India/Hungary Bilateral Trade (today)

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I had already read about the recent boom in economic relations between India and Hungary, but I didn’t realize that the (financial) level of trade/investment was so high! It’s important to remember that the word that keeps popping up in the context of this trade is “bilateral”…it really emphasizes the two-way aspect of this relationship, which I think helps to draw attention to the fact that both countries are actively participating, AND separate from any supervision/interference by other more historically dominant countries.

I’ll definitely have to devote some time towards the historical development of this trade, but for now I thought I’d just focus on the current status of this relationship. Here are two articles (from February and March 2010, respectively) that I thought did a good job of summing up the trade environment between these two countries:

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreign-trade/India-expects-trade-with-Hungary-to-touch-1bn/articleshow/5532648.cms

  • This article is from The Economic Times and was released on February 4, 2010.
  • India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma says “Hungary’s membership to EU (in 2004) has added a significant dimension to our overall relationship.
    • Hungary seems to be straddling that perfect position of being accessible by a country still developing its infrastructure (especially in the context of the IT age with outsourcing, etc)  like India and yet presenting itself as a worthwhile investment
  • Another important point: “Both countries are exploring options to boost the bilateral trade to $1 billion by 2012.” Right now, the number is hovering around $850-900 million (it has been increasing steadily since 2005, except for a slight dip in 2008 due to global economic instability)…nonetheless, this is a significant level of money transferring between the two countries!
  • A second quote from Mr. Sharma: “We expect that the initiative will bring together research institutes of both the countries to collaborate on development R&D activities in high technology areas.” I have to double check this, but I think that both countries are in that stage of transforming themselves from informational economies (right word?) to informational — a shift that started in the US in the 1980s
    • This last bit highlights the speed at which countries which were formerly known as “Third World countries” — I think the currently accepted label is “developing countries” — are developing as they start picking up the technological structures (this is really vague) that have already been invented and institutionalized

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2010/03/11/stories/2010031152441900.htm

  • This article is from The Hindu Business Line (part of THE HINDU) and was released on March 10, 2010.
  • The sentence that jumped out to me the most was an indirect quote by Laszlo Parragh, President of the Hungary Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where he said, “An important member of the European Union, Hungary, with its strategic location in the heart of Europe, could provide an important gateway to Europe.”

    • It brings up important areas to research in terms of how geography has influenced (and continues to do so) Hungary’s development both within its own borders and as a site for other countries to get involved with.
  • Clearly India also understands the more long-term meaning of developing a strong tie to Hungary. Venkat Kedlaya, former pres of BCIC (Bangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industry) says “India could tap the opportunities available in Hungary to diversify its exports and reduce dependence on traditional customers.”
    • It’s hard to tell for sure, but I’d guess that these “traditional customers” have their relations with India rooted in colonial interactions, or at least were aided in creating their relationship by the United Kingdom in some way….which reemphasizes the idea that India is still very much in the process of creating its identity apart from its colonial one.
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International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2010

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The 41st annual International Film Festival of India (IFFI) will be held November 22 – December 2, 2010, in Goa. This two-week event is being organized through collaboration by the Directorate of Film Festivals, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the Indian Film Industry, and the Goa government.

There will be both competitive and non-competitive screenings in Goa during this time; right now, the organizers are accepting entries from all over the world. Here is the official entry form and list of regulations/restrictions:

http://iffi.nic.in/2010/Regulations2010.pdf

What does this say about India’s contemporary role in the cinema industry worldwide? I was looking at the list of foreign screenings (as part of the screening schedule) for IFFI 2009 and I was surprised to see the names of so many different countries (Iran, USA, UK, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, Scotland, France, Italy — just to name a few). It looks like this festival has really developed into something substantial that various cinema powerhouses take time to be a part of; it is made up of mostly smaller independent films, but nonetheless, IFFI is certainly a significant global arena for movies today.

It will be interesting to track IFFI 2010 as it is going on; it looks like the website is updated pretty regularly. I  wasn’t able to find a list of the entries thus far for this year, but it says that the deadline for entries is August 31, 2010, so sometime in September I’m guessing there will be a finalized list posted.

http://blog.taragana.com/e/2010/06/28/iffi-gets-bigger-europe-america-to-compete-this-year-144536/

This article from a blog called Entertainment Daily (June 28, 2010) is particularly relevant; it describes the cultural significance of the United States and various countries in Europe planning to submit entries into the competitive part of the festival. In years past, most of these countries simply sent in films to be screened in the non-competitive part of the festival.

Manoj Srivastava, the CEO of the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) — the organization that is working with the Directorate of Film Festivals in India to host the event in November — says that “widening of competition will definitely bring in better content.”

