“Distribution and Exhibition of Hindi Films in Singapore”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. Vol. 14, No.4, December 2013. ISSN 1464-9373 (Print), 1469-8447 (Online)

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“Distribution and Exhibition of Hindi Films in Singapore”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. Vol. 14, No.4, December 2013. ISSN 1464-9373 (Print), 1469-8447 (Online)

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  This article was downloaded by: [Anjali Gera Roy]On: 01 October 2013, At: 07:08Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscriptioninformation:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/riac20 Distribution and circulation of Indian films inSingapore Anjali Gera RoyPublished online: 30 Sep 2013. To cite this article:  Anjali Gera Roy , Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (2013): Distribution and circulation of Indianfilms in Singapore, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2013.831206 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649373.2013.831206 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”)contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and ourlicensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, orsuitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and views expressed in this publicationare the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should be independentlyverified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilitieswhatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantialor systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and usecan be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions  Distribution and circulation of Indian films in Singapore Anjali Gera ROY ABSTRACT  Despite the long history of the export and exhibition of Indian films in Southeast Asia,a systematic documentation of how Hindi and Tamil films from India found their way into theregion has yet to be undertaken. Theatrical exhibition of Indian films is reported to have sharplydeclined or ended since the late 1970s in their traditional markets in Malaya, Ceylon, BritishEast Africa, Burma, Persian Gulf Ports, Thailand and South Vietnam. Yet films continued tobe circulated through formal and informal networks such as video parlours, CD shops, televisionand, lately, on the internet. Although Singapore has the unique distinction of being the only South-east Asian country, which still has a few theatres exclusively dedicated to screening Indian films,theatrical exhibition is not the only medium through which they are circulated. Based on fieldwork conducted between 2008 and 2010, this paper contrasts the formal distribution of Indian films withtheir informal circulation through which they  “ leak  ”  into the multi-ethnic spaces of the global city.Drawing on photographs, exhibits, interviews, reports and observations, the essay focuses on tele-vision, CD shops, lending libraries and the internet through which Indian films are disseminated inSingapore. K  EYWORDS : Bollywood; Indian films; Hindi films; leakage; Cinematograph act; Great World;New World; Shaw brothers; Jade; MediaCorp; Vasantham Central; Suria Introduction In 1964, a report on  “ Indian Films andWestern Audience ”  prepared by Jerzy Toe-plitz (1964) for UNESCO had revealed thatthe main markets for Indian films were inSoutheast Asia, Africa and the Middle East,and that Indian film exports to the Westformed only 10% of total film exports. Morerecently, Sunitha Chitrapu (2012) has demys-tified exaggerated media claims about Bolly-wood ’ s  “ global invasion ”  and Indiancinema ’ s increasing soft power by pointingout that exports of Hindi films still constitute barely 10% of global film exports. This mis-match between official statistics on cinematicexports and Indian cinema ’ s ubiquity fromAfghanistan to Zimbabwe may be attributedto what Lawrence Liang (2005) terms “ porous legalities, ”  through which Indianfilms  “ leak ”  into unlikely places throughvideocassettes, DVDs and the internet (Roy2012). As opposed to their official distri- bution, the circulation of Indian filmsthrough informal media inserts them into apolitical and cultural economy of   “ leakage ” that has characterized the production, exhi- bition and consumption of Indian filmsever since the emergence of the Indian filmindustry (Roy 2012). Based on fieldwork con-ducted between 2008 and 2010 in Singapore,this essayattemptsto contrast theformal dis-tribution of Indian films with their informalcirculation through which they  “ leak ”  intothe multi-ethnic spaces of the global city.After providing a brief overview of the thea-trical exhibition of Indian films, it draws onphotographs, exhibits, interviews, reportsand observations to focus on television, CDshops, lending libraries and the internet,throughwhich Indian films are disseminatedin Singapore.  