Action! — The Indian Cinema Task Force
The task force's icon is a clapperboard
emblazoned with the Indian flag
Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray
painted in 1997 by a Wikipedia editor
Malayalam film director Shaji N. Karun
photographed by a Wikipedia editor in 2008
Ramoji Film City
is the world’s largest integrated film studio complex with over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of land
Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan
carrying the Olympic torch at the 2012 Summer Games in London
This week, we shine the spotlight on the Indian Cinema Task Force, a subproject that seeks to improve the quality and quantity of articles about Indian cinema. As a child of WikiProject Film and WikiProject India, the Indian Cinema Task Force shares a variety of templates, resources, and members with its parent projects. The task force works on a to-do list, maintains the Bollywood Portal, and ensures articles follow the film style guidelines. With Indian cinema celebrating its 100th year of existence in 2013, we asked Karthik Nadar (Karthikndr), Secret of success, Ankit Bhatt, Dwaipayan, and AnimeshKulkarni what is in store for the Indian Cinema Task Force.
What motivated you to join the Indian Cinema Task Force? Do you have any favorite directors, actors, or actresses?
- Karthik Nadar: Well, Indian cinema itself motivated me to join the task force. Its the excitement, the glamour, the vandalism related to articles and various other factors which also drove me to work on articles related to Indian cinema.
- Secret of success: I have been an ardent admirer of Indian cinema ever since I was a child. Before creating an account, I used to refer to Wikipedia to have a look at the box office and the critical reception of a film before watching it. When I found out that several articles were extremely poor in terms of their content, I joined Wikipedia with the primary intention of improving these articles.
- Ankit Bhatt: My cinematic experience began with Indian cinema, and I have had a constant fascination with cinema as a whole. So it was something of a natural step for me to shift into this task force (I had begun editing in Wikipedia's Sports project). In addition, the general quality of Indian cinema articles is nothing eye-popping – another strong motivator. Unfortunately, my contributions have decreased a lot due to college, but I will be back on radar pretty soon.
To the uninitiated, Indian cinema is synonymous with Bollywood. Is this a mistake? Share with us some of the variety found in Indian cinema.
- Karthik Nadar: Indian cinema is not a synonym of Bollywood, but both would sound incomplete without each other. It is a mistake which is now being corrected by the growth of the South Indian film industry.
- Dwaipayan: Cinema of India is not at all synonymous with Bollywood, the latter representing only the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai. In 2011, among 1,255 films certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (including 147 films dubbed from one language to another), 206 films were in Hindi; Telugu films were in second position with 192 films (please refer to page 17 and 18 of this document). Indeed, in the award circles, non-Hindi Indian films are better known than the Hindi ones; Satyajit Ray, the Academy Award-winning director made films primarily in Bengali.
- Secret of success: The fact that Bollywood is not synonymous with Indian cinema does not conflict with its superiority over regional industries. Bollywood has played a key role in the political, social and ethnic aspects of the country and exhibited the diverse culture of India to a much wider audience, as compared to regional industries. Due to their political and social impact, films like My Name Is Khan have shown the potential of Bollywood to Islamic audiences, while films like 3 Idiots have driven home strong messages regarding education systems all over the world. An Indian film has a greater chance of receiving a positive response from the critics and audience alike if it carries a message relating to the need of the hour.
- Ankit Bhatt: Being in India, I can assure you that Bollywood is not, in any way, a synonym for Indian cinema as a whole. Indian cinema exhibits great variety in terms of the language, reach and style. Sadly, outside India, this misconception exists for several reasons, and its effect is felt in the quality of the articles pertaining to "regional industries" like the Marathi and Bhojpuri film industries. That does not discount other film industries which are as much a part of Indian cinema as Bollywood; industries like the Tamil film industry are an example of well-developed commercial film-making, while Bengali and Malayalam film industries display great artistic quality.
How does Wikipedia's coverage of Indian cinema compare to that of North American and European cinema? Are there any significant gaps in Indian cinema coverage?