In the article, Srivastava also talks about IFFI’s history, saying that in the 1970s most of the film entries were from various Asian countries. Then the festival was developed further to draw in entries from Africa (1995) and Latin America (2005)…definitely some cultural ramifications of India starting to draw “the Western” film industries in recent years!

Still searching for a site that has a succinct history of IFFI…

Origin/Development of the Term “Bollywood”

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This past week was quite busy, first with me getting sick and then with the overnight field trip to the Loire Valley; now back to work!

NOTE: This isn’t a history of the industry but rather the term itself.

After a preliminary search, the Wikipedia page on Bollywood seemed like the most comprehensive summary of the history of the heavily debated term used to informally represent the popular Hindi cinema industry. I’ll include the full link here for my own convenience (for the term itself, focus on the “Etymology” section); then I’ll try and sum up the most important events in the term’s development:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bollywood

  • Bollywood = Bombay (or today, Mumbai) + Hollywood
    • even this portmanteau construction has gotten a lot of criticism over the years because of its suggestion that Hindi cinema is just Bombay’s  version of Hollywood — > which itself implies that a post-colonial nation still follows the parameters/framework set up by a Western entity, even in the cultural realm of cinema (as if the only way that this “Other” entity of India could legitimate itself in the context of film would be to imitate the paradigm of Hollywood)
  • Bombay itself was NOT the original center of Indian cinema; rather, it was Tollygunge (in West Bengal), which established its presence as the center of Bengali cinema in the early 1930s
  • Bombay took over in the latter half of the 20th century and, in the 1970s, inspired the creation of the term “Bollywood”
  • It is still heavily debated who actually came up with the term…

http://hubpages.com/hub/Bollywood-Basics-for-the-Uninitiated

  • “Bollywood” often is used to refer to all types of Indian cinema when in fact it only makes up about 25% of the total number of movies produced and distributed in India each year

Visual of the breakdown of different types of movies made in India (based on language/region) -- from the 1990s

For future reference, this website has a good overview of basic aspects of Bollywood and Indian cinema overall: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Learn+the+History+of+Bollywood-a01073889129

Hungary’s 2008 India Week Festival

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I’ve tried to find information about something more recent, but only the 2008 festival (Nov 30 -Dec 6) kept coming up:

A poster with event details for India Week 2008

Particularly important for me to note  is the location of the Film Festival: Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum in Budapest.  Hopefully when I get to Hungary in a couple weeks I can at least stop by this building (ideally go in) and take a few photos. When I searched for the Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum on Google Maps, the website below popped up: http://www.filmintezet.hu/ Sadly it’s all in Hungarian, but it looks like it’s some type of film archive — hopefully my cousins/aunt/uncle will be able to translate a bit for me….

Here are the details for Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum:
1073 Budapest
Erzsébet körút 39, Magyarország

06 1 342-2167

“Fair and Lovely” in Bollywood

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On July 14, a big debate broke open in response to a new Facebook application called Vaseline Face-Whitening Application (for India users), which is pretty self-explanatory: it allows the individual to lighten their skin tone in their profile pictures. This application has been widely criticized as the most recent example of a longer practice of skin lightening cosmetic products (for both women and men) that have become quite popular in India, especially over the past decade. Products like “Fair and Lovely”  — the men’s version is “Fair and Handsome” — revolve around the idea that the darker skin tone that many South Asians naturally have needs to be “improved”, and this can be done by lightening the skin by various degrees.

Here is the facebook ad:

Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor as the spokesperson for the new line of Vaseline face whitening creams -- and for the new Facebook app

I’ve seen these products, and many of them actually have “degrees of lightening” (which strongly resembles spectrums of whitening shown on the packaging of toothpastes and teeth bleaching strips)!

Why is this relevant to Bollywood? Generally, Indian film celebrities have commonly stood as spokespersons for various products and even appear in print/TV ads for such products. This is a much more frequent phenomenon in India than in the US — only recently has it become more common, such as with Catherine Zeta-Jones for TMobile or Luke Wilson for AT&T.  If prominent Bollywood celebrities sponsor/endorse these products, then they are also endorsing the underlying social messages. This creates a tension in the identity of Bollywood on a global level: the industry is pushing to create its own niche apart from Western film approaches (a situation complicated by its very name) while simultaneously playing to Western-based attitudes towards the relation of skin color and social approval/hierarchy.

