A Blog on Cinema

Hindi Films = Indian Films?


(Written by Guest contributor Unni with inputs from VC team)

Sometime in 1927, a non-profit corporation was formed and registered in California. The organization’s name was “The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.” The Oscars, as it is popularly called now, has been an inspiration for many an award shows across the globe. Every award show organizer wants his award show to resemble the Oscars as much as possible – red carpet, paparazzi, camera flashes et al.

Not to be left behind, a few people started the “The International Indian Film Academy“(IIFA) supposedly to showcase the Indian film industry to the world. The first IIFA Film Festival was held in London in 2000. The latest edition of the awards just got over in Dubai.

Now to the objective of IIFA – The official IIFA site states states that “The International Indian Film Academy is a first-of-its-kind effort to promote Indian Cinema globally, thus reaching out to millions of its fans”.

It is this very objective that has been questioned by none other than Mammotty in his interview to NDTV

“How can this be called an International Indian Awards when the competition is only limited to Hindi films?”

“The Hindi film industry should at least show the guts to stand up to the competition from the southern film industry before calling itself international,” said Mammootty.

Hats off to the Mammotty for having the guts to speak out,at the cost of being ridiculed. He has been consistently speaking about this of late. He made a similar speech during last years Annual Film fare awards. One wonders the motive behind these awards – is it instituted just to create the hype – through the participation of Hindi movie actors/actresses and even starlets(whose claim to “acting” is exhibiting their “assets”), at exotic locations and at the expense of a few NRI’s who have big money to throw away.

Admittedly few non-Hindi actors like Mammootty, Mohan Lal, Meera Jasmine and Vikram were also invited to attend the awards; just in case some foreigners thought that India was a one-language country. Maybe to appease the non-Hindi speaking people, a few movies like Kazcha and Rasthanthram were also shown.

The nominations for almost all the main categories were from Bollywood films. ‘Black’ hogged the limelight with its multiple nominations. Not even a single other-language film featured on the list, though 7 Tamil, four Malayalam and 3 Telugu films were screened.

The complete negative bias towards non-Hindi films provoked Mammooty to remark during his speech that IFFA should be named as International Hindi Film Awards. “There is a world beyond Bollywood,” he said.

What the organizers miss and what Mammotty argues is that Hindi alone is not International India. If it were so, most actors in India would have acted in Hindi Films and only Hindi actors would have won National Awards.

Here are a few facts – The highest paid Indian actor is not Amithabh Bachchan/Shah Rukh Khan. It is Rajnikanth who if rumors are to be believed earns close to 20 crore!. Such is his fan following that his movies have been dubbed in languages such as Japanese and Turkish.

If one takes look at the people who have won National Awards for the past 26 years- South Indians have won 14/26 awards for the best actor!! (Out of that Malayalais have won more than 60% of those 14 awards). Mammotty has won it thrice and Mohan Lal twice. Mr Bachchan has won it once. Shah Rukh has never won it. Saif Ali Khan had the backing of momma Sharmila Tagore-Censor board Chairman and won an award for a candy-floss movie.

For a while now there has been consistent and concerted push towards projecting Hindi movies as Indian movies, be it in Cannes, or for Oscars or National awards. More and more Hindi movies are trying to identify themselves closer to Hollywood rather than to India while they are just starting to get rid of stories where twin brothers get lost in childhood and meet after 20 years. Even though there are talented actors, directors and technicians in South India, Hindi cinema has always muscled them out, probably due to inferiority complex.

If the IIFA awards are to come anywhere near the league of other International festivals like Cannes/Berlin, the organizers have to take off their bias towards Hindi films and give equal footage to regional language films as well. That might mean less Hindi movies might get selected and the Karan Johar genre might not be showcased, but that is the way to make this festival truly Indian.


Venue: IIFA Festival.
Interviewer to singer, Shankar Mahadevan: OK Tell me what does IIFA stand for?
Shankar Mahadevan: Indian..International..Indian..Awards….errr..I don’t know!


  1. It is like the baseball championship in US being called world series. You are absolutely right if they want to call it as Indian film festival they should get due importance to the other regional language films too not just the bollywood flicks.

  2. Ah!

    But then, the South Indian Film industry can start its own awards and call it the real Indian movies and such, No?

