Is Bollywood Shining in Asia

Table of contents


As Smith, a columnist for Articlemyriad, mentioned, “Far from being mere entertainment, though, the Bollywood movies represent a powerful means of self- and community expression which Indians are using to define themselves in front of the rest of the world,” (Smith) Exploring the Bollywood movie and its emergency in Asia is an effective way to see whether India has some common culture elements with other Asian countries and whether they are integrating under the impulsion of culture.

Dudrah (2006) mentioned in his book Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies, “Bollywood, the moniker for popular Hindi cinema from Mumbai, India, has become an important catchword in the vocabulary of global South Asian popular culture. ” (Dudrah, 2006) It demonstrates that Indian culture dominates in South Asia. However, with the success Three Idiots achieved in Asia, some people began to consider the situation of Bollywood in Asia. Bollywood is a real buzz word at the moment,” said Vinay Virmani, writer and actor of Breakaway, in an interview, “I think that’s because Bollywood has been able to translate beyond the whole south Asian community. ” (Mahmood & Mitra, 2011)This opinion is true but maybe too simple as he just considered about the popularity. The opinion I want to argue in this paper is that although Bollywood movies become popular in Asia, the commercial profit they gained is still limited.

Maybe Three Idiots, the most successful Bollywood movie in recent years, is the best representative of Bollywood movies which are facing such an embarrassing situation. “Have you seen the Three Idiots second time? ” It may be the first reaction when Hong Kong people talked about this famous Indian movie. It is amazing that a Bollywood movie gained such huge success in Hong Kong. In fact, Three Idiots has run for 13 weeks since it was released in Hong Kong in September, 2011. It broke the spell that “Normally, a Bollywood Film in China and Hong Kong would run in select multiplexes for 1 to 2 weeks. (3 Idiots Rocks in China & Hong Kong, 2011)Although it gained high praise in Hong Kong and other Asia countries, the box-office contributed by Asian countries was still limited.

According to the statistics from Box Office Mojo, 60. 8% box-office of Three Idiots came from India (3 IDIOTS box office, 2011) and it was released in only six other Asia countries (or areas), which are Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan. (3 Idiots)

Why Bollywood becomes Popular in Asia

Thanks to Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire tells a story happened in Indian slums. It is made by Hollywood but full of Bollywood characters, which made many audiences mistake it for a Bollywood movie. As it won the top prize at the Academy Awards and eight Oscars in total including best director and best picture, (The Oscars 2009, 2009) it appealed to more audiences, especially Asians, who regard the Academy Prize as the highest honor of a movie. It took $2,280,068 in its first week in China and $930,097 in Hong Kong. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE-box office, 2009) With the influence of Slumdog Millionaire, people would like to see Bollywood movies with huge interest and curiousness. Bollywood movie become a hit to Asian audiences.

A Mirror of the Issues Faced by Asia

It is obvious to see the changes in Bollywood movies when comparing those new successful movies with the old ones. The traditional stories about revenge or the love between a rich woman and a penniless man have already been out of date. New Bollywood movies focus more on the modern issues faced by many other Asian countries as well.

The issues always mentioned are never leaving ethnic and religious conflicts, gap between the rich and poor and education. For instance, the Three Idiots mentioned before exposed the education problems existing in many Asian countries. The film is about three students who do not fit the traditional and inflexible education method in Indian Institutes of Technology and are considered as idiots by professors. “However, the movie clearly shows who the three real idiots are – the educational system, the teachers and the parents”, Sudhakar RAM said. Ram, 2010) The performance-oriented system, faculty-led pedagogy and arbitrary parents criticized in this movie exist not only in India, but also other Asian states. In South Korea, academic achievements are regarded as the decisive factor for social success. Only the students getting into prestigious universities can guarantee their social success, while students with other abilities are unrecognized. (Suicide Figures Point to Failure of Education System, 2011) The same phenomena existed in Mainland China. In order to enter a famous university, students pursue higher exam marks rather than knowledge. Teaching methodology basically consists of force-feeding copious amounts of required information directly out of textbooks (often teachers will simply read directly from the text) and students are discouraged from asking questions, particularly if those questions challenge ideology or anything regarded as factual. ” (Middle Kingdom Life)

