Cinema In General
Exciting times ahead for movie buffs
CHENNAI, APRIL 24 . Today's urban India appears to be fascinated by English language cinema, though this is confined to American films, not even British movies. Nonetheless, many Hollywood films come to India often a few weeks after their opening in the U.S. Rarely, are there simultaneous releases.
One of the most important distributing companies in India is Columbia Tristar, whose managing director, Uday Singh, was in Chennai the other day, and had a lot to say about English pictures.
Columbia has been the top distribution house in India for the past four years; in 2002, its share of the market rose to a high of 62 per cent. Usually, it has been 50 per cent, with firms such as Warner Brothers, Fox and the like sharing the other half.
What is more, Mr. Singh says, Columbia was the first to bring in movies like "Monsoon Wedding" and "Bend it like Beckham," a completely new "genre" as he calls it. ``We have had many firsts in this country, and I can even say that Columbia's role has been fairly impressive in India when compared with other places.''
However, unlike once-upon-a-time MGM or Fox that did own or run theatres, particularly in Kolkata and Mumbai, Columbia — or for that matter any other distribution company — has no plans of opening a chain of halls. "We have no interest in exhibition. We feel that it can be a conflicting interest. We want to sell our products to just about every screen. This is our strength. Let us say we have a multiplex on one side of a street. We may have another spanking new multiplex on the other side. We would like to show our films in both,'' Mr. Singh avers.
He says Columbia faces no hurdles as far as releases are concerned. It imports 40 movies a year. These include Sony and Disney works. Besides, Columbia also distributes Indian language films, Bengali, Punjabi and so on. More interestingly, English movies are dubbed in some Indian languages, and contrary to what one would have us believe, these vernacular versions are extremely popular in North India and semi-urban centres all over the nation. Cities such as Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Lucknow — to mention three — prefer dubbed films to original versions. People are not averse to watching a picture as long as they understand what they see. It is immaterial if a Sean Penn or a Meg Ryan lisp Hindi or Tamil.
And, there is no dearth of dubbing artists, because India is "very dubbing friendly." After all, 90 per cent of the Indian movies follow the dubbing pattern and not on-the-set-sound-synchronisation system.
With works such as "Spiderman 2", "Hellboy", "Anaconda 2" and "The Village" (by Manoj Night Shyamalan) coming to India this year, it seems like exciting times not only for Columbia, but for Indian cinema buffs as well.
(This story appeared in The Hindu dated April 25 2004)