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A still from Parasite
A still from Parasite

Oscars 2020 and its significance for India

  • Directed by Bong Joon Ho, Parasite is the first non-English language film to win the best picture award
  • Parasite is the first Korean film that received a theatrical release in India

New Delhi: Korean black comedy Parasite has managed to create history, bagging four Oscars on Sunday night. Directed by Bong Joon Ho, Parasite is the first non-English language film to get the best picture award. The film mirrors much of what’s happening in India, and around the world—languages other than ones that dominate, such as English in the US and Hindi in India, emerge as major entertainment options. Movie viewers have also broadened their horizons, thanks to global cinema exposure, particularly through video streaming platforms.

Parasite also won best director, best international feature film and best original screenplay. While Joker star Joaquin Phoenix won the best actor in a leading role, Renee Zellweger was named the best actress for playing Judy Garland in the biopic of the movie star and singer. Also, Parasite is the first Korean film that received a theatrical release in India, showing that there is a niche but growing market for small-scale and plot-driven foreign films in the country, as around the world. The growth in Parasite-like films is being driven by rising exposure to global cinema through over-the-top (OTT) platforms, a younger generation of movie goers and newer avenues to watch films, besides smart and innovative marketing techniques employed by foreign studios.

Last year, psychological thriller Joker made Rs. 67.25 crore in India, while Disney’s musical fantasy Aladdin and its animation flick The Lion King earned Rs. 55.73 crore and Rs. 158.71 crore, respectively. Sam Mendes’ war film 1917 has also grabbed eyeballs after its mid-January release.

“Beyond Hollywood, award-winning foreign language films have also seen a great ride this year. The Oscar-nominated Lebanese film Capernaum resonated with movie buffs across Chennai, Hyderabad and NCR (national capital region). Similarly, the release of Japanese film Shoplifters achieved over 90% occupancy in its first run itself in cities like Chennai and also 95% occupancy in markets such as Ahmedabad and Chandigarh that otherwise witness an occupancy of 60-70% over weekends, thus resulting in three times the usual occupancy for films of this genre," Vaibhav Lal, co-founder and chief executive officer, Vkaao, PVR Cinemas, an online platform to pick and choose screening sessions, had said in an earlier interview to Mint.

Rise of non-Hindi local language content within India is another emerging trend as a whole generation of young millennials watches films in native languages. According to the FICCI-EY media and entertainment industry report 2019, overall consumption continued to increase on video OTT platforms in 2018, with regional consumers driving the growth.

Google claims that 97% of content on its YouTube platform is now consumed in local languages, and a similar trend was seen across most OTT platforms in India. These platforms claimed that over 90% of their content consumption was in regional languages.

Apart from platforms like Hoichoi that streams content specifically in one regional language, all video-on-demand platforms, including American players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as local entities like Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji and others invest in ramping up their regional content libraries.

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