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A New Mindset: Need of Bollywood

Till the 1980s it was usually traders, merchants and traditional money lenders

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entertainment, Bollywood, talent, filmmaking, cinema, box-office
Stars are assigned ads just because they are stars. And, they do it for the money while the sun shines. PIxabay

If the Industry has survived (thrived?) so many decades it is because of the influx of fresh capital from new, glamour struck players. Every generation since the beginning of the Indian film Industry has seen a fresh set of people finance it. Till the 1980s it was usually traders, merchants and traditional money lenders. Then the exhibitors and distributors started advancing money and a lot more of glamour struck venture capital came in. Of course, sine the 1930s the top stars of the time always set up their own production companies and the trend continues to this day. Every decade technology delivers a bonanza to the perpetually cash-strapped film industry.

The popularity of radio and records and cassettes saw music royalty bring in extra cash in the 70s and 80s. This was pattern was replicated by the coming of TV and home video in the 80s and 90s and now streaming rights. However, the big break was the spread of Multiplexes. Suddenly, box office exploded as these modern hangout cinemas pulled the young urban youth and families back to the cinemas. The overseas market, largely driven by large South Asian diaspora, changed another market dynamic. Some younger filmmakers realized this and tailored their films for this well-paying market segment.

A paradigm shift happened in the mid-90s when some young media professionals-turned-entrepreneurs set up the first fledgling studios (after the demise of the earlier lot in the early 50s). A few of the old timers reimagined themselves and stayed in the new sweepstakes. Some music companies too became quasi studios venturing into film production and distribution. By the turn of the millennium, Bollywood had become not only a global brand but a billion-dollar Industry. Entertainment was recognized as Industry making institutional finance available to film producers. Import of equipment was liberalized and foreign shooting became convenient. Slowly the disorganized mom and pop business moved towards professionalism and eventually corporatization. Bank finance, insurance, contracts, copyright came into play.

Mindset, Bollywood, New
If the Industry has survived (thrived?) so many decades it is because of the influx of fresh capital from new, glamour struck players. Pixabay

However, more change was to come in the decade that followed. The rise of the Internet following the mobile revolution changed the game altogether. Rising income and aspirations and changing lifestyles altered the media and entertainment landscape. Digitalization of cinema from pre and post production to distribution and exhibition has also contributed to a dramatic change in Indian cinema. Today you can make a film on your smartphone and commercially release it. Now there are film makers who are making films only for the digital space.

By 2010, major studios — Fox, Disney, Reliance ,Viacom and Zee had arrived and further changed the market dynamics. In the last decade, video-on-demand and Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms together with broadcast TV not only brought additional revenue but newer niche markets. Audience is consuming filmed entertainment differently across different screens. Now Amazon, Jio, Netflix, Hotstar, Zee 5, Alt, Apple, Facebook, Google et al are commissioning films and are the new financiers of the movie industry. Thousands of new and old members of this large fraternity are getting back into the creative mainstream. There are at least a 100 production companies all over India. There are more trained professionals than ever before and encouragingly a lot more women in power in Bollywood. Every year at least twenty first timers make a mark and many of them from small towns with no family connection. For a change the big potboilers compete with small, new age films.

There are many young, often first-time film makers who are making path breaking cinema which a substantial enough audience is loving it. Today’s top actors are also a lot more adventurous. In any case, even the most commercial of films are much more rooted in reality than before. Production design, cinematography and sound are now of international standard. Unfortunately, marketing costs have spiraled up but without the adequate research and media planning resulting a lot of wasteful expenditure. Star prices still remain abnormally high, often being 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the entire budget. Interestingly, after a gap of many decades, talent from smaller towns and even villages are coming to Bollywood and many are making it to the top. Also, a lot more films are set in smaller towns reflecting concerns of a new class of film lovers.

The most heartening development, though, is the influx of streaming services. Not only do they bring a lot of money into the system but also offer a far, far wider variety of films: shorts, documentaries, animated, real-life dramas but also all genres of features films. They are not hung up on stars or big names. Besides, in another welcome development, a number of big producers and directors and even top stars have ventured into producing content for these digital giants. Thankfully, all of them are also giving breaks to new writers and film makers and some exceptionally talented actors.

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There are some endemic problems which still linger. Paucity of screens and over production make it unviable for smaller, especially independent films to get a release. The obsession with big screen in an age where 80 per cent of all content is watched on TV and increasingly online is rather an archaic approach. It is estimated that half the world will watch content on handheld devices by 2025. With a multitude of leisure alternatives films, including those made by Bollywood, have to compete with texting, social media, gaming, sport, live events, streaming audio and video, adventure and even travel and dining out.

