Bol­ly­wood a block­buster away from go­ing global: Bu­tala

The China Post - - ARTS -

One of Bol­ly­wood’s most suc­cess­ful pro­duc­ers be­lieves the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of In­dian film­mak­ers is set to con­quer the world — by mov­ing be­yond the tra­di­tional song and dance for­mat.

“In­dia is still to find its “Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon” but it’s only a mat­ter of time,” said Amar Bu­tala, the pro­ducer be­hind the smash hit “Ba­jrangi Bhai­jaan,” the sec­ond-high­est gross­ing Bol­ly­wood film of all time.

The Chi­nese-lan­guage mar­tial arts epic “Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon” di­rected by Tai­wan’s Ang Lee was a hit when it was re­leased in 2000, go­ing on to win the Os­car for best for­eign lan­guage film.

It col­lected an es­ti­mated US$128 mil­lion from the in­ter­na­tional box of­fice, still a record for a non-English lan­guage film and more than dou­ble the sec­ond-high­est all-time earner, “My Beau­ti­ful Life” (1998) from Italy.

“As younger film­mak­ers in Bol- ly­wood change the way our films are made — whether it be the sto­ries we tell or the use of song and dance — in the com­ing years we’ll see more and more Bol­ly­wood films reach out to the in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence,” said Bu­tala.

He was speak­ing to AFP be­fore the screen­ing of “Ba­jrangi Bhai­jaan” at the 20th Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (BIFF), the pre­em­i­nent event of its kind in Asia.

The film has taken an es­ti­mated US$91 mil­lion glob­ally so far — plac­ing it sec­ond only to the 2014-re­leased com­edy “PK” (US$114 mil­lion) — and it fol­lows the re­la­tion­ship that builds be­tween an In­dian man and a Pak­istani girl trapped in In­dia.

BIFF kicked off Thurs­day with the world pre­miere of Mozez Singh’s “Zubaan,” the first time a Bol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion has opened the fes­ti­val.

Singh’s de­but is a com­ing-of-age story about a young man who uses mu­sic to learn lessons about mod­ern life. Other Bol­ly­wood films on the pro­gram here in­clude two pro­duc­tions tap­ping into the in­dus­try’s tra­di­tions — and star-crossed lovers — in “Masaan,” an award win­ner at this year’s Cannes fes­ti­val, and “O Kad­hal Kanmani.”

The fes­ti­val is also show­cas­ing the ris­ing stars from In­dia’s film in­dus­try be­yond Bol­ly­wood and Hindi-lan­guage movies.

In­de­pen­dent film­maker’s Hari Viswanath’s de­but “Ra­dio Set” — about an old man alien­ated from his chil­dren — is in the run­ning for Bu­san’s main New Cur­rents award for first and sec­ond-time Asian film­mak­ers while the As­same­se­lan­guage “Kothanodi,” looks at the trial and tribu­la­tions of four moth­ers, also makes its world pre­miere.

Bu­tala be­lieves the suc­cess of his film — di­rected by Kabir Khan and star­ring cur­rent In­dian box of­fice king Sal­man Khan — has been down to its pos­i­tive mes­sage, and that In­dian film­mak­ers as a whole are now ex­plor­ing a wider reach of top­ics, re­moved from the ro­mances nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with Bol­ly­wood.

“Ba­jrangi Bhai­jaan” is an in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive film,” said Bu­tala. “It’s rare for a film to take such a bal­anced view of both In­dia and Pak­istan, with­out tak­ing any sides. This touched an emo­tional chord.”

While there are more than 1,000 films pro­duced across In­dian ev­ery year, mak­ing it by far the world’s most ac­tive film­mak­ing na­tion, out­side the coun­try these films have only pre­vi­ously been watched by the In­dian di­as­pora, ac­cord­ing to Bu­tala. But he be­lieves times are rapidly chang­ing.

“Film­mak­ers in In­dia like ev­ery­where in the world want their films to travel, to reach out to even larger au­di­ences,” said Bu­tala. “A main­stream Hindi lan­guage film is yet to suc­cess­fully make that gi­ant leap. But I think the op­por­tu­nity to do this is ripe.”

There are 16 In­dian films among the 304 pro­duc­tions screen­ing at this year’s BIFF, which will run un­til Oct. 10.

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