Bollywood in Hollywood: Value Chains, Cultural Voices, and the Capacity to Aspire
39 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2020
Date Written: 2010
The Indian film industry provides an important case study for examining the rise of cultural expressions from the developing world and an interesting counterpoint to the analysis of global value chains that locate core coordination or production activities in the developed countries. The increasing importance of the Indian film industry globally both in terms of its revenues and its cultural impact is counter-intuitive despite its large size. India produces the highest number of films, over 1000 in 2009. It has a large domestic audience, over three billion tickets sold per year, providing a per capita consumption of nearly three films for every person in India. Nevertheless, the film industry in India historically consisted of family-run businesses or partnerships with precarious sources of financing, low budget films with predictable plots, and uneven distribution practices. The government of India did not recognize films as an industry until 2000. It is hardly the kind of case study to examine how sophisticated value chains from the South would begin to parallel or challenge those in the North. The growing success stories from Bollywood do not parallel the industries, especially from East Asia, touted for global success with a mix of government incentives, protectionism, and sophistication of the low-end product cycle that allowed these countries to utilize a mix of low-wages and capital to make a mark in a variety of manufacturing industries.
The Bollywood case shows that slight changes in domestic regulation and policy combined with global market opportunities can allow a film industry to flourish, especially if the films constitute an important cultural narrative about the country. This essay outlines three factors for the success of the Bollywood value-chain: a cultural ‘capacity to aspire’, increasing opportunities to exploit global value-chains, changes in domestic incentives. These factors now allow Bollywood to undertake arms-length contractual relationships, replacing the highly personal, even criminal, hierarchical relationships that limited its potential in the past. After detailing these factors conceptually, the paper presents a historical case study of Bollywood that underscores key changes in its value chain. The paper traces the evolution of Bollywood, the Bombay/Mumbai-based film industry, from a family-driven and financed business to one that not only harnesses global production networks but is itself becoming a key node in this network. Bollywood and India challenge Hollywood’s hegemony in various ways. India is the largest producer of motion pictures. Instead of Hollywood films dominating the Indian markets, Hollywood majors such as Disney, Sony, Miramax and Warner Brothers are producing Bollywood-type films in Mumbai in local languages. On the other hand, Indian media firms such as Reliance Entertainment are investing in Hollywood productions and co-producing films alongside a who’s who of Hollywood heavyweights. Both industries are also sharing talent these days as Hollywood directors such as Woody Allen are casting popular Bollywood actors and Hollywood producers and executives are advising their Mumbai counterparts on production, distribution, and marketing practices.
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