The legacy of British colonialism is an invisible thread that links all of the Empire’s former colonies. These ties range from cultural, political, economic, and historical to any combination of the above. The strongest ties have been birthed, not from the shared experience of hegemonic oppression, but out of the movement of people that occurred during this period. There are Africans in the Caribbean, Indians in Britain, and Europeans in Australia. The combination of people in the varying territories has created melting pots of pluralistic national cultures and ancestral subcultures. No place is this more pronounced than in the island states that comprise the Caribbean which possess a heritage of broken cultures. (Ramchand, 1970) For the most part, international business ties and economic relations have revolved around the former colonial master, the United Kingdom and the neo-imperialist superpower to the north, the United States.
In recent times however, as a result of the growing awareness of the impact of the diaspora, Caribbean firms have been looking to form linkages in their ancestral homes. As the largest racial group within the Caribbean is ancestrally African, Africa has been the main target. While this is a good movement that shows potential for generating revenue for both Caribbean and African companies, we ought not to look at cultural ties based solely on race. Approximately one third of the Caribbean population is of Indian ancestry (Mohammed, 2007) and this has impacted heavily on the culture of the Caribbean. Indian influences can be seen in Caribbean food, music and perceptions of beauty. This essay will therefore be looking at the opportunities available for Caribbean business in the film industry in India.
Indian cinema is the largest film industry in the world by production, producing over 1,000 films each year. In 2012 it sold over 2.6 billion tickets and generated revenues of $1.6 billion USD. While this figure is minuscule in comparison to Hollywood revenues of $10.8 billion for the same period, if one takes into account the India/US PPP, the true revenue generated by Indian cinema would be $5.3 billion USD. Compound this with the fact that cinema tickets in India are extremely cheap compared to US cinema tickets (approximately $0.50 USD) and one can gain a better understanding of the true profitability of Indian cinema. However, Indian cinema cannot be classified as a ‘global industry’. Only 10% of its films are exported and all of these films are Bollywood productions. The majority of investment and collaboration in the Indian film industry is concentrated in Bollywood as these films have the most international
appeal. This is due to the large number of non-resident Indians (NRIs) in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
In the Caribbean, Indian culture has been mixing with European and African culture for centuries and Caribbean creative professionals are skilled at crafting products that blend elements from each origin culture to create something that is new, distinct and can appeal to varying cultures. A good example of this is soca music which does not adhere to European, Indian or African musical theory and conventions but instead takes elements from each to create a new musical convention. This creole genre is so relatable that to the Indian it sounds like bhangra, to the African it sounds like Afrobeats and to the European it sounds like techno. An opportunity for Caribbean film professionals may lie in collaborative co-productions between Caribbean filmmakers and Indian filmmakers. Through these co-productions, which can take the form of joint ventures or strategic alliances, Indian filmmakers can gain knowledge on how to fuse Indian culture with Western sensibilities in a way that will allow them to maintain the integrity of their craft. While Caribbean filmmakers can gain knowledge in how to create a regional/national film industry that does not simply replicate Hollywood but assesses its cultural assumptions to see how they can be translated into filmic assumptions and conventions.
It would also enable filmmakers to gain access to sources of financing. For example, in Barbados any foreign film company that enters into a co-production arrangement with a registered Barbadian film company/professional is entitled to a 125% tax rebate on all expenses incurred from doing business in Barbados. The income generated from filming in Barbados (i.e. the 25% that is given) can be used by Indian filmmakers to promote their films in Western markets. The benefit for Indian filmmakers would be the greater access to Western markets afforded to them by the Caribbean’s strategic location and the established trade linkages with North and South America. The benefit for Caribbean filmmakers would be the access to the much-needed training and finance that is required to take Caribbean filmmaking from the embryonic state it is at currently, to a sustainable comprehensive industry with the necessary infrastructure.
(N.B Using the World Bank’s PPP ratio of 0.30INR/1USD and the exchange rate at the end of 2012 of 54INR/1USD, you get a PPP exchange rate of 16.2INR/1USD)
Jade Gibbons is an arts and business graduate with a keen interest in social issues and film-making.