By Brototi Roy:
Bollywood, or the Hindi film industry of India which produces almost 1000 films every year is the world’s largest film industry. From the time the first Indian sound film, Alam Ara was produced in 1931 till the present decade, this industry has a remarkably rich history of producing a variety of movies, showcasing different spheres of Indian life, in myriad themes, be it comedy, romance, thriller, horror or drama.
However, there has been a changing trend in the representation of Indian films through the years. The way movies were made in the 1950s is completely different from the way it is done in the twenty first century.
In this article I would like to explore the changes that the Indian film industry has seen over the decades and the probable explanations for them.
The Indian film industry can be broken down widely into four sub-categories.
The first phase would consist of the movies made from the 1940s till the early 1960s. This phase is called the “Golden Era of the India cinema” where critically acclaimed movies like Awaara(1951), Shree 420(1955) and Mother India(1957) to name a few were made. These movies revolved around the common man, who faced various struggles in life, which the audience could relate to and would finally come out as a man with the right morals. These stories showed the protagonist to be poor who even though wavered from his path (mainly due to greed and success) would finally realize his mistakes and be a better person in the end and overcome his troubles in a just manner.
The second phase is the phase from late 1960s to the early 1980s. This phase saw a distinctive shift in the general storyline of the movies. Movies like Aradhana( 1969) , Anand (1970) , Bobby (1973) and Sholay (1975) mark this period. Â These movies were more action based and romantic in nature. Violence became an integral part of the movies, and a lot of emphasis was given on villains, who were basically underworld mafias. The image of the “angry young man” was introduced here, a brooding hero who was very good at delivering his punches and kicks, would destroy the villains and win the lady’s heart in the end. A lot of films during this time revolved around this basic theme.
The third phase is from the late 1980s till early 2000s. This phase saw the most diverse shifts in the movie-making procedure in India. Advanced technology was introduced in the country. The first Indian sci-fi movie Mr. India was released in 1987 which was a runaway hit. Romance was still the main theme. Comedy movies were also a hit in this phase. A lot of movies were shot abroad in this phase.
The last and the ongoing phase started in late 2000s. This phase introduced a lot of technical advancements in the ways movies are made. From Koi Mil Gaya(2003) till Ra.One(2011), movies put a greater emphasis on the visual effects rather than the story. A lot of movies have been shot abroad, with only the mention of India.
The main reason why there has been a shift in the content and the way movies are made in the last few decades is because the target audience has changed. In the early phases of the Indian cinema, the target audience was the poor people hailing from villages and the movies were made so that they could relate to the protagonist of the movies.
As time shifted, and the urban class expanded, the target audience now became the upper middle class or upper class, who related more with a hero who had money and big bungalows and bikes. Hence, in order to make a movie sell, a poor boy from a distant village would not be the formula. Even the rural audience is now more interested to watch movies where the dance sequel is shot in Switzerland or Egypt.
Most movies generally like to deliver what the audience desired, and thus the main reason for the shift in the theme and plot of movies would be the shift in the mindset of the people watching it. The Indian film industry has become more professional in the last few decades, where box office earning has a prominent importance. This makes it essential for the film makers to work on plots that they know would sell, and sell big, not only in India , but overseas as well, hence the dominance of NRIs in the recent past so that they can capture a wider domain of audience.
However, it would be wrong to completely write off the modern movies as movies made to earn huge profits as a long of main stream cinemas also focus on the eminent political, social and cultural issues of our countries and have been received well.
In conclusion , the changing patterns in movies are basically a result of the changing mindsets of the audience as well the bid to attract international audience who have different perspective than the ones for whom movies were made in the 1950s.