Inter-Asia Cultural Studies , 2013http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649373.2013.831206 © 2013 Taylor & Francis    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  n   j  a   l   i   G  e  r  a   R  o  y   ]  a   t   0   7  :   0   8   0   1   O  c   t  o   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  History of exhibition of Indian films:tent cinemas, world cinemas, standalonetheatres, and multiplexes The exhibition of Indian films has been his-torically located in an economy of  “ leakage. ”  To take advantage of the QuotaAct 1 of 1927 that stipulated the exhibitionof a certain percentage of Empire filmswithin the British Empire (Jaikumar 2006,46), renters regularly screened a few Indianfilms that were considerably cheaper thanBritish films. Even though these films mighthave constituted less than one percent of the total films shown in the Straits Settle-ments, the loophole in the Quota Act encour-aged the exhibition of Indian films both inIndia and in other British colonies. WithBritish administrators viewing them asappropriate entertainment for Indian planta-tion workers in British Malaya, imperial pol-icies ironically triggered the screening of Indian films in village cinemas in theseregions. 2 Randor Guy (2010) reports that Sami-kannu Vincent ’ s tent cinema travelled as faras British Malaya as early as 1905, andMarsha McCreadie (2008, 6) shows thatAbdullay Esoofally (1884 – 1957)  “ providedentertainment for audiences in SoutheastAsia ” travellingallthroughJava,Sumatra,Sin-gapore,Burma,CeylonandIndiawithhisbio-scope shows until 1907. According to Tan(quoted in Van der Heide 2002, 118), Indianfilms were being shown throughout thepeninsula by the 1920s and early 1930s.Mohammed Anis Mohammed Nor adds thatHindi films were particularly popular amongthe films exhibited because their themes,songs and dances resembled the WayangParsi or Bangsawan 3 that are familiar to localaudiences (Nor 1993, 45).It was  Singapore  (1960), a Singapore-India co-production, which immortalizedan entire era in Singapore ’ s entertainmenthistory that was soon to disappear forever. 4 In addition to other images in the Hindifilm that documented the production of thenew nation, the film offers a rare visualarchive of the Great World, one of theWorlds in which films were screened between 1927 and 1964, before it closeddown in 1964 (Tong 1997). The  “ Worlds, ”  anovel concept in entertainment in the late1920s, referred to amusement parks in Singa-pore modelled after Shanghai ’ s Great Worldand New World that offered a wide range of night-timeentertainment(Salvador2007,19).In the song  yeh sheher hai bada albela  [this cityis very unique] in the film, inscribing Singa-pore asahouse oftemptationsthattheprota-gonist was required to overcome in order toreach his destination, Shammi Kapoor isseen driving into the Great World and enter-ing the Globe Theatre (Figure 1) to affirm thecity state ’ s multicultural character:  jahan bhednaheen gore kalon ka  (where there is no dis-crimination between whites and blacks).Later, he watches Padmini perform  aane Figure 1.  Globe in the Great World (picture from http://martinliewphotography. blogspot.com) (RemSG 2012). 2  A.G. Roy    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  n   j  a   l   i   G  e  r  a   R  o  y   ]  a   t   0   7  :   0   8   0   1   O  c   t  o   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  laga jeene ka maza  (now I have begun to enjoylife) at the fictitious New India club, whichcould also be one of the theatres in theGreat World.Thehistoryofcinematicproductionandexhibition in the Straits Settlements would be incomplete without a reference to theShaw Brothers Ltd, founded by the pioneersRunme Shaw and Run Run Shaw whomoved to Singapore from Shanghai in 1924and owned a chain of 139 cinemas by 1939across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indo-nesia and Indo-China. According to infor-mation available on Shawonline, 70% of films shown in these cinemas during thisperiod were American, 16% were British,and 13% were Chinese. While films had been screened weekly for Indian workersat plantations in the British Malaya andoccasionally in the open theatres in theWorlds and those outside, regular screen-ings of Indian films in theatres began onlywith the Japanese occupation in 1942. The Japanese offered cine-goers a choice between watching Japanese propagandafilms or Indian melodramas, which theyappeared to have preferred for their enter-tainment value (Kratoska 1997, 141).William Van der Heide (2002, 141) pointsout that  “ Indian films remained verypopular with Malayan audiences in the1950s, extending to non-Indian Malaysianaudiences, who enjoyed the songs anddances and recognized the obvious simi-larities to locally made films, even thoughthese films were neither subtitled nordubbed into the Malay language. ” 5 AndyYoung, a Chinese singer with a Singaporepop-band Silver Strings, recalls havingwatched the blockbuster  Aan  (1952) in theGarrick Theatre  “ from a 50 cent front row ” (Young 2010) at the insistence of his Malayneighbour, and that Mohammed Rafi ’ ssong  “ dil mein chupake pyar ka toofan ” (hiding the storm of love in the heart) fromthe film kept playing in his head for yearsfollowing that. In addition to the Chineseaudience, Indian films with English subti-tles were also marketed to the US audiencesinSingaporewhowerealwaysfascinatedbythe  “ mysterious ”  East, he adds. Young(2010) concludes that  “ in Singapore, theinterest and love for Bollywood moviesnever waned. ”  Eddie C. Y. Kuo, whileagreeing with Young that Indian filmswere popular among both Indians andMalays, points out that cinema attendanceof Indian