The estimated value of the Indian media entertainment industry, according to PWC, is now around $10 billion US. And it is actually– well, that’s relatively small compared to Hollywood. But this figure is actually growing at a rate of– estimated rate of between 12% and 15% a year.
The increased cross-fertilisation of Bollywood in Hollywood now seems to be increasingly a reality. We have Indian conglomerates financing Hollywood studios and getting into development deals with major Hollywood stars– Hollywood, increasingly, turning to Bollywood movies for inspiration. So should Hollywood tremble?
What companies like Warner Brothers are doing internationally, I don’t think they fear India. I think more than anything, they want to be part of the growth story.
This isn’t the first time that a foreign country has gone into Hollywood and pumped money into it. In the 1980s, we had the Japanese electronics majors– Sony, Matsushita– buying up Columbia and Universal. In the 1990s, you had French utility companies and Canadian whiskey makers going in and buying studios. And then the ’00s now, you have India coming in. But you also have more of an invisible approach. You have the German production funds, as well, which put a lot of money into it. But unlike the previous French and Japanese, they do want to own the studio. They don’t want to have the right to the Paramount name, so it’s more of an invisible presence.
And what Reliance did in the partnership with Steven Spielberg, buying out the Dreamworks production offer from Paramount, is to establish a virtual studio in Hollywood.
And really, they want to engage with the biggest creative talents, directors, producers.
And what it comes down to is what Kal Patel from Best Buy yesterday talked about. Hollywood is all about relationships. So what Reliance and Big is buying here is not have their own little studio to play with. They’re buying relationships with the key talent, the key filmmakers, the key artists in Hollywood, and that way, establish long-term value.
And by the fact that they are building more of a virtual presence, a virtual studio, it doesn’t open them to as much exposure. But at the same time, they can reap the benefits, also, by going in and partnering with the talent, and not trying to bypass studios because what they don’t want to do is go in and try to alienate the studios.
If they don’t get involved, somebody else will take their ideas and redo it.
We sell over one million DVD players a month in India. A lot of time, buyers are the ones who are actually doing the test marketing for us, showing us where the consumers are, and what they want. You know? I really think that. They’re the entrepreneurs because they’re going out and showing us the opportunities where bureaucracies and big corporations don’t get to. So we have to find a way to find– to get them legitimate copies of our movies at the right price point.
About three years ago, I met up with Warner Brothers to start a conversation, discuss this script that we had, which had a country bumpkin from Chandni Chowk in Delhi who ends up being mistaken for a reincarnated Chinese kung-fu hero.
Speaking to Kunal a little bit about the experience of working in China, which I discovered was– you know, it took us about 18 months of many bureaucratic meetings, meeting with the China Film Corporation, and lots of lunches, and polite discussions with not knowing the language. The first word I learned was guanxi, which is all about the relationships you have.
I think any Hollywood studio is going to have a tough time going into India because there are certain ways of doing things.
I think the professor just talked about the economic distance and the cultural distance that might be a factor as well. Because ultimately, it’s an instinctive kind of job. You got to back people. It’s a very people-driven business. It’s all about relationships, you know, like, yesterday, mentioning. So it has to really come from that. So if that gets a little too bureaucratic and transaction-led, it’s not going to really, in the short term or medium, work.
That’s the most beautiful thing about our cinema. You know, Javed Akhtar, the writer, said, you know, you have these states in India– Rajasthan, Bihar, and Maharashtra, and these other states. Whether you are sitting in Bihar, or here in Cambridge, or Boston, there’s something that is magical about that that makes us feel we’re part of one community. And that’s really what we look for each time.