66 years of Independence, Bollywood still follows British Raj map

13 Aug,2013

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By Vikram Doctor

 

Telangana will be India’s 29th state. More states may follow; India will change. But arguably one of India’s most iconic and popular institutions – Bollywood – will have no truck with the changing map of India.

 

Through all of post-Independence India’s cartographic controversies, Bollywood’s map of our country has remained unchanged – faithful to India of the Raj, and indifferent to the politics of states.

 

Bollywood’s map is dictated by distributor territories. Mumbai territory, for example, includes Mumbai city, Goa, Gujarat and parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka that belonged to the old Bombay Presidency.

 

But interior Maharashtra districts that were part of the old Hyderabad state are clubbed with the districts around Hyderabad and parts of Karnataka into a territory called Nizam. Say that to Telangana activists!

 

Other Bollywood areas also retain old names. Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are not just undivided, but are still called East Punjab (including, for convenience, Kashmir), since West Punjab territory is now Pakistan.

 

Practical Divisions

Central India under the Raj was divided between the big British province of Central India and Berar, and a number of princely states; the former is now the CP/Berar territory and the latter is the CI (Central India) territory.

 

Delhi/UP territory is the capital plus the old United Provinces, including the hill regions that are now Uttarakhand. Eastern India is divided between the Assam territory, which includes the whole Northeast, except for Tripura and Sikkim which joins West Bengal and the Andamans in the Eastern territory.

 

This also includes Bhutan, which shows how Bollywood can be above national boundaries. Nepal is also often clubbed into the Bihar circuit, a fact that has sometimes annoyed nationalistic Nepalese (Bhutanese don’t seem to care, but perhaps they don’t watch much Bollywood).

 

The Andhra territory quite neatly anticipates what is now going to be Seemandhra, while Tamil Nadu and Kerala, two states with little interest in Bollywood, are usually lumped into one South territory.

 

Shyam Shroff, the founder of Shringar Films, says the structure was even more basic at the start with the country split into Bombay, Delhi-UP, East Punjab, West Bengal, C. P. C.I., Rajasthan and South territories. As the industry developed and areas within these became more promising, they were spun off into the current structure, but they have never seen the need to align these with political states. “The old territorial method still continues and it is still working well and no one is complaining,” shrugs Mr Shroff.

 

He admits that territories like Mumbai which cross three states can pose legal and tax issues for films, but these seem to be administrative issues which can be handled.

 

Dr Tejaswini Ganti, professor of anthropology at New York University, whose book – Producing Bollywood – analyses the mechanics of the industry, has been researching Bollywood territories, and says that while the precise origins of the divisions are unclear, they can be dated to the 1930s and the start of sound.

 

After the advent of talking films, the volume of Indian films picked up significantly and the need to create a market structure would have come in.

 

The larger question is why the division has persisted. A strong reason must be simple inertia, or perhaps the desire to avoid the conflicts and perhaps even court cases that attempts to redraw boundaries might entail.

 

But the divisions may also be practical. As Mr Shroff explains, “a distributor of a particular territory understands his area very well and accordingly negotiates with the producer.” If states reflect the electoral calculations of politicians, Bollywood territories reflect the capital-raising calculations of the distributors.

 

Dr Ganti also argues that the rise of powerful national distributors like UTV and Viacom might have been expected to end the old divisions, but may actually reinforce them. “It appears as if these big companies still rely on the individual territorial distributor to execute the release in the centres farther away from the metros and it also seems they raise capital – the big guys pay huge amounts in rights to the producers, but they sell the subsidiary rights to those independent guys who have now gone from distributor to sub -distributor status.”

 

The old Nizam territory is a good example of how Bollywood calculations might be more efficient than political ones. For reasons of language and their own strong film industries, the four Southern states have never been great markets for Bollywood – Andhra Pradesh, for example, had the booming Telugu industry which was headquartered in Hyderabad. Yet Hyderabad and the districts around always did decent business, probably because of more awareness of Hindi that was a residue of the old Nizam’s state.

 

“Nizam has always been seen as a profitable territory and hence filmmakers always talked about it separately from the ‘South’,” says Dr Ganti.

 

It is, of course, exactly this area that will now become Telangana, and if Vidarbha follows as a reality, then the combination of the two will almost resurrect the old boundaries of Hyderabad state, except for the districts that became part of Karnataka. But for Bollywood, nothing changes since all this is already part of the Nizam territory, a reflection perhaps of wisdom more lasting than that of politicians.

 

Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2013, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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Image courtesy: UFO Moviez

 

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