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March 14, 2007

India Inc.

And you thought Hollywood had problems. As the GIO team prepares for tomorrow’s deep dive in Mumbai (a.k.a. Bollywood), the The Times of India published a full-page story today on the “corporatization” of the Hindi film industry. If you’re unfamiliar with Bollywood, check out yesterday’s blog entry.

Bollywood has many things in common with its Southern Californian cousin. But one thing it does not share with Hollywood is the economic refinement of the American model. Bollywood has, until recently, enjoyed rapid and unchecked popularity throughout much of the world. It has done this without the need to conduct audience research or launch extensive advertising campaigns, many of the things that American movie studios have done for decades to ensure the profitability of their films.

But Bollywood is starting to grow up, and that means it’s time to get serious about the business of making movies. Some sources estimate that 80 percent of Bollywood’s movies lose money (a figure that is disputed by many who claim the industry often fudges the books.)

There is a new infusion of corporate financing in to Hindi film industry. Not long ago, banks and other financial institutions were banned from funding the movie business here. But since the ban was lifted, the money has started to flow, and the expectations are being stepped up. Actors are expected to be punctual. Production costs are expected to be held to a minimum. Movie plots are expected to be original (in the past, many plots have been “borrowed” wholesale from American films.) And comprehensive marketing plans are expected to be in place before a movie comes to market. That includes in-film advertising and product placements.

There’s some talk over here about this new “Corporate Bollywood” impeding the creative process. But most people see this as a natural maturation of the business. And a good way for the industry to expand globally. 

In other news, we had a fantastic Indian dinner last night with deep dive participants in the Grand Hyatt Mumbai. Flowers, candles, and local fare (even some of the famous Mumbai street food!) The conversation was lively and topical, all of which bodes well for today’s deep dive.

March 14, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink


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Bollywood may have imitated Hollywood and more to the point the music culture of the west i.e. who cannot forget Shammi Kapoor's Elvis look or his beehive actresses. Shammi continues to be my favourite Indian actor because he wasn't Elvis, he was Shammi. Such copycat deference to the West (beyond the occasional Shammi Kapoor or his contemporary Shahrukh Khan) is still prevalent today.

The New India that is emerging as a consumer society however IMHO cannot imitate Western resource usage - if America consumed 25% of global resources with a quarter of India's population, a fully loaded consumer society in India is a mind-boggling proposition (never to mind the competing interest but very differently culturally defined place called China).

So as far as I am concerned originality and innovation are the incorruptible realities of the modern era and it will be interesting to see how modern India (as well as modern China) deal with this. What both of these countries do have going for them is a rich culture that extends 7000 years rather than the 70 years of the consumer society.

Neither India or China does not have to forgo the consumerism of the last 70 years but to foist a media that erases consciousness of heritage would not be a smart thing to do, if anything it can only excite nationalism rather than intelligence. If such ignition strikes then there is simply a continuation of the past and innovation will still be in reality imitation dressed up as new ideas and new ways.

Innovation benefits from the knowledge that there is nothing new under the sun and that innovation isn't a concept but an observable reality. The new in innovation is light not media or product. What sheds light on the future is innovation, what takes it away is imitation. What I write here is for personal innovation not for public consumption, consumption is a form of sacrifice not an innovation.

It is individuality will be a refreshing experience for any tribal culture and neither the West or the East have ever fostered true individuality (which is a humility of no name and no identity). So we move from the era of the tribe and the slave to the era of the free man. Which of these countries will lead that pathway to freedom remains to be seen but this is why innovation reigns supreme, without it there is no pathway.


This post is explorative thinking:

Posted by: Syven | Mar 17, 2007 11:28:30 AM

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