    Secondly, if IIFA or whatever is called is not reflective of Indian movies, it will soon lose its credibility and would be doomed.

    So, its win win. Why complain?

    btw, I do not like Hindi movies much, I really believe that the best Indian movies have been made in Bengali and Malaylam.

    Though, Rajnikant! I do not care how many billions of dollars he gets paid, but he sucks big time.

  3. Instead of focussing on Hindi Vs Regional angle, I have another take on these awards – IIFA, Filmfare etc. Recently read headlines that “Black” swept the awards @ IIFA. God save hindi cinema! I havn’t seen a more pretentious, self-indulgent movie ever. And when this movie was released, ToI rated it 4 stars and said if this doesnt get an oscar then no other movie will!

    Problem is Bollywood is all about hype and stars and entertainment. Between all this its totally forgotten that cinema, in essence, is a form of art. There is good hindi cinema. Haazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Iqbal (good attempt), Maqbool, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara were all pretty good. But unfortunately these are relegated to the position of parallel cinema. So good actors like Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, KayKay have to either wait endlessly for good roles or join the likes of Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Anupam Kher and decide to become caricatures of self.

    I think thats where Malayalam and Bengali cinema have the edge. There are sensible film-makers and and audience who appreciate art. Sadly both of these are almost non-existant in Hindi cinema.

  4. Excellent point and great piece of writing.

  5. I agree too. To be honest, I had not thought about it before reading this post but then that is natural if one speaks only Hindi and watches most movies in Hindi (except for an occasional Bengali one). Even actors like Mohan Lal, are completely ignored by persons like me unless someone like RG Varma decides to give them a role in a mainstream Hindi film. The post made me think of those old B&W days 30 years ago when doordarshan used to show a “regional” film with subtitles on Saturdays! Now, the bias continues also because Pakistani & Bangladeshi owners of pirated indian film market in Italy have only Hindi films (or an occasional Bengali film) – which is not a bad thing perhaps for the eocnomics of the film industries in the south?

  6. Happy-go-Lucky – You brought out something which I missed out.

    There were a few good Hindi movies made last year – I havent seen any of them – But I heard that all the movies I mentioned were very good – notably Iqbal. However these lost to heavy weights like “Black”/”Parineetha”/”Paheli” – as they had Bacchan/Shah Rukh/ Saif/Rani etc.
    Iqbal and Lagaan were original movies and both were worthy to be nominated for the Oscars. Had these been made in Hollywood, they would have won it also.

    IMHO, the problem with Hindi movies these days is that they are now making the movies solely targetting the NRI market and the multiplex crowd – They bring in the maximum moolah for the Bharath Shahs and the Nadiadwallahs. The presence
    of a big star and foreign locations is mandatory for these, as the NRI crowds many not step in otherwise. The Karan Johar/Yash chopra movies are the classic examples. Rope in a Bachchan (father or son), any Khan and a Rani/Preity/Kajol and set the story in Times Square/Piccadilly Circus/ Sydney Harbour. A movie is born. Where is the originality here?

    While one can always argue that money making is the major motive behind making movies. However a smaller objective also should be making good cinema.

    Bollywood now has now more show-men than actors – which was not the case until probably 10-15 years ago.

  7. IIFA s**s big time. And I wonder why the southie actors went there to attend the function. The best way to protest would have been to deny the offer to participate in there and then make a press statement.

    There is descrimination in the bollywood itself. I wonder why Swades wasn’t chosen for an Oscar entry. Black is a good movie, but too much of emotions and there were lots of flaws from the director’s part. But we get to hear that its some kind of classic. There are lots of good off-beat Hindi movies being made, but thay’re not being projected through the media or any other means. (Here is a good blog about Parallel Cinema –

    And I am glad Mammootty talked it out. As long as it is not from the agony that he couldn’t make a space in the so called bollywood, its a brave thing to say it loud.

    And those glorious days of quality cinema in Malayalm seem to be over. So our actors/directors should start to do something about it along with the press statements as such.

  8. “There are lots of good off-beat Hindi movies…”

    Read it as “There are a few…” 🙂 (Like Mathrubhumi etc) But then again, that’s the case with other glorified regional language movies as well.

