A Wood By Any Other Name
Recently, the acclaimed film director Anubhav Sinha announced on Twitter that he is resigning from Bollywood. He even added ‘Not Bollywood’ to his name. This sparked off quite the debate and sent Twitterati into a tizzy. Soon directors Sudhir Mishra and Hansal Mehta joined in the thread saying “It never existed in the first place.”
Anubhav Sinha later clarified that he is not part of Bollywood and but Hindi Film Industry. I found the entire Twitter exchange quite relevant and useful in today’s times, especially when the industry is being forced to look within, introspect and redefine its boundaries and definitions.
I am personally not a big fan of terms like Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood or Dhollywood. The problem with the portmanteau – borrowed from Hollywood which is an actual neighbourhood in Central Los Angeles is that they don’t do justice to the film industry.
India’s rich and varied talent comes from the Hindi film industry, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada and several other regional cinema schools that can’t be bracketed under a Hollywood-inspired “woods”. Tollywood sounds like a mockery of the great Bengal film industry. Which, by the way, was one of the first Hollywood-inspired nicknames of its kind coined in 1932 to refer to the great school of cinema in Tollygunge, West Bengal.
Not only does it sound silly, but it discredits the entire Indian film fraternity that has been in existence since 1913. But just like India’s diverse and rich culture, the regional cinema is a potpourri of flavours, each with its own unique history, narrative style and heritage. When an Assamese film such as Village Rockstars wins big time in the international film circuit, it is not Jollywood that wins but India and the Indian film industry.
Don’t we all take great collective pride in the classics like Pather Panchali or the new-age Bahubali? In fact, the production quality of many regional film industries is so sophisticated and evolved that it has a united, universal appeal – both in form and in its content.
Is it any wonder that a film like K.G.F gets a one-of-its-kind five language release in the country? K.G.F had a massive release across 2000 screens to include its Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi releases. Where Bahubali created an unprecedented interest in regional India films across international audiences K.G.F paved the way for multilingual releases. The learning? Let’s not focus on the ‘woody’ labels but creating great content, whether it is in Hindi or Bengali or Gujarati.
The minute you step away from the notion of Bollywood and think in terms of the Indian film industry, it removes our preconceived notions and biases and creates immense opportunities for our content whether it is theatrical or for OTT.
The worth of the Indian film industry was over 180 billion in 2019 and India has been the world’s largest producer of films since 2007. The growth projection is to reach up to 260 billion rupees by the fiscal year of 2024.
Our cinema has it all – amazing stories, a great audience, some fine directors and actors. We may be divided by language but we are united by our passion for cinema. For the Indian film industry to conquer new heights globally, we must do away with the biases first and the labels that stop us from growing.