Bollywood, When Shalt Thou Deliver?

Posted on August 21, 2010 in Media

By Anirudh Madhavan:

Quick question: when was the last time you walked out of a movie hall and carried an emotion out to your car? Well, if you’re a Bollywood buff then the answer will probably be somewhere along the lines of — ‘I don’t recall’ or ‘not recently’. The Mumbai based film industry produces approximately 800 movies a year out of which only 9-10 films are declared a hit. The success of even these movies is severely circumscribed as a ‘hit’ merely accounts for the financial output it obtains. A movie with a relevant theme or plot which can actually leave an indelible mark on your psyche is rarer than a penguin in Barbados.

I don’t intend to make this a harsh written diatribe on Bollywood and I do accept that there have been certain awesome movies in the recent times (Rang De Basanti comes to mind), but the whole industry does need a major attitude adjustment and fast. With the advent of multiplexes, there seems to have cropped up a ‘Mass-Class’ divide. The Masses are supposed to consist of the rural-suburban population who are, in specific Bollywood terms, ‘just looking for entertainment and aren’t interested in taxing their brains’. The Classes on the other hand are the elite group who can digest intelligent cinema. In a country like India where the population crosses a billion, the production of cinema just for the Classes is not exactly a very viable venture. The popular misconception about the Masses leads producers into making idiotic films which ironically fetches them the desired moolah. There is certain glamour to a movie which fetches it points on perception. The producer tries to sell rubbish in a packaged form; the ostentatious display boards, myriad T.V. interviews etc. reflect a well-dressed man with no soul.

All the problems narrow down to a common solution: the lack of a good script. The market has played a cruel trick on writers by curbing their creativity and by forcing them to dole out brainless storylines which are in accordance with the ‘formula’. This not only discourages talent but also breeds plagiarism as many recent cases see a complete copy-paste scenario from Hollywood; films like Ghajini (copy of Memento) and Partner (Hitch) immediately come to mind. A devout fan might argue that Bollywood is the source of pure entertainment and people should go to the cinemas with their brains left behind at home. Well then why not just sleep away the 2-3 hours? Why waste Rs.200 on a movie ticket when you know it’s not going to provide you with anything productive?

When the corporate met the industry, he turned it on its head. A mass production was seen and opportunity started being provided to talented individuals. There was a flipside to this though, as many would say, it has compromised on art and heart. The best way to restore any credibility to the Hindi film industry is to nurture and promote parallel cinema. With people like Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee leading the bandwagon with excellent films like Dev D, Gulaal and Khosla ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye etc, the future of Indian cinema looks hopeful. While on the surface, the bombing of a movie like Kites (with a production cost of over a 100 crore) and the success of Bheja Fry (cost: 60 lakh, collection: 6 crores) seems inexplicable, the answer is quite simple – this is where the aforementioned script plays the lead. The script is the fundamental element of the whole process and as discussed earlier, a good script can make even mediocre actors look excellent (Arjun Rampal in Rock On!). To all those listening, if you want to rescue the sinking ship that is Bollywood, please be original and focus chiefly on the script for once. Hollywood movies hit jackpots in India and grab a huge slice out of the whole profit of the industry. Producers need to understand the fact that the Indian audience is capable of appreciating intelligent cinema as proven by the huge growing demand of Hollywood movies. I sincerely hope that soon enough I can walk out of the movie hall still clinging on to a shard of emotion.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.