India’s biggest money-spinner film was a Tamil film—Sivaji, starring none other than the superstar Rajinikant. Of course, there is the fact that the Aamir Khan starrer Ghajini is a remake of a Tamil film.
Even at debated figures, Sivaji’s gross of over Rs 100 crore was unheard of for Indian films, leave alone any regional cinema. India’s status as the largest film industry in the world comes from the combined forces of 22 languages, including Hindi which released 1,146 films in 2007 (according to the Ficci Frames PwC E&Y report 2008).
Of the over 1,000 films, only 257 were Hindi with Telugu coming close with 241 and Tamil in third place with 149, Kannada with 111 and Marathi with 97. The figures changed to mostly lesser numbers for regional yet the order remains more or less the same. Even if Hindi films muscle in with more commerce making up approximately 45% of the total Rs 96 billion filmed market (apprx), the other 55% cannot be ignored. (via What regional film industry should expect in ’09?- Business of Bollywood-Features-The Economic Times).
A few interesting aspects: -
1. The English media in India and the Westernized Indians snidely refer to the Indian film industry as Bollywood (Mumbai), Tollywood (Telugu film industry) Mollywood (Madras, Malayalam) Kollywood (Kodambakkam, Kolkatta) – as one would refer a poor country cousin.
2. Fact is the Indian film industry is driven by a completely different idiom, ethos when compared to Hollywood. In fact, Indian film industry itself is actually about 4-5 centres of film making (for different languages) – spread all over the country. Each of these centres have different film styles. So, the Indian film industry owes nothing to Hollywood – and Indians have difficulty in believing that. Hollywood is singularly unsuccessful in India.
3. The State is possibly the biggest drag on this industry – which is weighed down by heavy taxes.
4. The Mumbai industry remains dominated after a 70 years, by Punjabis and Muslims. There is something about (their cultural mix which enables) this dominance.
5. Isolated international success and limited (international) distribution organization of the industry, has stopped this industry from competing in the world markets. The completely different idiom and the creative mix, will create its own separate market.
6. Till about 10 years ago, Indian film industry was considered too ‘infradig’ to be studied, analysed or even understood – by the academia. That is slowly changing. Some interesting books and writers have emerged in the last 1 decade.