Bollywood Losing Autocracy Over Cinema
Is Bollywood’s Parampara, Pratishtha, Anushasan out of fashion and a boomer’s term in a Gen Z world?(Reference to the 2000 Amitabh Bachhan and Shahrukh Khan starred film Mohabatein.) In an age when digital has turned the tables and democratised the system, actors and directors previously in the doldrums are having luck shine on them all over again. Indian Film Industry is not how it was a few years back. It is evolving and will continue to do so. Bollywood has surely evolved a lot with the rise of regional film industries and numerous Over The Top (OTT) platforms. This article is a general analysis of the current scenario of the Indian entertainment space.
Pandemic: The Fall of Bollywood?
The pandemic took the sheen off Bollywood. Celebs were stripped of their stardom, for they were just as home-quarantined as we were. Compared to the cataclysmic events everywhere, happenings in Bollywood read like insignificant crumbs. Yet, 2020 has been equally harsh and oppressive on the entertainment world. The audience didn’t get regular updates about Malaika Arora’s fitness regime, Janhvi Kapoor’s gym look, Taimur’s daily diet. We even missed an extended family function of the Kapoors, Bacchans, Khans and Chopras, i.e. the award shows.
Courtesy: Viral Bhayani
All of them were in their PJs just like us doing daily chores and there’s nothing glamorous just like…. Moving ahead, a Times of India article of September‘20 estimates a staggering loss of 5000 crores of the Bollywood Industry. Read here. Moreover, with the outset of Ayushman Khurana and BigB’s Gulabo Sitabo, more films made OTT their home: Janhvi Kapoor’s Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Man, Akshay Kumar’s Laxxmi and Anurag Basu’s Ludo. As more filmmakers turn to OTT, expect the content race to clock top speed in 2021. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus Hotstar, SonyLiv, ZEE5 and Voot are in a streaming war to acquire more and better film catalogue. Is this the change?
Factors Hampering Regional Cinema Industries
One of the chief reasons mainstream Hindi-speaking audiences have been refraining from consuming regional cinema is that they just do not get access to quality regional cinema. It has only been a few years that some regional movies are getting a large theatrical release and are reaching the pan-Indian audience. Regional films are conventionally made on a small budget and thus, it is not financially viable to spend money on distribution. Thus regional movies, whose quality would be far greater than any average big-budget Bollywood movie, did not reach a large audience.
With quality regional cinema not reaching the pan-India audiences, what they saw as a representation of regional cinema (mainly South Indian regional cinema) was below par, poorly dubbed, illogical and outlandish South Indian movies. We all have seen those cringy South Indian movies on Set Max and laughed at them. Most of them had similar storylines with cringy dialogues and overall made a mockery of filmmaking. Besides these factors, others like the language barrier and poor dubbing techniques also hampered the popularisation of regional cinema.
Just another fight sequence of mass appealing South Indian movies on Television :)
Rise of Regional Cinema
The scenario, however, is changing, and it is changing fast. Bollywood itself has a significant contribution to this. For way too long mainstream Bollywood has been making sub-par movies with the same Khans and the Kapoors, based on scripts that lack creativity. If not for the lacklustre scripts, Bollywood turned to remake regional movies. The audience simply got fed up with this and looked for fresher, better content.
Regional film industries are coming up with big-budget movies that would cater to a pan-India audience. Bahubali can be considered as the game-changer in this aspect. Dubbed and released in numerous languages, it broke all records to become the highest-grossing movie in India. People preferring the Marathi original movie ‘Sairat’ over its Bollywood remake ‘Dhadak’ clearly show the shift in the Indian Film Industry.
Regional movies, arguably, have consistently produced better content compared to Bollywood. Hindi movies have bagged only 14 of the 70 odd National Awards for Best Film. It is just that with the aid of the internet and the OTTs, people realise the fact now.
The current COVID-19 pandemic closing theatres and taking people to OTTs is another major reason for the boost of regional cinema. ‘Jallikattu,’ a Malayalam film nominated as India’s official entry to the Oscars, is a prime example of the resurgence of regional cinema into the mainstream.
Rise of OTT Platforms
Did the pandemic just accelerate the content industry where content is the king, not the stars? Even Youtube content powerhouses like TVF, Zoom studios and Dice Media continuously upgrade themselves with much better and powerful scripts and storytelling.
Before the pandemic, we could only name a handful of actors who were not benefited by nepotism but now things are changed, which is pretty obvious in Rajeev Masand’s The Actors Roundtable 2020.
According to the annual media and entertainment report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) along with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), 35-40% of the consumption of OTT services happens in local languages and the hours of original programming that has tripled between 2018 and 2020. There has been consolidation and advent of language-focused services such as Hoichoi (Bengali), aha Video (Telugu) or Letsflix (Marathi/Gujarati). Everyone locked up in their houses, with cheap internet and little to do, these OTT platforms served as a major source of entertainment and paved a way out of boredom.
Is OTT a hype, soon to be over?
On 20th April 2021, Netflix shares showed a ‘correction’ of 10% as the first quarter’s subscriber base increased by just 4 million while last year’s second quarter had 10 million new additions. To read more on this, click here.
Is this a phase soon to be passed? When things will be back to normal, will the OTT hype over? Or is this the beginning of something?
In the meanwhile, is Bollywood living in a bubble? It reminds us of some senile old people who blatantly stick to their guns despite knowing that they are wrong and they need to adapt. They just live by their own rules believing that the world will instead adapt to them.
With films such as Coolie no 1, Sadak 2, Laxxmi Bomb, Khaali Peeli running alongside Emmy award-winning shows, Bollywood will be left far behind in the long run.
Bollywood… it’s now or never!
Maybe it is time for us audiences to move on. Bollywood refers to the Hindi films that are made in Bombay (Mumbai). In a country as vast and diverse as India, it would be extremely wrong to consider Bollywood as the torchbearer of Indian cinema, especially now that Bollywood is no longer the Mecca of Indian cinema. It is high time that we move over the language barriers and open ourselves to the brilliant regional cinema. It is high time that we move over Bollywood and embrace the Indian Film Industry.
Bong Joon-ho, director of the Oscar-winning movie Parasite, put it brilliantly while saying,
Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.