    Another interesting thing I noticed is some Indian English movies (mostly addressed as multiplex movies) have a variety of themes and very promising talents.

  9. It’s true that most Americans think that only Bollywood movies are mainstream Indian cinema and a lot of other languages don’t get a lot of attention at these so-called International Indian Awards.

    Well said and well-written. Kudos to Mammooty for speaking out.

  10. Very true. Southern films being screened and not given any award is an insult. I don’t know how better movies like ‘Autograph’ or ‘Antarmahal’ were ignored over ‘Hindi “art” films’ like ‘black’

    But then like someone else said new Indian films festivals should be hosted in foreign countries, that only showcase South Indian films. The films hosted there should not be called south Indian films, they are Indian films. Majority of the films in India are produced in the south. I am sure the south films with their better characterizations and storylines and production values almost comparable to Bollywood (and sometimes better) should be more interesting over the shallow films of Bollywood

    Bollywood ‘imperialism’ is nothing new. The word bollywood originally referred to Hindi films produced in Bombay. The other Indian city Chennai produced far more films in South Indian languages. Now Bollywood has come to mean Indian films (!) and choses to use the word conveniently (To hide the existence of southern films whenever possible and talk abt only Hindi films (as if south Indian films are insignificant), and to associate itself with them and share the limelight when southern films like ‘Muthu’ get international attention). Incidently a couple of Hindi films were released in Japan after the grand success of Tamil film Muthu in Japan, presuming Hindi films ought to do better business, but then it met with limited success 😉 Rajini’s films continue to be succesful there so are a couple of other Tamil films

    This is a disgrace and also funny considering that south indian films are actually hugely successful here and have very big markets (combined is much more bigger than Hindi cinema) and unlike many countries, even very developed ones that cannot boast of a big market for local films

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  14. I just came across this well written article. First please stop using ‘regional’ for South Indian movies. Thats what the Hindi/northie press likes to call them in order to localize them and cleverly enhance their Hindi movies to a ‘national’ status. Just because films are made in Hindi they do not automatically become ‘national’. Hindi is not the only national language, there are 16 national languages in total. South Indian movies should get a brand name, something original and like someone has suggested need to have their own film festivals and award ceremonies. They just need to market and promote their movies and resist identifying with Bollywood. Also someone has already suggested there is a need for creating and promoting a common South Indian market; by this I mean sharing of resources both technical and cast (which is already happening) and making films keeping in mind the whole of South India.

  15. It is not a bad idea to find a common ground for southern movies. We ourselves often forget that all major languages in India are constitutionally called national languages. the only extra status Hindi enjoys is the title official language for the country (correct me if I am wrong). You go outside the country, people often identify Indian movies with Hindi movies. and they think standard of indian movies is the standard of hindi movies. yes, it is true we need something to bind the country but not at the expense of denying space for everyone else everytime. So we don’t have to accept this degrading comment “regional movies” we often come across in the media for all other language movies except hindi. When what we deserve is denied continously we must find our own ways of self-sufficiency. find a common ground for southern movies, make sufficient efforts to strengthen the industry and be watchful to stop priacy (which is eating away a major share of the economy, remember we need a strong economy to have a strong platform, all southern movies together can provide a strong economical platform), professional yet healthy relation between the members and last but not the least include others who wants to be a part of us without compromising the original intensions which is to promote art and culture of various parts of India.

  16. The IIFA is just another doze of awards added to the already dozen awards for hindi movies. I don’t know why they are making this an awards function b/c it has the same concept, the juries of the awards pick nominees and fans choose the winner. But this is the same as zee awards, stardust, honda screen awards, etc.. where fans choose for hindi movies. The only jury based award w/o fans choosing for hindi movies is filmfare. The main idea behind IIFA is to showcase (h)indian movies internationally, why doesn’t it just showcase hindi movies instead of making it a big awards ceremony. Moreover, there is the IIFI which is film festival of india, and that too just showcases indian movies from accross the country&also from other continents just like france’s cannes or canada’s toronto film festival. This IIFA should be named Hindi film festival.