As this movies shows the familiar and real problems to Asian audience, people are able to understand the movie better and easily accept it, just as Zoher Abdoolcarim said, “They laughed when they were meant to and didn’t when they weren’t. (Abdoolcarim, 2011) In addition, Asia, as a growing power, is eager to get the approval from the world. India, with fast development in economy, has more aspiration and shows it by movies. There is a popular Bollywood movie among Asian audience called My Name Is Khan. It tells a story about how a Muslim man called Khan, in order to get forgiveness from his wife, overcame many difficulties to tell American President that his name had no relationship with terrorists. Although it seems like a love movie, what it shows indeed is the “questions of religious and national identity”. My Name is Khan – Movie Review, 2010) Asian states, like the Muslim, undergo untold hardships to develop, hoping to get the approval from the world. The emotion and sprit—national identifying—expressed in Bollywood movies reflect the psychology of Asia and fit the taste of Asians.

The Attracting Modern Music

Dance and songs are the symbols of Bollywood movies. “A Bollywood movie is incomplete without songs and dance in it. ” (Role of dance Choreographer in Bollywood movie songs, 2011) However, young people in Asia seem not interested in the traditional dance and songs in Bollywood movies.

Therefore, the Bollywood music changed among with the transformation in movies. It mixed the traditional songs with western elements to produce a new style that appeals international audience, of course, including Asians, rather than the pure classical Indian music that appeals to Indians only. Campus songs which never appeared now become popular in Bollywood movies. ‘Aal Izz Well’ in Three Idiots has oodles of youth feeling, which brings audience back to their college days.

With the Help of Internet

Although playing full-length movie on internet is illegal in some countries, there are no strict restrictions in some Asia countries, like China, which provides audience a chance to watch Bollywood movies through internet. Three Idiots, for example, will be released in December, 2011 in Mainland China. However, the discussion of this movie in Internet lasted for a long time and it even got 8. 9 marks by 19,096 people marking in the Mtime, a websites regarded as Chinese IMDB. Three Idiots) This phenomenon benefits from the Chinese video-sharing websites, such as Tudou and Youku. In fact, this movie was played up to 1,824,335 times only in Tudou (Three Idiots). The same is Devads, which is marked 8. 4 in Mtime (Devdas) and played 279,469 times in Tudou. (Devdas) The force of internet cannot be overlooked in popularizing Bollywood movies. Why Bollywood movies have a little profit? As the statistics from Box Office Mojo show, most Bollywood movies are released in four other Asia areas mainly —Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Although Bollywood movies have satisfied box-offices in these areas, the profit they gained in other Asian areas was still low compared to domestic market. The reason may be that Bollywood movies don’t squeeze into the two main markets in Asia—China and Japan because of the strict movie importing restrictions. China has strict import restrictions that limit the number of foreign blockbusters to 20 per year. “Film imports are still controlled by the state-owned China Film Group. ” (Lee, 2011) And in Japan, the situation is even worse. “But selecting films for release in Japan is not easy. , said Aki Sugihara, general manager at licensing and acquisition department of Nikkatsu Corp, “The rights for ‘3 Idiots’ had been sold to every Asian country except Japan. ” (IANS, 2011) The closing of the two main Asian movie markets makes the profit Bollywood movies gain limit in Asia.


The wall will come down With the globalization, the trade wall is decreasing, including the movie import policies. Taiwan is a case in point, who revised the Motion Picture law–dropping its film import restrictions—–to meet WTO demand in 2001.

