Newsweek on Bollywood: 2000-2007

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Way back in 2000, when Bollywood meant little to American audiences, Newsweek did a feature trying to explain why they needed to pay attention. It was a deeply problematic piece, with the writers making a number of terrible assumptions – here’s an excerpt from that article:

The West have the biggest stalls in the world’s media bazaar, but it’s not the only player. Globalization isn’t merely another word for Americanization–and the recent expansion of the Indian entertainment industry proves it. For hundreds of millions of fans around the world, it is Bollywood–India’s film industry–not Hollywood, that spins their screen fantasies. Bollywood, based in Mumbai, has become a global industry. India’s entertainment moguls don’t merely target the billion South Asians, or desis, at home; they make slick movies, songs and TV shows for export. Attracted by a growing Indian middle class and a more welcoming investment environment, foreign companies are flocking to Bollywood, funding films and musicians. The foreign money is already helping India’s pop culture to reach even greater audiences. And it may have a benign side effect–cleaning up an Indian movie business long haunted by links to the underworld.

The “Indian” film industry isn’t just based in Mumbai. At the time, foreign companies weren’t exactly flocking to Mumbai, and as several others have pointed out, Newsweek’s assumptions about “clean” money are questionable.

Now, 7 years later, Newsweek has revisited Bollywood in an attempt to take stock of changes sweeping through the industry. “Hooray for Bollywood” focuses attention on Ronnie Screwvala, CEO of UTV Software Communications, as a way to map the “corporatization” of the industry.

Over the past five years Screwvala has led the transformation of India’s prolific but chaotic film industry…professionalizing the business, bringing in outside investors and accounting standards as well as aggressively marketing films with novel plots. His production company has cut the old three-and-a-half-hour marathons to between 90 and 120 minutes and has hired Hollywood scriptwriters to make its features more watchable.

Read the whole thing here. And while you’re at it, take a look at this video:

If things don’t work out well in Iowa over the next few weeks, Obama can call Ronnie Screwvala, no?

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2 Responses to “Newsweek on Bollywood: 2000-2007”

  1. Nina P Says:

    Screwvala. What a perfect name for someone in the movie business.

    has hired Hollywood scriptwriters to make its features more watchable

    Hollywood scriptwriters make features less watchable. Still, during the writer’s strike, they must be glad to know they can work for Screwvala.

  2. aswin Says:

    Nina – I agree, and it makes me uncomfortable to hear about scriptwriters from Hollywood. But I also wonder to what extent – I can imagine this just being a random comment from Screwvala and nothing more. And yes, the name is perfect :)

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