  17. Both the Tamil and Hindi cinema are divided into two very different categories respectively. Let’s observe the Hindi cinema first. One category showcases Hollywood-style/inspired/coppied films. There are countless of those. Murder, The Kuller, Chocalate, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, The Train and many more are just a few examples of these. They try so hard to be on the same standard as Hollywood but completely fail to do so. Now, the second category is the good ones with real messages and moral values to supply. They may not be completely original or well-done but surely deserve a box-office recognition. Some of them are Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghaum, Don, Water, Devdas, The Royal Guard and many more.

    And for now, let’s study the Tamil cinema instead. The first category-to say in the most modest and humble manner-are totally disgracing and embarassing to Tamil people worldwide. Even I don’t know where to start. As a matter of fact, they can be any film with the hero speaking lenghty, corny dialogues. Not to mention a ‘ghana pattu’ (savage country songs) with uncivilised dance moves, worthless comical relieves, sexy dance numbers, lots of violence and the list goes on. Any Vijay film will make a good example. Among them are Pokkiri, Janaa, Aaru, Dhool, Sivakasi and the lists goes on and on. The second category consists of well-developed films that, also need not be totally original but definetly leave an impact on the community for years. Among them are Jeans, Mudhalvan, Autograph, Veetayadu Veelayaddu, Kaaka Kaaka, Iruvar, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Sneghideney, Alaipayuthey, Mozhi and many more. However, one common thing between both Tamil and Hindi films now days are the amount of erotic scenes in them. Just look at any Emraan Hashimi or Simbhu films.

  18. Hindian imperialism shud be stopped at any cost in India.India is a multilingual,multicultural country..Its not a single language contry like any others in the world…All non-hindi speakers are also Indians..not just the north indians…I hav always hated the stupid medias calling hindi cinema as ‘indian’ and south indian films as ‘regional’…hindi is not our national language….neither the constitution nor the law enforces any language as ‘national language’…It is being spread that way by some selfish hindi people ,so that they will be called ‘nationalists’ and their films ‘national’ or ‘indian’ films…All non-hindi speaking states and people will be ‘regionals’,’locals’ or inferiors’…HINDI IS NOT SPOKEN IN SOUTH AND EASTERN INDIA…IT IS NOT THE NATIONAL LANGUAGE [U CAN REFER THE WIKIPEDIA FOR DETAILS]…THEN HOW CAN HINDI FILMS BE NATIONAL FILMS?????INDIAN CONSTITUTION HAS ONLY 23 OFFICIAL LANGUAGES..HINDI IS JUST ONE AMONG THEM…….

    secondly,hindi films are as regional as any other..bcoz they portray the culture and lifestyle of the north indian region…i havent seen any hindi films …showing tamilans,malayalis,kannadigas ,telugu people,east indian people etc..It does not represent the entire nation…it always shows punjab,bombay.uttar pradesh or else foreign countries…SO HINDI FILMS ARE REGIONAL…..NOT ‘INDIAN’ AS THEY CLAIM….CALL BOLLYWOOD NORTH INDIAN REGIONAL CINEMA…

    thirdly,this hindian domination is a threat ,not only to other langugage INDIAN FILMS like tamil,malayalam,kannada telugu,punjabi,marathi,bhojpuri etc..,but also to the unity of the nation…….
    During the time wen India got independence,wen we planned to combine all the different langugae ,multicultural regions to form ONE NATION[which was of the first kind in the world],there were rumours especially by the british that the concept of India wont work…
    bcoz a nation shud hav common language,common religion,culture,race etc…India does not have any one of these things…So they told India will split apart bcoz the north indian hindi speaking person,east indian person and the ‘madrassi ‘people[even they were also not one …they spoke 5 or 6 languages including konkani,tulu,coorgi etc..]will not feel that all of them belong to a single country INDIA…But we ,as a nation has proved to be ONE in the midst of all the diversities …It shud be so in the future also….But the problem is that if one linguistic group dominate and call themselves real Indians,then the others ,who are also Indians will feel inferior..Each time wen they call south indian films ‘regional’ and not INDIAN ,the sense of pride inside a south indian that he is an INDIAN will get hurt…So they hav to be made feel that they are also part of the big picture called INDIA…

    So stop calling south indian films regional..If we are regional ,then hindianwood is also regional..
    and if hindi films are INDIAN FILMS ,then all other language movies in this country also hav got the right to be called as INDIAN FILMS…

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