films constituted barely 3.3% of the total cinema attendance during 1975 – 1976 (Kuo 1978, 1080; Kuo and Chen 1983).Most of the suburban theatres in Singapore,too, thrived until the early to mid-1980s when the appearance of videotapesforced them to close down (Media Centre2002).Anecdotal evidence about the cinematicexhibition of Indian films until the mid-1970s in different parts of the world has been corroborated by the findings of BrianLarkin, Adrian Athique and others (Larkin2003; Athique 2008). Unlike Bangkok,where Indian film exhibition has beenreduced to a monthly affair since the 1970s,Singapore continues to have several theatressuch as Jade, Rex, and so on, exclusivelydedicated to the screening of Indian films. Jade Cineplex in Shaw Towers, whichincluded the largest theatre, Prince, doesnot appear to have screened Indian films,from when it opened in 1977, as filmgoersvisiting the theatres up to the 1980s recallhaving watched only Hollywood hits suchas  Jaws .Although Singapore ’ s screening of Hindi and Tamil films bespeaks the citystate ’ s professed multiculturalism, the allo-cation of an antiquated hall to screen Indianfilms accentuates the marginalization of Indian popular culture in the global city.On an average weekend, the multicultural Jade audience ranges from all male groupsof young South Asian students and pro-fessionals, dating and young marriedcouples, families as well as middle-agedcouples (Figure 2). But Malays, of all ages,single and accompanied by families, andthe lone Chinese lady on a night out, intro-duce a disjuncture in its South Asian space.Except on rare weekends, as during thescreening of   Ghajini  (2009) and  New York  (2009), Jade can boast of no more than 25%occupancy with 90% of the audience Distribution and circulation of Indian films  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  n   j  a   l   i   G  e  r  a   R  o  y   ]  a   t   0   7  :   0   8   0   1   O  c   t  o   b  e  r   2   0   1   3  comprising of South Asians — Indians, Pakis-tanis, Nepalese, Burmese, Bangladeshis andSingaporeans. 6 The answer to the anomaly between the abysmally low theatrical visitsand Singaporeans ’  familiarity with Indianfilms is provided by Young, who maintainsthat,  “ today Singaporeans of all races watchthem on television, DVDs and in thecinemas ”  to  “ escape the harsh realities of everyday life. Similarly 50s and 60s Indianpop evergreens are still in demand in themusic shops ”  (Young 2010). The followingsection examines the non-theatrical optionsof viewing Indian films in Singapore. Television and Indian films:Vasantham, Suria, Zee TV Arunajeet Kaur and Faizal Yahya (2010)assert that  “ since the inception of broadcast-ing in Singapore, Indians, primarily Tamils,have been given slots or time belts on localchannels for Tamil programmes ”  andmention Channel 8, launched by Radioand Television Singapore, which featuredTamil programmes. 7 They point out thatprovisions were made to air Hindi films onIndian programme time slots and, in theearly 1970s and 1980s, Hindi movies wereaired once a month; in addition, with thecoming of MediaCorp, this has increasedto once or twice a week 8 (Kaur and Yahya2010).Unlike other paid cable networks whoseviewership is divided by ethnicity, language,class and so on, state-owned channels suchas Vasantham (Tamil) and Suria (Malay)are aired free of cost to all. According toinformation provided on the channel ’ s offi-cial website, Vasantham Central, launchedin 1996, is  “ one of three distinct program-ming belts of MediaCorp TV12 ’ s Centralchannel, ”  which  “ offers 12.5 hours of pro-gramming on weekdays and 17.5 hours onweekends, with approximately 25% localprogramming. ”  Over the two years of mystudy, Vasantham Central underwentseveral transformations including the pro-duction of Singaporean soaps and realityshows that contribute to the 25% local pro-gramming it now boasts of and wasrenamed VasanthaminOctober 2008. 9 Inqui-ries about the influence of Indian films froma programmer at Vasantham were summar-ily rejected with:  “ We are not an Indianchannel. We are a Singaporean Channel.Don ’ t ask us about Indian films ”  (personalcommunication 2009). However, three quar-ters of Vasantham ’ s programming is Indianand is largely dominated by Indian films orfilm-based shows with those in SouthIndian languages occupying prime slots. Inthis Tamil channel, Hindi language filmsare either aired during the  “ BollywoodMasti ”  slot at 4 p.m. or sandwiched between Tamil films in  “ Vasantham BoxOffice ”  at 1 p.m. and  “ Tamil Silver Screen ” at 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Vasantham includesthree more film slots on Sundays,  “ IndianPanorama ”  at 1 p.m.,  “ Cinema Express ”  at5.30 p.m. and  “ Tamil Talkies ”  at 9 p.m., indeference to the multi-ethnic composition of Singapore ’ s South Asian population. 10 Other shows such as  “ Yaar Antha Star ”  onFridays at 6 p.m. and  “ Dhool ”  onSaturdays at 7 p.m. exhibit strong depen-dence on films. Figure 2.  An evening in Jade Cineplex(photograph by author). 4  A.G. Roy    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  n   j  a   l   i   G  e  r  a   R  o  y   ]  a   t   0   7  :   0   8   0   1   O  c   t  o   b  e  r   2   0   1   3
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