Get ready for the glitz and glamour – the Bollywood Oscars are finally coming home.
Mumbai will host the star-spangled International Indian Film Academy Awards on Wednesday for the first time in 20 years as the country’s movie industry celebrates another stellar year.
In 2018, 1,800 movies were released, wowing viewers from Australia to Afghanistan to Africa. And, of course, China.
During the same period, India’s film sector expanded by 12.2%, according to a report published in March by Ernst & Young, or EY, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.
The huge South Asian diaspora in North America, the United Kingdom and the Gulf region has traditionally been major overseas markets, with passionate fans often queueing for hours just to catch a glimpse of stars such as Shah Rukh Khan.
But Indian films have also been making huge inroads elsewhere – most notably in China.
The black comedy Andhadhun, for example, nominated for best picture at the Bollywood Oscars, was a huge hit with Chinese viewers, grossing almost US$50 million.
Aamir Khan, the star of the two top-grossing Indian films in China, has a crazed following there and is known by many as Nan Shen, or “male god.”
Film distributor Akshaye Rathi confirmed that the industry has also seen “great growth” in many European countries and in Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore because of the South Asian community.
“Now it is just a matter of time before we focus on the wider populations in these countries,” Rathi added.
And not forgetting 1.3 billion-strong India itself, where there is massive potential for further expansion.
According to the EY analysis, industry revenues are estimated to swell from 174.5 billion rupees ($2.4 billion) in 2018 to 236.1 billion rupees in 2021.
But then, the industry is changing rapidly. Other nominees for best picture at the International Indian Film Academy Awards, such as spy thriller Raazi, swashbuckling epic Padmaavat, and middle-aged motherhood comedy-drama Badhaai Ho, underline that Bollywood has moved on from the cliched all-singing, all-dancing affair.
The industry has also been attracting institutional capital and fresh talent. This, in turn, has created greater variety by reaching out to a wider, often younger, audience.
There were fears for the movie business when major streaming services arrived in India a few years ago, changing the way many Indians watch films.
But the likes of Netflix and domestic players such as Hotstar have instead been a shot in the arm. They have provided a new medium for releases and financial support for new productions.
Unlike regular cinematic offerings, they are not subject to India’s notoriously stuffy censors.
Revenues from the sale of digital rights ballooned nearly 60% in 2018, according to the EY report, with Amazon Prime and Netflix among the major buyers.
The streaming giants have also started producing original Indian content, splashing out on big-money titles.
Netflix, for example, recruited Bollywood superstars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan for its acclaimed series Sacred Games.
Last week, the streaming giant linked up with Karan Johar, one of the highest-profile producers in Bollywood.
“It’s going to be P.H.A.T – pretty hot and tempting,” Johar said.