Indian Cinema

by Sherif Awad
It is very common to
meet someone of Indian descent who speaks
English fluently but it
is a rarity to find that
same person also equally fluent fluent
in French, Russian, German, Italian
and Spanish. !is is how Indian film
producer Prakash Sharma caught my
attention when we crossed paths in
Russia last year. Like all the Indians I
met, Sharma is down to earth yet most
professional in his work as a film producer, financer and distributor. From
his offices in Moscow, Geneva, and of
course, Bombay, Sharma’s film practice is bilateral; he acquires the rights
to foreign films for release in Indian
cinemas while distributing Indian
films worldwide, and even striking
co-production deals of documentaries
and narratives among divergent Asian  countries.
With an annual production reaching
one thousand films plus, Indian cinema, which is as diverse as Indian cul-
ture, heritage and linguistics, has come
to be followed throughout Asian nations, !e Middle East, Southeast
Asia, and the independent nations
that once comprised the former Soviet
Union. In the Egypt of the 1970s and
1980s, we grew up watching Indian
films starring Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in theatres specifically
devoted to Indian cinema. Sometimes
Indian films, such as Sangam (1964),
starring Kapoor, or Mard (1985) starring Bachchan, were subject to several
re-releases to the point that they could
continue to be played in cinemas for
the whole year. Although the rise of
multiplexes showing modern Hollywood productons affected the popularity of Indian cinema in the last
decade, Indian films are reasserting
their popularity in Arab countries,
especially in the Arab nations of Asia,
such as Qatar and the United Arab
Emirates, where Indian immigrant
workers are keen to immerse themselves in their national heritage on
celluloid. Recently, the popularity of 
Indian cinema was revived through
co-production, exportation, new
shooting locations and tributes. For
instance, Indian cinema was celebrated at the Cairo Festival four years ago
with the attendance of the beautiful
actress Celina Jaitly, and Indian star
Irrfan Khan, among others; A film
like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)
starring Amitabh Bachchan, an icon
of the past, and Shah Rukh Khan, an
icon of the present, was shot at locales
in India, England, and Egypt; Slumdog
Millionaire (2008), an officially British
production with Indian settings, won
eight Oscar statuettes; My Name Is
Khan (2009) that starred Shah Rukh
Khan had American settings and was
distributed in many countries by 20th
Century Fox. Hence the appreciation
simportance of bilateral film producer like Prakash Sharma who have
learned to eloquently bridge the culture of his country with the world. !e
success of Indian films at the international box offices have come about as
a direct result of rich regional ticket
sales. “Among a huge population of
1.21 billion, Indian filmgoers are cinephilias, as they have developed a visual
culture throughout the years”, Sharma
says. “Some of our directors never had
an academic film education but they 
were self-taught from watching films, Indian and
non-India, or starting from scratch in a technical
crew. !is is of course is in addition to the various film academies and schools across the various
regions of India”.
Indian cinema distribution has expanded
worldwide, especially in the English speaking
countries… Great Britain, USA, Australia, and
New Zealand come readily to mind. Rising Indian filmmakers have tended to discover new
locations for their new films as they tackle new
genres, despite their somewhat imitation of wellknown Western icons. With Indian star Saif Ali
Khan, and the beautiful Kareena Kapoor, Sriram
Raghavan directed the 007-inspired Agent Vinod
(2012) that became the first Indian film to be shot
in the Latvian capital of Riga. Indian cinema also
created Ra One, a film whose main protagonist is
an Indian superhero. !e film stars Shah Rukh
Khan in the title role, a superhero who exempli-
fies characteristics that are a melding of attributes
found in the American heroes depicted in both
Marvel and DC Comics.
Current Indian film production supports a
similarly big music production replete with film
musicals, lavish sets, beautiful costumes and exotic dancing. Certain to stir a sense of jealousy
in Hollywood, it may be the catalyst that will revive Hollywood’s forsaken film genre. “Technology isan element being insinuated in new Indian
films”, noted Prakash. “Recently, 3D productions
of action and horror films which became prominent in the last coupe of years have inculcated
Indian film. For instance Vikram Bhatt directed
a 3D horror film called Haunted about a young
man investigating a murder in a mansion that was
rumored to have a paranormal presence. !at film
went on to make USD $10 million at the international box office”.
Indian cinema celebrates its centenary this
year. In fact, a hundred years ago, Indian producer-director-screenwriter Dadasaheb Phalke,
who is also known as the father of Indian cinema,
made his debut in 1913 with Raja Harishchandra which is historically known as India’s first
long narrative. Phalke’s inspiration for his picture
came from a silent film about the life and passion
of Jesus Christ. In realizing this milestone film,
Palke also wanted to translate the lives of Indian
Gods to the screen. Whether it was coincidence,
or inspiration, Praskash Sharma is inspired by his
Indian heritage and is currently casting a new
project based on the Hindu philosophical and
theological traditions of his formative years. “It
is focusing on Lord Krishna who was always described and portrayed as an infant or young boy
playing a flute in drawings and inside temples”,
says Sharma, who is also curating many Indian
film programs across the world to celebrate the
great centenary. 

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Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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