What is the biggest Bollywood-based movie of the last twelve months? Is it Jodhaa Akbar? Is it Singh is Kinng? Is it Ghajini? No, in fact, it’s Slumdog Millionaire which has so far taken almost twice as much at the box office as Ghajini and still counting.
So what does this mean for Bollywood? First and foremost, it should tell the big production companies that they live in a modern globalised world and by restricting their product to the sensibilities of the Indian market, they are drawing a ring around themselves and denying themselves the opportunity of making much more money worldwide. This should be an important consideration even within India where it is recognised that nine out of ten movies fail to make a profit at the box office.
The second thing it should tell Bollywood is that Indian talent can succeed in the world market with a more international script that meets the needs and aspirations of a young audience worldwide. Bollywood talent, both in front of and behind the camera, is often much more varied than in its bigger rival Hollywood.
Thirdly, Slumdog Millionaire tells us that romance – something that Bollywood does extremely well – has a worldwide audience as we’ve learned previously from the success of films such as Notting Hill and Love Actually. This is something that Hollywood is not actually very good at with its obsession with movies based on men in tight Lycra suits, violence and cynicism.
Finally, Slumdog tells us that a fusion of talents in a globalised movie marketplace can pay rich dividends and the Bollywood production houses should be looking more at scripts that invite both creative and technical partners from other film industries around the world.
With imagination, the future could look good, the future could look Bolly.