Here are two relatively recent TV ads for face-whitening creams that aired in India. This first one is for Fair and Handsome and features superstar Shah Rukh Khan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uvuQJJwusU

This second one is for Fair and Lovely, with emerging actress Genelia d’Souza:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI5WCNR81YM&feature=related

Sure, these ads are amusing to watch, but the very fact that such deeply prejudiced messages are being conveyed in such a light/frivolous way makes this tension even more crucial to address. As I progress with my research, it will be very interesting to see where else in the globalization of Bollywood that these issues of implied pigmentocracy arise…

Response to “Hollywood on the Danube” (NY Times)

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My faculty advisor recently sent me this article from the New York Times, which describes the reasons behind the current growing popularity of Hungary as a filming location for many US-based film production companies. Here’s the link to the whole article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/business/global/03iht-eastfilms.html

The article explains the economic motivation that Budapest (and the surrounding regions) provides for movies:

“Dozens of foreign film and television productions are choosing Budapest over Prague, Paris, London or Sofia for shooting in Europe, drawn largely by a 20 percent rebate on production costs, a weak local currency and low wages for crews.”

Additionally, the article touches upon ways that Hungary has made itself more viable as a cheaper option, explaining that “the country began to gain a financial edge in 2004 when the government approved a 20 percent rebate for foreign and domestic film productions.

I’ve already read about these rebates/subsidies that the Hungarian government has enacted (is that the right word?) in the past decade, but reading it again just emphasizes how influential these moves have been. But this article also does a good job about pointing out some of the cultural/social consequences of Hungary standing in as a cheaper version of some other setting (through the years, it has represented many places, including Rome, Buenos Aires, and Munich):

  • the exploitative potential of using Hungarian crews who are paid much less, are used to much longer working hours (~12 hours/day) and who aren’t protected by unions as many other crews in Paris/London/LA are
    • this might be a stretch, but this seems to hint at cultural imperialism of “Western” countries, casting Hungary as an “Eastern” entity and taking advantage of its less developed and protected infrastructure (I think this is called “race to the bottom”?)
  • the possibility of misrepresentation of Hungary or its inhabitants by (virtually) always having it stand in for another country/culture
    • this practice of hiring Hungarians as extras for different settings seems to de-legitimize the Hungarian individual as something worthwhile to be illustrated in these movies
    • yet at the same time, should it be part of the acceptance/assumption on the part of the Hungarian extras that foreign films will want to use Hungary to represent something else (while local films can take on the  responsibility of exposing Hungary to its viewers)?
  • the fear that some Hungarian companies have about being so dependent on foreign film companies to provide jobs for so many of their citizens (a recent construction industry collapse has left many of the lower-skill work force scrambling for any type of job they can find as set builders/etc)
    • again, this to me relates back to traces of imperialism (but now in the context of globalization) with foreign companies rushing in and flooding the country (temporarily) with jobs but eventually leaving to another location
    • the question here is if Hungary’s economy/infrastructure is strong enough to stand on its own if/when these film companies run off the newest cheap filming spot in another part of the world

Sidenote: This article mentions GABOR KOLTAI, a successful Hungarian film producer who has worked on foreign films…might be worthwhile to look into his background/projects (and/or others who might have worked with any Indian film companies!

A Perspective on Global Bollywood from an Insider

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Shah Rukh Khan has been in over 70 Bollywood movies…in this article I found, he explains his own opinions on the contemporary presence of the Hindi film industry as well as its potential as a global player in the future.

http://theblackboxoffice.com/2010/04/shah-rukh-khan-on-the-globalization-of-bollywood/

This article, dating from April 5 2010, brings up several issues to consider relating both to Bollywood’s development up until now and its possible paths in the coming years. While the bulk of the interview is Khan sounding optimistic about Bollywood becoming a global cinema player very soon (I’d guess this is a little biased as he has been involved in the industry for decades now and is certainly pulling for its continued success), he mentions the aspect of language as a barrier, which I think is very important. As the article explains, Hollywood’s biggest advantage in relation to popular Hindi cinema is its use of English, which allows it to cater to a wider audience around the world; meanwhile, although Hindi is very prevalent in certain areas, it does not carry this same global clout.

Yet with the increasingly frequent use of “Hinglish” in Bollywood films these days, the idea of language as an obstacle is becoming slightly obsolete. Even more importantly, though, is the question whether understanding Hindi is such a crucial aspect of enjoying Bollywood films — perhaps more so than other types of films. Bollywood is particularly well-known for its use of vibrant color and dramatic musical/dance sequences; its narratives arguably play a secondary role to its spectacle aspect. Hungary has embraced Bollywood films even though there is virtually a nonexistent Indian diaspora there; rather, Hungarians tend to find these movies engaging because of their aesthetic and musical appeal (often aided by the use of Hungarian subtitles).

Future paths to explore will definitely include figuring out what exactly it is about Bollywood films that have become so appealing/entertaining for the Hungarian audience; hopefully that should give me some insight about Bollywood’s goal(s) as a cinema industry…

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