Hindustani. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Salaam-E-Ishq. The aforementioned are all titles of well-known Indian films. Unfortunately, due to the unreliable practices of funding Bollywood films, 50 percent of films produced are never released and more than 95 percent result in losses. However, with the growing populations of young middle class Indians who are internet-savvy, Bollywood’s luck could change.
India currently has 31.4 million middle class households, which translates into 160 million individuals and this number is anticipated to grow exponentially in the years to come. In 2010, 100 million people used the internet, whether through internet cafes or being lucky enough to have internet in one’s home. Like most of the world, Indians favor social networking sites, with the total amount of Facebook users landing at 30.4 million. Here is an entire demographic that Bollywood can use to its advantage to produce a higher number and higher quality of films.
Even though filmmakers have been producing films since 1899, Bollywood was only recognized as an industry by the government in 1998, making it difficult to receive official funding. Recently, directors have been reaching out to their fan bases to help support the industry.
For his upcoming film, Aarakshan, director Prakash Jha had a disagreement with his co-director, Mohit Suri, about the main poster that they should use. They decided to take the issue to the people to let them choose, since the posters are for the people anyway.
Another director, Onir, went even further when it came to ensuring his film was made and seen by interested audiences. He is best known for his film My Brother… Nikhil, which depicts AIDS and same-sex relationships, topics that would not have been approved by previous generations. But this new generation is more open to such previously taboo topics, which is why Onir went to them when he needed assistance in producing his latest film: I Am. Onir reached out to Facebook and Twitter users to request funding for the project. With topics such as homosexuality and child abuse, it would be very difficult for Onir to receive any funding for the film through more official channels. Fans reacted to his call and supplied one-third of the money needed to make the film. It is the first mainstream Hindi film to crowdsource through social networking sites with over 400 people volunteering their time and/or money.
Since traditional funding can be difficult for independent projects such as I Am, going to the online Indian population was a great decision for Onir. Since they funded the film, audiences have more incentive to see the film and encourage others to see it. Onir cleverly brought together the tradition of Bollywood with new technology in order to create a dynamic film about relevant social issues in India.
With the number of Bollywood artists and the tech-savvy younger generation on social networking sites, those sites are great tools for these two populations to connect with one another to ensure that great films come to fruition.