplexes have shown a growth rate of 15% in Indian cities, increasing from 925 in 2009 to 2,100 in 2015. Over 2,000 single screen cinemas have been shut down or converted to multiplexes in the last year mainly due to greater cost of operations non-viability of running on a standalone basis and low occupancy rate. Going forward, the key multiplex operators such as PVR, Inox, Cinepolis, and Carnival Cinemas have aggressive expansion plans in the coming years.



Approximately 160,800 people are required by the film industry to produce 1,600 films in a year corresponding to a crew of 100-150 people per film. On the basis of an increase in the number of films expected to be released in the next few years, the resource requirement in the industry is expected to grow at 12% year on year reaching almost 250,000 by 2017. Majority of the resource requirement is for set crafts, acting and voice-over professionals and support staff.20 Although close to 200,000 people are employed by the film industry in India.



However, foreign filmmakers still have to face long convoluted procedures to obtain clearances and shooting permits. Currently, about 70 approvals and licences from as many as 30 authorities are required for shooting films in India. In 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Tourism and the MIB to promote Indian cinema under the ‘Incredible India’ campaign in international film festivals and larger global industry. Film treaties have been signed with 11 countries including UK, Spain, Germany, China, Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Poland, China, and, most recently, South Korea.



As the world has become a global village, the Indian film industry has reached out further to international audiences. Apart from regular screenings at major international film festivals, the overseas market contributes a sizable chunk to Bollywood’s box office collections. Bollywood has moved from the black and white silent films to 3D, but it continues to retain its basic essence – to thrill. Even as internet downloads and television continue to cannibalize the theatrical revenues of Indian films, the lure of the 35 mm is something else altogether. Mainstream Hindi films are now becoming more popular in the traditionally conservative Gulf countries at a time when Bollywood filmmakers are exploring overseas markets and eyeing NRI viewers.


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