A Japanese Twitter handle dedicated to Indian cinema
Before the pandemic hit, IFIC had successfully created many communities that organised screenings for Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films
The charms of the Indian film industries are many. Audiences worldwide have loved cinema produced in India. And it is no surprise that Japan does too. But the craze for Indian cinema in Japan is such that there is a Twitter handle that is solely dedicated to providing information about Indian films.
The owner of ‘Indian Film Information Centre’ wishes to remain anonymous, for fear of the trolling he has been subjected to time and again. But his work speaks for itself. Started in 2012, this Tokyo-based information channel disperses information regarding theatrical releases, film festivals and special screenings of Indian films.
The person behind this account used to play Indian songs as a DJ. He recalls, “Back in the day, my friends organised a small music event to share each other’s favourite music.” He attended the event, played Indian songs and shared the same on his Facebook page. And so was born IFIC.
It was in 2013 though that this information channel became a community of cinema lovers. When Malayalam film director Kamal visited Tokyo for the Indian Film Festival, the IFIC channel owner bumped into some Malayalis and was invited to a film screening. He says, “After that, I went to many screenings and without them, I would have missed the opportunity to watch so many of the Indian films that don’t release in Japan.”
When he attended these screenings, he shared the credentials online. “Until then, there was no source one could go to for such details. Even if screenings were being organised, sometimes there just weren’t enough people to cover the expenses,” he says. But, to his surprise, many Japanese people started attending these events, and saved the organisers from many monetary losses after his online debut.
Before the pandemic hit, IFIC had successfully created many communities that organised screenings for Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films. But they had to hit pause on all of that.
The IFIC channel owner thinks the reason that the Japanese audience loves Indian cinema is because there is no dearth of entertainment. While there are some movies that criticise social problems and political corruption and educate people, there are also movies that can just be enjoyed while gorging on a bucket of popcorn. “Right now, the most interesting ones are the South Indian films,” he says.
He adds that Rajinikanth’s Muthu (1995) has remained a blockbuster with the Japanese audience over the years. The film is still screened, and its DVD and Blu-ray versions are still available in markets. “Lately, the Bahubali series, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Is Love Enough? and Sir have also been received well,” says he.
Ask him if there’s a favourite Indian film celebrity, and he names Satyajit Ray and Guru Dutt. They’re not only favourites of the audiences, but are also highly-acclaimed among film critics.
But he also acknowledges that while Indian films are vastly loved, many people also think that Bollywood is just about music and dance. He cites the example of Gully Boy which was released at the same time as a Japanese hip-hop drama Walking Man. Both of them had a storyline similar to each other and also to 8 Mile (2002 film).
“Before the release, many people expected Gully Boy to be a remake of 8 Mile,” while no one batted an eye about Walking Man. He adds, “It sounded as if they were underestimating the Indian film industry, saying they cannot make a good movie, just copying or remaking films from other countries.”
Despite this minor setback, the IFIC community has big hopes for the Indian film industry. They know that most Japanese people don’t understand Indian languages, but they still watch the movies using English subtitles on OTT platforms or on imported DVDs. They just wish Japanese film distributors bought the rights to more Indian films.