Badawi wants Malaysian cinema to rival Bollywood

May 30th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 30 (IANS) Malaysian Prime Minister Adullah Ahmad Badawi wants his country’s cinema to rival Bollywood, the Mumbai-based Indian film industry, since he feels his nation has all the cultural diversity and richness India offers in its movies. “I believe that if the development of the arts in this country is well guided, it will prosper … perhaps this country’s performing arts can even be better than India and its Bollywood. If there is a will, there is a way. It all depends on whether you really want it,” he told the 4,000 artistes attending the first National Artistes Day programme here Thursday.

May 29, being death anniversary of legendary Malaysian artiste and dancer P. Ramlee, would henceforth be observed as National Artistes Day annually, The Star reported Friday.

“The government will continue to support, guide and encourage the industry to succeed,” the prime minister said, adding that the private sector could also work closely with the industry.

Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Mohamad Shafie Apdal said Hollywood generates billions of dollars from blockbuster films every year while Bollywood films are watched by 11 million people daily.

In contrast, the Malaysian film industry only began showing healthy changes from 2000 when the number of films made annually was 23, the New Straits Times quoted him as saying.

The gross collection had increased from 26.71 million ringgit ($8.5 million) three years ago to 29.62 million ringgit ($9.3 million) in 2006, the minister said.

Malaysia has a small film industry that dates back to the 1930s and has strong connections with India.

The industry produces 300 to 400 television dramas and serials a year. Malaysia also holds its own annual film festival. There are 250 cinema halls across the country.

Malaysian cinema began in 1933 with “Laila Majnu”, based on a classical Persian story of two ill-fated lovers. It was directed by an Indian, B.S. Rajhans, and produced by the Singapore-based Motilal Chemical Company of Bombay (now Mumbai). The cast was derived from a local opera group.

Most of the early films carried plenty of singing and dancing scenes, a trend introduced by the Indian film directors. After Rajhans, the Shaw Brothers imported many other Indian film directors, among them S. Ramanathan and Phani Majumdar.

Some local film directors such as Indian origin L. Krishnan and K.M. Bashker learned the trade and techniques through experience and apprenticeship. By the 1960s, many of the expatriates were replaced by local directors.

Tamil films from Chennai are a regular fare in Malaysian theatres since the country has over two million Tamils.

Hindi films are also popular, among the recent releases here being “Jodha Akbar” and Amitabh Bachchan-Shah Rukh Khan starrer “Bhootnath”.

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