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India's Hindi Movie Industry, Bollywood, Booms in 2006


India's prolific Hindi movie industry, popularly known as Bollywood, recovered from a long slump in 2006. Not only did the industry produce a series of big hits, but market avenues such as Internet and television also began contributing more money to the trade. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.

The movies that grossed big earnings in 2006 ranged from breezy comedies like Lage Raho Munnabhai to a film called Krishh, which created Bollywood's own version of Superman, and a slick, action-packed movie titled Dhoom 2.

These hits buoyed an industry whose films had been flopping with alarming regularity in recent years. Most films barely recovered production costs, only a handful brought in a profit.

Film industry analysts say producers reversed the trend by moving away from clichéd love stories and predictable family dramas to experiment with new themes. An explosion of new multi-screen cinemas built across India also prompted audiences to return to theaters.

Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh calls the results impressive.

"The quality of cinema has improved, by quality I mean story as well as story-telling technique, audiences are coming back, cinema conditions are improving with multiplexes coming in, people are going back to theaters in a very big way," noted Adarsh. "All kinds of cinema was attempted, you cannot really say one particular genre clicked. Overall it was a great year."

It is not just audiences at home that are boosting Bollywood's revenue. The industry also collects huge earnings from movie-crazy Indian expatriates around the world, who are eager to rent or buy video versions of Hindi hits. In fact, some films that failed to make a profit in India were great successes overseas.

The film studios are based in Mumbai, also known as Bombay, which led to its comparison with the U.S. film industry based in Hollywood, California.

According to rough estimates, Bollywood is a one and a half billion dollar industry, and an estimated four billion people watch its films worldwide every year.

However, there are no accurate figures on how much money the industry makes, because financing for the Hindi movie trade has never been transparent.

Most of the funding comes from private film distributors and a few large studios, and some even from Mumbai's thriving underworld.

But the movie industry is in wide agreement that its fortunes have turned around this year.

Trade analysts say it is not just box office revenues that are responsible. They say traditional movie-making economics are undergoing a change as the Indian film studios also begin to rake in revenue from new media such as Internet rights and satellite television channels.

And in a country besotted with anything related to Bollywood, revenue also flows in from ring tones that use movie songs, film clips that run on mobile phones and video games based on films.

Taran Adarsh says Bollywood is likely to earn even more from such sources in the coming years.

"Bollywood is making additional money from non-theatrical rights. People are exploring newer territories, newer avenues, and that is a very healthy trend for producers to rake in additional money," added Adarsh.

The changing fortunes of the Hindi movie industry have prompted banks, big conglomerates and media businesses to line up to invest in show business, which was once considered too risky for serious investors.

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