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Bollywood vs. Hollywood: Have Indian stars finally made their mark in Hollywood?

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By Vikarm Barhat

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra has plenty of experience of red carpets but this weekend was different. Rather than the usual gala premieres, she posed for hundreds of flashing cameras outside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood before presenting a golden statuette to Margaret Sixel, Best Film Editing for Mad Max: Fury Road at the 2016 Oscars.

For many, her presence at this glittering event, officially announced the arrival of Indian actors in the Hollywood big leagues. But it’s been a long time coming.

Diversity was the hot topic before and at this year’s Academy Awards. Director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith boycotted the ceremony over lack of diversity among nominees, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. And while Indian actors or actresses have yet to win at the Oscars, their rise in American films and Hollywood overall can’t be overlooked.

Presenting an award at the Oscars is an honor reserved for the select few. It comes hot on the heels of Chopra, 33, becoming the first Indian ever to win a People’s Choice Award for her role in US television show Quantico for which she was reportedly paid $4m. Chopra will also star alongside Hollywood heavyweight Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in the much-anticipated Baywatch movie.

Over the last decade as Hollywood film storylines and cast have become more diverse, career opportunities are finally opening up to this wider pool of talent. As Hollywood casts its net wider India’s talent is benefiting but how well are they being paid?
Eye on the profit pie

Hollywood’s motivation for this crossover into India’s film royalty is partly a shrewd business calculation by film studios and distributors.

“It’s always about the money” said Suhel Seth, managing partner at consultancy firm Counselage India who is also an occasional actor with cameos in several Bollywood blockbusters.

“As the Indian diaspora across the world gains more economic stature, there’s an urge for Hollywood producers and foreign studios to then also cater to that market.” US film companies see incorporating popular Indian actors and actresses into their productions as a significant opportunity to reach much bigger audiences in emerging markets.

India represents a vast market of English speakers and a huge untapped opportunity, said Mumbai-based Anirban Das Blah, founder of CAA KWAN, a talent management company that represents several Bollywood stars.

India’s own movie industry produces more than 1,000 films a year, and, together with television and media industries, is projected by KPMG to be worth $28.7bn by 2019. There’s a huge appetite for films in a country with more than a billion people, which analysts expect to mean more multiplex cinemas will be built and more Indians will start regularly viewing through digital media.

“In less than a decade the market could be anything from 20 times to 50 times its current size,” Das Blah said.
A growing demand amongst Indian moviegoers for cinema with less formulaic plots and more global themes is also driving change. “Both the context and the craft have altered to suit more diverse palates, which includes the American palate, the American studio palate,” Seth said.

Crossover stars from India are muscling their way in to an industry that has come under fire for being too white — a recent BBC report citing University of Southern California research on Hollywood’s “inclusion crisis” underlined the scale of the problem.

Leading the pack is actor Irrfan Khan, 49, who has done more than 100 films during his career, the bulk in Bollywood. He has also spent a decade working in American studio and TV productions. Khan rose to prominence in the US after playing a policeman in the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, which swept the Academy Awards in 2009 winning eight gold statuettes. His most recent outing was in the Universal Pictures- blockbuster, Jurassic World, which took in a record $511m at the box office in its opening week.

Khan and Chopra have opened the gate wider for younger Indian actors like Deepika Padukone, 30, to make their mark. Padukone has just bagged the lead in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, where she’s paired up with action film veteran, Vin Diesel.

Indian faces have become more visible on prime time TV too. Nimrat Kaur and Suraj Sharma (Homeland), Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory), and veteran Indian actor Anil Kapoor (24) have all appeared on shows that have been global hits, partly driven by the rise of binge-watching via streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

For many years, Hollywood seemed to hire Indian actors to portray stereotypical parts. Offensive caricatures were common as recently as the late 1990s. “Hollywood is like any other business that has to continue to grow, or be eaten up,” Khan said. “Television and films are flourishing industries in America and they keep looking for new markets.”

Before India, it was all about China, “so Hollywood was incorporating Chinese actors, location, and technicians,” said Khan.

