The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) kicks off in just a few days. So now’s the perfect time to get up to speed on your Indian cinema knowledge, as well as the drama, action, song, dance and history that comes along with it!
1. The Indian film industry is the largest in the world
The Indian film industry is huge, in fact the biggest in the world. As of 2013, India ranked first in terms of annual film output followed by Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry believe it or not), Hollywood and China. According to the Film Censor Board in India, India produced 1,602 films in 2012 and sold approximately 2.6 billion movie tickets in the same year. That’s approximately 114 movie tickets per person in Australia!
2. Indian cinema had its 100th birthday a couple of years ago
In 2013, Indian cinema became a century old. The first ever full length Indian feature film was Raja Harishchandra, a silent film which was an adaptation of Sanskrit epics, released in 1913. While the inter-titles of the film were in Hindi and English, the cast and production team were Marathi and therefore was considered the first Marathi film. Only one print of the film was initially made and shown at the Coronation Cinematograph.
Raja Harishchandra, and Indian cinema’s 100th birthday, was celebrated at the IFFM two years ago with a screening of the 2009 Marathi film Harishchandra Factory, depicting the struggles Dadasaheb Phalke faced in making the film in 1913.
3. There’s more to Indian cinema than Bollywood!
Bollywood is the name given to the Hindi language blockbuster film industry that finds its spiritual home in Mumbai. If you have only tickled the surface of Indian film watching, then you might have come across images or names associated primarily with Bollywood (think Khan, Khan, Bachan and Khan).
In fact, the Indian film industry consists of a multitude of regional film industries each in a different language. The most prominent of these are Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada. While all of the film industries share some common aspects of dancing, sometimes outlandish costumes and ‘dishum-dishum’ action, each also has its own nuances unique to the region the films represent.
If you are intrigued to learn more about the non-Bollywood component of Indian cinema, be sure to check out the Beyond Bollywood program of the IFFM.
4. Not every Indian film comes with a lot of masala (spice)!
While it is the singing and dancing of Bollywood films that often first engages the attention of Western audiences, India is just as well known for producing art house or ‘parallel cinema’ as it is often referred to. These films provide a more realistic portrayal of life in India or issues affecting the Indian population or diaspora. Films such as Salaam Bombay, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Dil Se and Deepa Mehta’s Elements trilogy have shown that amongst the fanfare of Indian cinema, beautiful meritorious stories can also triumph.
5. But if you’re into spicy things, then there’s plenty of it…
If you’re not so much into the serious stuff, then don’t worry because the reputation Indian films have for dancing and singing around trees, extreme action sequences and a healthy dose of melodrama is rightly earned. This masala factor of Indian films in part was developed to entertain the entire family with some aspect of the film designed to cater for a fan of every genre – the aunty that loves romance, the uncle who loves comedy, the cousin who wants to practice their latest moves at every song and the teenage boy who just wants to see a whole lot of fast cars and motorbikes.
Now this often contradictory melting pot of emotions and tonal shifts is what continues to captivate the local and western audience. The ability to watch a film that marries comedy, drama, action and musical in often equal parts.