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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

China cinemas to reopen to Indian films

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Recently, China has accepted two Hindi films for theatrical exhibition in the country. And, is in the process of acquiring a South Indian film. This is not the first time that China has started screening Indian movies. China had started regular imports of Indian movies, albeit with a limit on the number of films per year.
When one talks of China, the unpredictability always needs to be considered. The imports were stopped for whatever reasons for the last two years. With countries such as Pakistan and China, you can never predict. Since the Balakot air strikes, for instance, Pakistan has stopped importing Hindi movies. Whenever there is a tiff between the two nations, India and Pakistan, the first victims are always films. But guess who the loser is? It is the Pakistani exhibition trade, the cinema owners. Though they are improving now, content as well as technique wise, Pakistani films are no match to Hindi films, especially when it comes to popularity. Besides, only Pakistani films can’t feed the country’s cinemas for 52 weeks.
The fact that the Chinese had started importing Indian films came as a morale booster for our filmmakers. It was considered a kind of acknowledgement of the great popularity of our films.
The overseas circuit, as it was known in the film trade over the years, was considered as big as the Bombay circuit, as defined by the trade. Unknown to filmmakers, the overseas market was much bigger, but the producers had no way of knowing it. The trade was monopolised by one or two buyers and they had made sure it remained their market.
The filmmakers just felt happy that their overseas rights had been sold, for, as per the trade practice, a film’s profit margin came from one circuit and that was ‘Overseas’.
They never realised how lucrative the overseas market was, but even the staff and clerks working for the one or two distributors did. One after the other, they all left the parent company to start their own! Suddenly, there were a dozen or so buyers for the overseas rights of films. But the pioneers had minted gold while their monopoly lasted.
The overseas trade consisted of the traditional market, which extended to mainly the African countries, where a huge Indian diaspora had settled, UK, Middle East, South East Asia and smaller countries such as Fiji, Mauritius and such. Even South America was a sizeable market.
Then there was the non-traditional market. It consisted of European countries, mainly the Eastern Bloc. Mostly, these countries released just one or two Indian films a year, because their people’s exposure to foreign films was limited to what their national governments approved.
In this market, the one country that appreciated our films the most was the USSR, or the Soviet Union, as it was called before its disintegration. Earlier, Raj Kapoor and, later, Mithun Chakraborty, were the heartthrobs there. In exchange, of course, we had to accept the Russian propaganda films that never attracted footfalls. That was government diplomacy and had nothing to do with the Indian film industry.
The US and Canada were slated to become a major market for Hindi films 1970s onwards following Ugandan despot Idi Amin throwing out the Indian families who had settled in these countries, besides England and other Commonwealth nations, being British passport holders. Almost at the same time, a lot of Indians were migrating to the US and Canada, some seeking higher education and then staying back.
Today, the Indian diaspora in the US accounts for more than 40 lakh people, besides having spread all over the world. The Indian films have been making the most of it ever since. Till the 1970s, Indians abroad loved mainly desi-themed films. Mostly, romances with melodious music. Generally, the feel-good films. That was their nostalgia trip. They were still old-fashioned, living with the same values they had left India with. Their communications with home were limited and travelling back was never on the cards and, if it ever was, it was via long ship voyages.
They loved Rajesh Khanna films the most and kept doing so till long after Amitabh Bachchan had displaced him. Khanna’s films were what they identified with because of romance and music. Action and other stuff was available in Hollywood films in plenty!
Now, of course, the scene has changed. With a huge young Indian population working in the U.S. and other countries, a lot of them from the South of India, the preference is mostly for youth-oriented films. IANS

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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