- Dwaipayan: The coverage of North American cinema is more "meaty". Hollywood film (or film personality) articles contain more data and reliable references. I do not have a good idea about coverage of European films except for famous and award-winning ones. Indian film-related articles often lack such good information. Of course there are multiple good articles and some featured articles pertaining to Indian cinema, but the difference in the availability and quantity of information between Hollywood and Indian cinema is remarkable. This probably stems from the lack of readily accessible reference works for Indian cinema.
- Secret of success: More editors focus on Hollywood articles, due to the output generated, its wide appeal and immense popularity. It is no secret that Hollywood articles remain more "complete" compared to the ones under this task force. The gap remains as wide as ever. But due to India's tremendous economic growth, Bollywood is also growing at the same pace and is likely to reach the level of Western cinema in a matter of a few years.
- Ankit Bhatt: It is quite obvious that English-based film industries enjoy great advantages due to the widespread and international use of the language. However, we are progressing very well through the dedication of a number of committed editors who are striving for better quality and greater recognition, and who are always on the look-out for similar people who can join the task force and assist us in our journey. I personally do not believe in outpacing "others" since its all for the improvement of Wikipedia in the end, so I can't really comment on "when we'll get there".
Does the project run into any notability issues for films, directors, actors, and actresses that are not well known outside India or outside particular regions of India? How does the project handle these situations?
- Karthik Nadar: Issues persist for regional films, and sometimes for Bollywood films too. Lack of notability lands many articles in the deletion list. Applying the basic Wikipedia guidelines to the aspects of content, budget and box office is always a problem; initiating a consensus-building procedure is sometimes the only option left.
- Dwaipayan: Yes, some films or cast and crew members may not be adequately reported on by the media, and so it might be difficult to establish the notability of the concerned article. This is particularly true in the case of old films. With the increasing reach of the Internet, less notable film personalities sometimes get more coverage than significant film personalities due to a lack of references. Film-related books may also not be easily available for users in such cases.
- Ankit Bhatt: While we do face such situations several times, it is generally sorted out through discussions, be it at article talk pages, an RfC or AfD. Having said that, the policies governing Wikipedia are not exactly transparent and are often prone to misunderstanding. In addition, the usual problem of vandalism does occur. We can never be rid of this problem since notability will mean different things for different people, even with the presence of a single policy, so this area is always a work in progress.
- AnimeshKulkarni: I have seen a few non-Indian editors raising notability issues on regional film articles or old film articles. The lack of online sources in the English language media is the primary reason for this. Of course, the editors abide by Wikipedia's policies concerning notability and verifiability. But they mostly neglect the policy of assuming good faith. But I suppose this won't change anytime soon.
As a joint task force run between WikiProject Films and WikiProject India, do you share a lot members and resources with these projects? Are there any downsides to having two parent projects?
- Karthik Nadar: WP Films and WP India, both are helpful, but WP India has various branches and hence it is really impossible for it to concentrate and work on a single WikiProject. On the other hand, WP India should be grateful to Indian Cinema Task Force for taking any article to GA level compared to any sub-projects by WP India.
- Dwaipayan: Personally I do not participate much in WP Film activities, so I'm not aware of any shared activities. There are some active members shared by the two projects.
- Secret of success: Many of the editors of the Indian cinema task force share a higher level of contact with WP India compared to WP film because Indian cinema plays a key role in presenting Indian culture, unlike in the west. But one cannot deny that WP film's contributions to this task force are invaluable in all measures.
- Ankit Bhatt: WikiProject Film is helpful in a variety of ways, and has also brought in a say for Indian cinema by having an INCINE task force member as one of the project's co-ordinators. However, according to me, I find very little relationship between WikiProject India and our task force, and both have stayed aloof from each other for quite some time. It would be good for everybody if this changes, especially since we have contributed 9% of the former's featured articles and 22% of their good articles.
