Raj Kapoor – The man, who foresaw the overseas business
Raj Kapoor, the greatest showman of Indian cinema, was also a great visionary too. He could see the future of Hindi cinema reaching into the every corner of the world way back in 1959 and generating additional revenues for its producers.
In a souvenir, published by the Film Journalist’s Association, Bombay in the year 1959, Raj Kapoor speaks of the future, we are in today. The heading of the article was ‘A world market for Indian films’. I reproduce the entire article here for our readers. (Raajkumar Keswani)
“About a year ago, I had an opportunity of spending ac few days in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. One evening I walked out of my hotel and with ac friend of mine, went for a stroll around one of the most important thoroughfares of the city. As everyone knows, Istanbul is a gay town and there are a number of small night-clubs in the street. Out of curiosity more than any other reason, we entered one of these places and took a seat in a corner to watch the proceedings.
The next moment, the band stopped playing. The leader looked at me and suddenly band started playing one of the songs from my film ‘Awara’. My friend and I were both surprised. We were still more surprised when the spotlight was directed at us and the manager of the Club came over and invited us to come to a front table. From this moment onwards, everything in that night-club was offered to us free of cost and I must say, we had a very fine time.
This and many other incidents of such nature which I have seen in many cities of the world led me to the conclusion that the Indian film can be made acceptable to far greater audiences all over the world. In recognizing me and playing the tune of Awara, this band in Turkey was saluting the Indian film and not an individual actor , producer or production. At the moment of this writing, Indian films are fairly popular in South-East Asia, in the Middle-East countries and in many countries of Africa. For some reason or the other , we have not been able to make much headway in Europe and America – more because of trade restrictions than because of any intrinsic fault of the Indian film. Of course there have been notable exceptions of which all of us know. Some of the highest awards in Europe and America have been awarded to Indian films and there is hardly any international festival today that does not accept one Indian film or the other.
All of this leads me to believe that Indian film distributors can do a lot more than perhaps they are doing at present in making the Indian film not only acceptable but popular in western countries. After all, appeal of the film is to the eye and not to the ear and the language difficulty can be very easily met by the modern methods of sub-titling and dubbing. Many of us remember the silent films that used to be shown in the thirties. They did not lack in appeal or in impact because of their silence. As a matter of fact, many critics are of the opinion that in the process of transformation from the silent to the talkie, the film has lost quite a bit to its visual impact.
I am not an expert on this subject, but it is fairly well known that the distribution of the films in the United States and Europe is controlled by the huge chain of cinema owners. This, as a matter of fact, has been cited as one of the reasons in many cases where commercial release of Indian films has not been possible in these countries. To my inexpert eye, this seems to be a challenge which has certain advantages for us rather than the other way round. I should think it would be easier for an enterprising Indian distributor to contact a chain-owner and at one stroke release his picture in particular town or in one particular area.
Unlike the film, the newspaper has already become a platform for the dissemination of international news. Therefore, I believe that film critics and journalists in India as well as abroad can help a lot in the dissemination of correct news about Indian productions abroad and vice versa. We suffer from certain disadvantages, the reason for which I need not go into here vis-à-vis well known Hollywood producers and directors make their films and hand them over to the combines of distributors for exploitation.
I therefore appeal to the film journalists particularly and through them to other members of the film trade, to pay more attention to this aspect of our industry. I look forward to the day when good Indian films would have as much of the world market as any Hollywood film. “
With recent Indian films making huge fortunes at the box office in Europe and America , has not the dream of the great visionary of Indian cinema?