Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Musical telling the story of Indian films touring China

Old Indian films were widely screened in China in the late 1970s, and were said to be quite popular with its larger than life characters, and mixture of emotion, drama, colours, and song and dance. But subsequently, censorship and limited quota for foreign films reduced the flow of India films to China. Yet, it is quite common place to find VCDs and DVDs of new and old Indian films on the sidewalks of major Chinese cities. Presumably, these pirated copies of Indian films have sufficient viewership. Now there is a more concerted attempt to renew interest among Chinese audiences of Indian films and music. After successfully touring Europe and Australia, a new musical is being staged across 10 cities in China. The following item, "Musical rekindles China's Bollywood affair" appeared in The Hindu on 27 Sept 2009.

BEIJING: For the first time in decades, hundreds of theatregoers across China are swaying again to the beats of Bollywood.

In the biggest attempt yet to bring Bollywood to the Chinese public, the ‘Merchants of Bollywood,’ a musical that chronicles the film industry’s history, has been making its way across China’s interiors to rave reviews.

Billing itself as the first “authentic” Bollywood musical, it was conceived by Australian Tony Gough and choreographed by Mumbai-based Vaibhavi Merchant. The show has already travelled across Europe and Australia, but its current foray into 10 cities in China promises to be the most engaging, given the unique history of the country’s experience with Indian cinema.

Indian films from the 1950s were among the first foreign films to be shown in Communist China after the country’s “opening up” in the late 1970s, and were wildly popular. But subsequent Chinese censorship laws restricting the number of foreign films that could enter the country has seen the interest wane to what, at present, can best be described as mild curiosity among young Chinese and fading nostalgia in their parents’ generation.

The success of this musical could change all that. ‘Merchants’ is touring 10 cities, from remote Yantai in northern Shandong province to Beijing and Shanghai, and for the first time in decades is again providing Bollywood a mainstream platform in China.

“We are in an unchartered territory as the first ever Bollywood show in China,” the show’s Australian producer Mark Brady told The Hindu before the show’s Beijing debut on Friday. “More than in other markets, we were very curious to see how the Chinese public would react to it. And we have been amazed by the response. Even in small cities like Yantai [in Shandong province] and Wuhan, we have been getting standing ovations, which we are told is not common in Chinese theatres.” ... ... ...

Bollywood is the popular name for the primarily Hindi film industry in India, that is mainly based in the city of Bombay (now called Mumbai). Although Bollywood does not have a physical presence on any map, it was derived from the internationally renowned Hollywood, the base of the American film industry. Since the 1970s, more films are produced in Bollywood each year, than Hollywood. Today, in India, foreign films generate just about 5% of the revenues.

Having failed to lure the Indian audiences in any substantial way to their own productions, Hollywood has been trying to make its own attempt to make "Indian" films, for the past few years. Without much success so far. The New York Times had an article titled, "Can Hollywood make a Bollywood film? in 2007.

China too has a large film industry. Would be great to hear what our Chinese friends think of the possible reentry of Indian movies in to China.

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