Bollywood: Is ‘Offbeat’ The New Commercial?

Posted on March 14, 2013 in Culture-Vulture, Media

By Vasudha Sahgal:

The year 2012 was, on the whole, a good year for Bollywood. There were lots of blockbusters, some were expected while others were surprise packages. There were also some movies that swum against the usual norms and safe formula tides. They took a gamble in being “different” in a sense and went on to strike a chord with the cinema goers  There were movies that dappled in veritable situations (with creativity) and gave the audience a sort of “non escapist” cinema, which the audiences lapped up. A demure ‘bharitya nari’ who makes “ladoos” for the family and is taken for granted, honor killings based on inter-caste romance, power struggles among criminal gang lords in backward towns were stories depicted on reel, which took a cue from real stories that do occur in our country.


Among the movies that came out last year were “ English Vinglish”, “Ishaqzaade”,  “Gangs of Wasseypur” and “Paan Singh Tomar”. They achieved the fine balance of strong content and commercial success. Movies depicting the plight of women in our country were made and left a mark. Shri Devi, as ‘Shashi‘, the simple, naïve ‘ladoo’ making house wife in English Vinglish and Parineeti, the “Headstrong and hot tempered” Zoya in Ishaqzaade left an impression on the audience’s minds.

An audience connect:
Over the top opulent sets or song and dance sequences in exquisite locales is a common trait of our commercial Indian movies. It adds to the “appeal” of Indian cinema. Since most Indian movies are quintessentially “musicals”, dream sequence songs, where the hero and heroine are suddenly romancing atop foreign picturesque places like the Swiss Alps is a common ingredient and we, as audiences, enjoy the escapism. Off late, there is another genre in the commercial realm itself, where there is a certain consciousness to keep it more real. While the intelligent urban masses enjoy the escapist, maybe fantasy like cinema, they also look forward to movies with a kind of authenticity. We have also moved away from the “3 hour long rule”. If it doesn’t make sense with the story line, it will stick out like a sore thumb. “Slick” has become a mantra to stick by.

Reaching out:
Indian films reach a large audience. Cinema- different kinds-the melodramatic fantasy types, the “leave your brains at home” comedies, the intelligent witty ones, the simple sensitive stories, the authentic stories fictionalized with good effect, the rom-coms, the fast paced thrillers, the ‘feel good’ films, and even the “over the top” grotesque ones ,find a consumer to entertain.

Offbeat has caught the right beat:
What is encouraging for filmmakers and producers who are making films on “offbeat” stories is that the risks are actually paying off. The year 2012 had such movies making a mark. A “Vicky Donor” on sperm donation was made. So was a “Barfi”, which took the gamble of showing a mainstream actor in a deaf and mute role. Both films were critically and commercially lauded.

Moving into 2013:
Fast-forward to the present. Only 3 months into the year and a movie that has made a lasting impression is ‘Kai Po Che‘. Based on Chetan Bhagat’s book “The three mistakes of my life”, the movie stars 3 actors in the lead role, none of whom were big stars prior to the movie.

The line between “mainstream” and “art” cinema has somewhat blurred. A story-line  which would easily have got stuck with an “art” cinema tagline, is being well received as a commercial film. This new dawn, of gripping, experimental movies is growing and it is being well received.