Many Bollywood movies, which are not released in Mainland China and Hong Kong, can be found on Taiwan screens, like Om Shanti Om and Taare Zameen Par. Taiwan is just a start as its policy influences other countries. The success of Three Idiots in Taiwan spirited South Korea to release it, according to a Korean industry office. (Bhat, 2011) The prospect in Mainland China is also bright. Thanks to the efforts of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, India got a quota of four out of the 20 imported movies per year. Baru, 2010)What’s more, as the deadline given by the World Trade Organization when China end its movie import restrictions is 19 March 2011, China is expected to raise the import quota to 30 films this year and a little more each year subsequently. (Jaffe, 2011) It is inspiring news for not only Bollywood but also the world, which can also be regarded as a symbol that the free and open movie market is a tendency in such a global world.

The cooperation can be realized Bollywood is exporting its movies to more countries by cooperating with foreign companies to produce movies. My Name is Khan, a Bollywood movie produced and marketed by Fox Star Studios, gained $38,326,589 in oversea market. (My Name Is Khan) It pointed out a new way for Bollywood to gain profit in Asia, which is cooperating with Asian companies. In fact, the Chinese government’s official film production company has cooperated with Bollywood to make a movie called Gold Struck. “Since the film is being supported by China-based production companies, it will not be considered a foreign import and will fall outside the censorship restrictions that have impeded Bollywood’s entry into the China market,” Cindy Shyu, CEO of Lighthouse Productions said. Krishnan, 2010) Also Aki Sugihara from Japan mentioned, “If our co-production expands, there will be a chance of getting into co-production with Indian films. ” (IANS, 2011) By cooperation, Bollywood may knock at the door of China and Japan, and enter into these two huge Asian markets step by step.


Bollywood, which used to be regarded as “a factory of dances and songs”, is no longer what it was. In a global world, Bollywood is also expanding its influence power to Asia, even to the world. Going by the success of Slumdog Millionaire, Bollywood began to export its movies with a new image.

It changes the style of dance and songs and pays more attention to the contents of movies, which expose the same issues Asians face and inspire emotional resonance. In addition, the internet popularizing also promotes the spread of Bollywood movies. However, Bollywood has fame but little profit in Asia because of the strict restrictions, especially in China and Japan. In another word, Bollywood’s emergence has already beyond South Asia but the true commercial success is still limited to domestic market.

Although it seems that Bollywood has loss in Asia in terms of commerce from current movie market state, we cannot deny that Bollywood movies have potential to win because of the falling-down restrictions and the tiny cooperation with Asian movie companies. Bollywood is not shining in Asia now, but the time for it to shine is not far away.


  1. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE-box office. (2009, 12 20). Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from Box Office Mojo: http://boxofficemojo. com/movies/? page=intl&id=slumdogmillionaire. htm
  2. The Oscars 2009. (2009, 2 23). Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from BBC: http://news. bc. co. uk/2/hi/entertainment/oscars/7904567. stm My Name is Khan – Movie Review. (2010, 2 11). Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from BollywoodWorld. com: http://www. bollywoodworld. com/movie-reviews/my-name-is-khan-movie-review-18299. html
  3. 3 IDIOTS box office. (2011, 11). Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from Box Office Mojo: http://boxofficemojo. com/movies/? page=intl&id=3idiots. htm
  4. 3 Idiots Rocks in China & Hong Kong. (2011). Retrieved from MovieMantra. com: http://moviemantra. com/telugu/2011/3-idiots-rocking-china-hong-kong/
  5. Role of dance Choreographer in Bollywood movie songs. 2011, 5 13). Retrieved 12 2, 2011, from Enrichyou: http://www. enrichyou. info/role-of-dance-choreographer-in-bollywood-movie-songs/
  6. Suicide Figures Point to Failure of Education System. (2011, 8 13). Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from The Chosunilbo: http://english. chosun. com/site/data/html_dir/2011/08/13/2011081300334. html
  7. 3 Idiots. (n. d. ). Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from IMDB: http://www. imdb. com/title/tt1187043/releaseinfo Abdoolcarim, Z. (2011, 11 10). The ChIndian Century. Retrieved 12 1, 2011, from TIMESpecials

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