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Bollywood vs Hollywood: A Deep Dive into the Debate

Bollywood vs Hollywood

No one in the world generally argues about Bollywood vs Hollywood except India. It’s a strange debate we have in our country about two of the world’s biggest film industries.

While many scoff at the idea of the Bollywood vs Hollywood debate, the idea itself doesn’t lack premise. We always compare India and Western countries when it comes to financial output. Why is it so wrong to compare Bollywood and Hollywood then?

Despite being one of the most taxed industries in India, Bollywood has grown financially. The spate of successful movies, 100 Cr clubs, record box-office collections, and so on, are all good news for the industry. While the size of Bollywood is still not close to Hollywood in any way, the rate of growth is still encouraging.

The arrival of Netflix and other OTT platforms to India and Bollywood is also very encouraging. In a few years’ time, we could see a direct fight between Hollywood and Bollywood on platforms like Netflix.

Very often, we see people arguing about the financial strength of both these industries when talking about them. When speaking about Hollywood and Bollywood, money and revenue are not all the things that matter.

To have a concrete debate on this matter, there is a need to see different perspectives. In this piece, we will cover the different sides and perspectives of the Bollywood and Hollywood debate.

Bollywood vs Hollywood: Revenue

Let’s get the income stuff about Bollywood and Hollywood out of the way.

In terms of pure competition, Hollywood is miles ahead of its Indian counterpart. The highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time is Dangal. It grossed a net of $340M. Compare this to Avengers Endgame which grossed $2.79B, more than eight times the collection of Dangal.

There are many reasons for Hollywood’s unprecedented dominance in revenue. While Bollywood primarily makes its money in India, Hollywood is a much more global industry. Just take your mind back to how people in India go crazy for bumper Hollywood films. The houseful theatres when Avengers Endgame came out in 2019 shows how Hollywood can dominate Bollywood in its own home.

Besides having a larger market to sell its products to, Hollywood is also much more sophisticated. The Indian film industry began with Raja Harishchandra in 1913. The first Hollywood film on the other hand is The Count of Monte Cristo, completed in 1908.

Despite being only five years behind Hollywood, the Indian film industry didn’t grow in prominence as rapidly as the Americans. Greats like Dadasaheb Phalke kept pushing the envelope in those days. However, the United States had the infrastructure to make people invest in American cinema and consider it a profitable business. India, in the pre-independence era, simply couldn’t match the same infrastructure and capital.

Since then, Bollywood has been playing catch up with Hollywood in terms of revenue.

Bollywood vs Hollywood: Content

Too often, the discussion between Bollywood and Hollywood comes down to money and income. It’s, however, better to have a more frank discussion about the content put out by both these industries.

As an Indian, I have no doubt in admitting Hollywood is far ahead of Bollywood in terms of content. This is not to say all movies in America are brilliant and every film made here in India is bad.

However, Hollywood has always led the way when it comes to taking risks in filmmaking. The best Hollywood movies (not the ones that make the most money) are far ahead of the best Bollywood movies made. We can see this disparity in how movies in India are rehashing concepts already explored in Hollywood. When one industry is experimenting with ideas from another, it is not difficult to say which is ahead.

There is less of a disparity when it comes to talent. Some of our most talented actors and actresses are able to find their feet and impress the greats of Hollywood. The recent news story of Dimple Kapadia impressing Christopher Nolan during the shooting of Tenet suggests there is no gulf in talent. We have always had talented people in our industry.

However, if you’re a sports fan, you’d know having talent is not enough. Bollywood compared to Hollywood is a much less meritocratic space.

Despite people becoming much more aware of the star kids convention in Bollywood, there is still no effort on the industry’s part to change much. This video recently went viral when Ananya Pandey defended her position of privilege while Siddhant Chaturvedi shot it down with one line.

It’s not like nepotism is only a Bollywood thing. However, Hollywood is a more equal-opportunity society compared to Bollywood.

Is Bollywood Better Than Hollywood?

Short answer – no.

Long answer – Bollywood will only get ahead of Hollywood if it starts taking more risks in content. We are seeing a trend of new cinema emerging in India. People exposed to Western movies are not accepting the trash put out by some filmmakers in Bollywood.

Take Dangal as an example. The movie shows how focusing on good content can make Bollywood successful in global markets as well. In China, Dangal found massive success and applause. A good story combined with the star power of Aamir Khan took Indian cinema above and beyond.

Bahubali was also a very bold attempt at changing the gears and bringing Indian cinema to a new plane. With sharper storytelling, Bahubali could have become a greater historical landmark. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the best in India.

The fact something like Bahubali didn’t come from mainstream Bollywood studios is very telling. Bold risks in filmmaking and storytelling are largely coming from Southern cinema. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Hollywood starts considering Southern films its true competition, atleast in content.

Bollywood is risk-averse. Have we seen a truly ambitious fantasy Bollywood movie since Bahubali? How about a grand Hindi noir movie which captured our times? Anything?

Harping on Gangs of Wasseypur for more than half a decade speaks to the sheer incompetence of Hindi cinema.

People can point to new films from the industry doing well, but they are too few and far between. Bollywood is not better than Hollywood. Sadly, there are few signs it will be better in the coming years.

The Point of This Debate

This brings us to the conclusion of this piece and the point of this debate.

Many Indians who ask this question wish to see cinema in their country beat its Western counterparts. Some people shoot down the entire point of the debate as a useless competition.

Does Uber ever think of not competing with Ola? Can Maruti afford to pay attention to what Hyundai is doing? Competition is natural. It is good if our writers and directors want to go beyond Hollywood.

We have a lot of talent in the film industry. We should not be lagging from Hollywood as much as we currently are. I don’t speak from a financial standpoint. I hope our writers and studios grow financially and becoming as wealthy as their Western counterparts. However, the primary goal should always be to create better content and take more risks. For this, it is high time the industry at large starts focusing on writing better stories.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Indian Fantasy Novels: The Best Fantasy Fiction From India
Also read: Ten Speculative Books You Should’ve Already Read

To end with, here’s an infographic from Kyle Kim. Check out some of his other work by clicking here

by KyleKim.

From Visually.

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