Recently, the big news in Bollywood was about a certain film starring one of the Khans that broke box office records. Yet, all over the internet, people were abusing the film left, right, and centre. Even film critic and TV host Anupama Chopra, who confessed to be a huge fan of the star, found the film boring.
Of late, I have been noticing that the only films that are being pinned as ‘box office hits’ are the ‘leave your brain at home’ movies. Nonsense as some would say. Consider this: In 2012, the three highest grossing films of the year were Ek Tha Tiger (Rs. 1,997,800,000), Dabangg 2 (Rs. 1,780,000,000), and Rowdy Rathore (Rs. 1,332,500,000). Similarly in 2011, the three highest grossing films were Bodyguard (Rs. 148 crore), Ra.One (Rs.184,78,00,000), and Singham (Rs. 97.75 crore)*.
The common thread that links all these films is that all of them were made with the intent of providing mindless entertainment. Observing this, certain questions came into my mind: What has happened to good Hindi cinema? Why are there fewer intelligent movies compared to the brainless ones? Why aren’t viewers demanding for more intelligent films?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some snobbish, pointy-nosed, filmy aristocrat who thinks that the only films worth watching are intellectual ones. Far from it. I am simply a movie fan. When I go to watch a film in the multiplex, I would like to have a complete experience; one that stimulates not only my senses but also my intellect. Irrespective of whether I watch an action film, a comedy, a romantic film, or a serious drama, I would like to leave the multiplex having a good feeling inside me. That I would think, “Yes, this film was worth watching, paisa vasool, time well spent.”
But somehow, I haven’t been able to watch such Hindi films lately because there are very few of them running in movie theatres today. Rather, the films that are showing have made me to stay far away from the multiplexes. Whenever I have made the mistake of watching a ‘mindless’ film, I have always left the theatre with a headache that lasted the entire day.
It seems to me that the only objective of making films in Bollywood these days is raking in the box office moolah. Obviously I’m not daft. A business has to make a profit. My question is, does making a profit mean that one has to compromise on the quality of films one produces or releases? Shouldn’t there be a balance between the mindless films and all round stimulating ones? At times, even actors who are known for their versatile performances are forced to do the brainless films. The reason: that is where the money is.
To a small extent, I can’t blame the filmmakers as they are supplying the kind of films that audiences are demanding. What does that say about film viewers today? The current generation’s only main goal seems to be self-gratification. And in this quest, they seem to refuse any kind of intelligent cinematic experience. With both sides creating bad writing on the wall, are we creating a generation of film viewing monkeys?
That’s not all. Bollywood has become so comfortable in the ‘mindless’ movie zone that they think that such films will make an impact abroad. Take Barfi for example. It was perfect for Indian audiences. But anyone who has been exposed to world cinema will find that the film has been ‘inspired’ by aspects of three to four films – the music of Amelie, The sofa scene of the song Make ‘Em Laugh from Singing in the Rain, and a blatant copy of Charlie Chaplin’s moves to mention a few.
No wonder the Oscar Committee rejected it. With the exceptions of perhaps Lagaan and Bombay Talkies, how many Bollywood films have really made an impact at award ceremonies abroad? If there are more, they are certainly not received that well here in India.
Can we be adept at persuading world audiences that there is more to Bollywood than jhatak matak item numbers, and long song and dance sequences? What about important aspects such as storytelling, photography, cinematography, and other technical aspects? Did Resul Pookutty win the Oscar in vain?
Most importantly, why are we taking cinematic successes like winning an Oscar for granted? Why aren’t we using them as an impetus to create better cinema? If anyone made a list of ‘50 Bollywood Films to Watch before You Die’, I’m pretty sure none of the previously mentioned films would be on it.
Luckily, all is not lost. There are some great directors like Raj Kumar Hirani, Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Prakash Jha and a few more, who are trying to provide audiences more impacting and entertaining films. One can only hope that a balance between mindless films and real, entertaining cinema will emerge.
For right now, this movie fan would like to ask Bollywood, “Where has all the quality gone?”
* Source: BoxOfficeIndia.com
– Sanat Savanal