- AnimeshKulkarni: We do share members with WikiProject India but not so many with WikiProject Films. WikiProject Films mostly concentrates on American and European films. INCINE is never even notified of any happenings at WP Films. (Lets assume there are no such happenings there to notify about.) If ever there dawns a day where we have to discuss something with WP Films, it takes huge amount of time and effort to explain how norms that are applied to American films can not be applied to Indian ones. Hence its mostly good that there are less interactions. WP India, however, is quite helpful as they do take care of biographical articles shared by us both. And resources? What resources? No one paid me a penny till date.
The first full-length Indian feature film, Raja Harishchandra, turns 100 years old next year. Are there any plans to celebrate this milestone by holding article improvement drives or focusing on promoting a few articles to Good or Featured status?
- Karthik Nadar: Not sure about the consensus, but I would dive in to pitch for a FA and in helping it to be featured on the Main page on the day the film was released way back a century ago.
- Dwaipayan: Yes, there are ongoing improvement drives to improve and bring into featured status several articles and lists, as discussed and outlined in this discussion thread. As of now, at least two film articles (Mother India and Mughal-e-Azam—two classics of Indian cinema), and at least one list (59th National Film Awards) are getting improved in a collaborative manner. The plan includes featuring one or two featured articles on the main page on or around 3 May 2013, the centenary anniversary.
- Ankit Bhatt: Most definitely. It is a landmark achievement and we have put together an extensive plan to get numerous Indian cinema articles to featured status. Much of this revolves around May 3, 2013, on which date we hope to place Raja Harishchandra as Today's Featured article.
What are the project's most pressing needs? How can a new contributor help today?
- Karthik Nadar: Box office results related to films is what we want to press for, though it sounds impossible to gain some transparency in the Indian market. I recollect when we had to constantly update the budget in the infobox of the film Ra.One. Earlier, the budget reported was ₹180 crore (US$28 million), then the amount declined to ₹160 crore (US$25 million) and ₹150 crore (US$23 million), which further declined to ₹135 crore (US$21 million); surprisingly the data is muted right now. The situation was the same for another Tamil film; Enthiran. All this drama appears for Box office collections for highly claimed films too. BoxOfficeIndia.com is now the source we are primarily depending on, but a single source sounds non-reliable for such claims. New contributors on the other hand are never restricted from adding anything unless the article is semi protected. IMHO, articles related to Indian Cinema always peaks the Wikipedia traffic in India.
- Dwaipayan: Box office revenue data form an important but small part of a cinema article. The Indian film market data lack transparency, and is often unreliable, so we as Wikipedia contributors can not improve that. The things we practically can improve include retrieving information from published works, especially books. There are some anthologies and an encyclopedia of Indian films, but I doubt any of the active members of the project possess any such books. If somehow the project or Wikimedia as a whole can make arrangements so that some of such books are made available (even if for a temporary period) for online access (may be through services such as Questia), that would be of immense benefit. We can even plan article improvement drives coinciding with such availability.
- Secret of success: Due to the fact that Indian cinema (primarily Bollywood) feeds on hype and speculation to generate a box office, the producers of films encourage worldwide rumors about the budget and box office figures, just to gain more attention for their films. This makes it impossible to generate figures here. Unless and until we have sources which do not publish gossip, I doubt if we can ever publish genuine stats here.
- Ankit Bhatt: Undoubtedly the improvement of the quality of prose and references pertaining to Indian cinema articles is needed. Our task force covers a large number of articles, most of which need a lot of help in these two areas. A new editor interested in this would be invaluable to the task force and to Wikipedia in general.
- AnimeshKulkarni: We have many red-links for film articles as well as biographies. The situation with regional cinema is very poor. For example we have 25 Bhojpuri-language film and only five Gujarati-language film articles. (Gujarati is the 7th most spoken language in India.) And these are commercial films. Non-commercial films, short films, documentaries, etc. even in Hindi-language are very far from coverage.
Cinephiles around the world should also check out WikiProject Film's twenty national and regional cinema task forces. Next week, the WikiProject Report will try to overcome its Frankenstein complex. Until then, contemplate building your own mechanical man while reading our previous reports in the archive.
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