Films like Slumdog Millionaire (2008) helped sell and showcase India to Hollywood heavyweights. “When India-centric films like The Namesake and Slumdog Millionaire came out, they became popular and changed everything,” said Khan. “The entire American entertainment industry started looking at India as a potential new market to explore, and started accepting more stories with the Indian backdrop.”

Big film houses like Fox and Paramount are attempting to offer variety and continue to look for new ground for their stories, said Khan, who stars alongside Tom Hanks in Inferno, due out later this year.

While they’re on the screen, fame and fortune in Hollywood still isn’t bringing in the millions for Indian arrivals. There’s a general consensus among film stars, agents and publicists that Indian actors are not as well paid as US or European actors for comparable work.

Khan, who earned just under $2m in 2015, according to Forbes, said leading Indian actors will make anything from $750,000 to $5m per film in Bollywood.

“For Hollywood films, I don’t get even one fourth of the fee I charge in India,” Khan said. “It’s only when you’re playing the lead in a Hollywood film and you command a wider world market [audience] that you’ll be paid big bucks.”

Seth said while the pay disparity is problematic, the exposure can pay off bigger for Bollywood stars crossing over to American film.  “What Indian actors also gain is a greater brand recognition, which helps them bolster their image and allows them to appeal to a wider international market,” he said.

India’s highest paid actresses Chopra and Padukone have powerful Hollywood agents who ensure their clients get casting calls for films with big names and budgets.

That has boosted their earning power in some instances. Chopra, who charges nearly $1m for her Bollywood projects, was reportedly paid $4m for her Quantico gig.

Big Bang Theory actor Kunal Ayyar, however, takes the salary prize. Born in Britain and raised in India, Ayyar was third on the Forbes list of World’s Highest-Paid TV Actors for 2015 with earnings that topped $20 million.

(This article originally appeared in www.theindependentbd.com)

 

 

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Know How The Content Providers Seem To Have Decided To Capture The Attention Of Masses

There are voices that the OTT content should come under CBFC certification. It is reported that at the CBFC, while the films from big makers are cleared out of turn so that they can meet their scheduled release dates, makers of smaller films have to wait a long time for that kind favour from the censors?

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Usually, the films with family entertainment, RomComs or mildly plausible action films work (Salman Khan types). The religious and saas bahu family themes have been hijacked by television channels. Pixabay

By Vinod Mirani

When a fad invades India, it does so in hordes. May it be mobile manufacturers, car makers, and so on and so forth. But, now, we have a line-up of streaming content providers. They enjoy an open, unhindered run on your small screens.

Usually, the films with family entertainment, RomComs or mildly plausible action films work (Salman Khan types). The religious and saas bahu family themes have been hijacked by television channels. Presently, though suddenly, we are now into this genre called nationalism/patriotism and biopics. But, that market is flooded and all future announcements for forthcoming films seem to be on patriotism and biopics! Not long before the law of diminishing returns takes over.

In fact, this week’s release, Romeo Akbar Walter, may prove to be an indicator to that considering the lukewarm reception the film has got. The thing is, those people who want to watch these films, they are mainly available in cinema halls. These films would not be as much fun on a small smartphone/tablet screen, also known as Over The Top (OTT).

The content providers seem to have decided to capture the attention as well as the initial eyeballs through a nonconventional way; providing content which is not available on cinema screens. That is to majorly deliver content that is morbid, gory, semi pornographic, drugs and all those things that are repulsive to a normal entertainment seeker and the family audience. Now this is the content designed for personal viewing with no one else watching over your shoulder!

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The CBFC does not work on precedents. Does not matter that a number of films, Hollywood as well as Indian with lengthier kissing scenes, have been passed with UA certificate! There is no consistency in policy. Pixabay

The target viewer is the youth and the purpose is to change their taste and preferences. Indian, Spanish, Mexican, all the content that I scanned through had gore, sex, and all that as common as well as the dominant factors. While providing such content, there are also some decent features but not enough yet.

