With the opening up of the economy you can import goods much more easily and with the rise of disposable income, people have access to so much more. The evolution of technology has aided this further. Look at VFX, the face transplants and all those kind of things which are now being used by our technicians so effectively. It’s wonderful.
We never had access to this kind of stuff. If we had to do a double role, there was a huge process that we had to go through. I have been through that process in my early career, I did many films where I essayed double roles and triple roles. Now it is so simple. They have a green screen where you can do whatever you want and everything else is added in later. Technologically, we now have the access and the experts for all departments of filmmaking. Film communities all over the globe are able to communicate a lot more with each other because of new technologies, which is truly wonderful,
Global Reach of Indian Cinema
As an industry, we were not aware of the extent of the reach our films. It was only when we started going to other countries, we noticed the Indian diaspora’s love for our films, particularly after the video cassette recorder was invented.
The VCR started taking our films everywhere. There were people who were exporting them and marketing them. You had countries like Russia, where Mr Raj Kapoor was a legend; we had countries like Beirut, where Mr Shammi Kapoor was popular. Most of the African countries – Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria – watched our films much later. Our films were being watched in America as well because there is a large Indian population there.
I think the industry got concentrated attention when the younger generation came in and the markets opened up, in particular, Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar. The kind of films they made earlier on had immense patronage from the audience overseas. They became very huge and popular.
These are some of the changes that we have noticed, and it is prevalent worldwide. It is not limited to the Indian diaspora. If a family moved to the United States in the early 1940s, they would have lived through four generations in that country but somehow they always remained rooted to where they came from. When anything about their country comes out, the country that they came from, whether India or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or Pakistan, they relate to it and they patronise it, which is wonderful to see.
These young people who have been born and bought up there have their own local friends. In the UK, a lot of Britishers, British friends of Indian’s living there, see our films with them and start appreciating them. Now they have schools in London for South Asian studies. There is one old institute which studies Indian cinema very minutely. I have been to some of the classes there.
We were often criticised severely in the early years. Now, those are the very aspects of our filmmaking that are being appreciated. They love our songs, they love our music and the way we present our songs, something integral to Indian cinema.
The Audience Has Become More Knowledgeable
The audience is exposed to a lot more creativity than they used to be. Now you have television and the Internet. Whatever comes out in any part of the world is with you at the click of a button. We used to watch Hollywood films two years after their release. If you had to make a phone call to New York, you had to book it seven days in advance for it to go through.
Now that communication has become instant, the audience in India is also exposed to some great stuff that is happening in some other parts of the world. And therefore they expect that what they see in our cinema will hopefully be at par with that it, if not better. It is healthy competition.
The younger generation has great scope for experimentation. They want to do things differently. They are coming up new kind of scripts which, along with commercial, escapist cinema, are equally popular. That has worked very well for Indian cinema.
We have to move with the times. A lot of people from my generation sometimes say that the writing is not as good as it used to be, the songs are different, the music is different. Interestingly, this generation has grown up with music from all over the world. Sometimes, they go to sleep when they hear some of our old songs.
There is always going to be this debate. When we came along in the ’60s and ’70s, the ones before us used to say, pata nahi ye kaisi picture kar rahe hain; ajeeb si film hain. Now this generation says, ‘How did you work in films like that in the ’70s and ’80s?’ In another 10 years, that generation will be criticising the kind of films being made now.
As told to Rohini Nag Madnani