But, how long can this trend last? There was an era when Malayalam films with a lot of titillation and suggestive sex were dubbed in Hindi language and, for the interior audience, interpolation was a regular practice as explicit sex scenes from porn films were added. They worked for a while but faded soon.

So, the issue is, while the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) makes all kinds of demands from a feature film producer before his/her film is approved for public exhibition, this morbid mobile OTT streaming goes unchecked! The CBFC, in fact, has become the moral guardian of the Indian moviegoer; one to check on its ethics and morals!

Pahlaj Nihalani, the recent past Chairman of the CBFC, asked to delete a kissing scene from a Bond film from some 15 seconds to six seconds. Isn’t that ridiculous considering that Nihalani in real life can’t finish a sentence without adding a couple of BCs and MCs no matter if women or kids are around! Is it possible that a single panel member of the examining committee of CBFC, who watches films to rate them, has never watched an illicit porn film? And, to think that these people think a film is kosher only for six seconds, not 15! Do this politically connected panel members really qualify to sit in judgement over what the people should watch? That has been an eternal debate.

The CBFC does not work on precedents. Does not matter that a number of films, Hollywood as well as Indian with lengthier kissing scenes, have been passed with UA certificate! There is no consistency in policy. As is the wont of Indians, a seat of authority robs them of logic. It is a high to be able to judge others, especially when in an official position. As a rule, this lot found fault with every film presented for clearing. For example, the examining committee suggested 14 cuts to a children-oriented film, Mr India, in 1980. I can quote numerous such examples.

But, the issue is about parity. That is to say, while almost all other mediums are free of a watchdog, why are films censored? Why not OTT content? Come to think of it, what does the ‘power’ that the CBFC panel members and the Chairman
amount to when a motely mob negates their certification and blocks a film? Padmaavat, Manikarnika and so many other examples.

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Also, considering every other so-called group or organization or a community can ignore CBFC clearance and block a film’s release, the Board means nothing. And, this despite the highest court order ages back that the CBFC is the ultimate authority on cinema content! Pixabay

Coming back to streaming content and films, how come the film, PM Narendra Modi, is denied even the courtesy of a screening for the examining committee yet while the streaming episodes on the same subject, Modi, are already on people’s mobiles? So, how is the CBFC and Censor Certificate relevant anymore when a biopic on a person is blocked indefinitely while the same subject OTT platform, Modi: Journey Of A Common Man, produced by Eros Now, has already started streaming?

There are voices that the OTT content should come under CBFC certification. It is reported that at the CBFC, while the films from big makers are cleared out of turn so that they can meet their scheduled release dates, makers of smaller films have to wait a long time for that kind favour from the censors? In that case, suppose OTT content had to pass through censors, what would be the scene? Would it be the Amazon and Netflix that will get priority or a score of others who apply? After all, big shots get priority! Imagine the chaos that can follow. A 30-minute episode can end up
being chopped off to 15 minutes and the second episode of a series may appear weeks after the previous one!

Also, considering every other so-called group or organization or a community can ignore CBFC clearance and block a film’s release, the Board means nothing. And, this despite the highest court order ages back that the CBFC is the ultimate authority on cinema content! Something needs to be set right in the Cinematograph Act. To start with, the word Digital Content, should be made part of the Act.

@The Box Office
*The latest release, a highly promoted film, Junglee, just about manages to stay afloat. With a meagre opening day collections of three crore, it managed a face-saving weekend of around 13 crore. The film had a tapering effect at the box office with the start of the new week and closed its first week with a total of over 19 crore.

*The other release of the week, Salman Khan’s production, Notebook, failed to make its mark. With an opening weekend of Rs 2.3 crore, it had a low opening week figures of Rs four crore.

Also Read: Cambodia Approves Hydropower Dam, Solar Energy Plant to Meet Electricity Demand

*Akshay Kumar carries Kesari on his popularity though a regional subject with a limited appeal, it collects Rs 19 crore for its second weekend and Rs 30 crore for its second week taking its two week tally to Rs 135 crore.

*Badla has collected Rs 5.3 crore in its fourth week to take its four week total to Rs 79.3 crore. (IANS)