Writing largely still remains a weak link and is invariably derivative and mediocre. We need a more energetic and creative fraternity which is willing to experiment and is willing to move to newer platforms. This obsession with the big screen has to end. A few hundred cineastes and critics hung over on purity of cinema cannot let opportunities drift away. Film making is ultimately about storytelling and an audience. Why should screen size be a limitation? A new mindset is what is most required in the Indian film industry, particularly Bollywood. We can, in the next five years, double the size of the filmed entertainment Industry to $6 billion per year. (IANS)

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Bollywood Films That Focus on Patriotism and Nationalism

From patriotism to nationalism, all that bollywood has focused on

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Bollywood patriotism
During the 1940s, the freedom struggle reached its peak and, as an alternate way to build up on patriotism and promote the freedom movement, films were used as a medium to promote these fervour. Pixabay

BY VINOD MIRANI

When the bollywood film industry started in India, the best and the safest theme to draw audience was to make mythological films or films with a religious story to tell. Dada Saheb Phalke, the founder of the film industry in India, made his first film, “Raja Harishchandra”. The first Indian talkie film, “Alam Ara”, also dealt with a religious theme.

While the religious/mythological films held sway as it had a captive audience that was familiar with the stories told on screen, the narrative soon shifted to family socials. That again was a subject everybody identified with in the joint family era.

During the 1940s, the freedom struggle reached its peak and, as an alternate way to build up on patriotism and promote the freedom movement, films were used as a medium to promote these fervour.

The censoring of bollywood films was rather strict, and the patriotically fired up filmmakers had to take recourse to surrogate promotion of patriotism. Patriotism was the flavour, all pervading and all over India. And, we had some great films promoting patriotism.

This mood lived on till, say, the end of the 1950s. It waned gradually all over except on the streets of the cities. Every August 14 and January 25 — on the eve of Independence Day and Republic Day, respectively — patriotism blurted out of microphones on the streets of every city and town.

Bollywood patriotism
Swades is a well known film for its theme based on patriotism. Wikimedia Commons

As the films gave up on patriotism, so did the street celebrators. Patriotism took a break from films and, hence, also from public life. This was till it was revived momentarily following the 1965 war with Pakistan, and the ensuing Indian victory that revived patriotism in films, but only briefly.

Since the wars of 1948 and 1962, India had, for the first time, outcomes that were emphatically in the nation’s favour. Taking cue from the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’, coined by the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Manoj Kumar scripted a perfect film, “Upkar”.

Dara Singh, the wrestler-actor, and some others were also inspired to follow patriotism as the theme. But, patriotism in India and, hence, in Hindi films, seems to be a seasonal trend.

After the 1962 India-China war, the feeling was that of delusion. India was humiliated and the limited patriotism that followed was that of self-pity. So, what we had in the aftermath was the depiction of how a badly ill-equipped India lost in the war in the film “Haqeeqat” and the song “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon” rendered live by Lata Mangeshkar. None of the two were inspiring for the masses.

Today, people even feel that the song should not be played anymore because it has a depressing narrative about a losing nation.

“Haqeeqat” failed despite entertainment exemptions from various state governments. Its music lived, not the film. Another attempt by the director with “Hindustan Ki Kasam” also did not work.

Patriotism resurfaced one again post the Kargil operation. Producer-director J.P. Dutta, who has this bend towards war films (his brother was an Air Force pilot who died in action), directed “LOC: Kargil”, immediately after India regained the peak.

The film was screened for the leading financiers and diamond merchants of Mumbai along with other trade leaders a few days before its theatrical release. It was unanimously declared a boring dud. May be, their observations were on the merit of the film, but they failed to read the national mood. The film emerged as a hit.

As mentioned earlier, patriotism is a seasonal trend in India. Because, after its first run, when “LOC” was released in cinemas as a gap filler (when a cinema hall has no new film listed, an old hit is repeated as a gap filler), it could not even recover the theatre rental. Dutta followed up with some more patriotic films, but to no avail.

Over a period of time, a lot many patriotic films have been made like “Jeevan Sangram”, “Saat Hindustani”, “Shaheed”, “Vijeta”, “Border”, “LOC: Kargil”, “Swades”, and “Mangal Pandey”.

Bollywood patriotism
Mission Mangal is an event-based film that revolves around patriotism and nationalism. Wikimedia Commons

People were not quite aroused and remained indifferent to most of these films. The one hit was “Shaheed” after which the man behind this film, Manoj Kumar, established himself as the best filmmaker of patriotic films as he followed it up with movies like “Upkar”, “Purab Aur Paschim” and “Kranti”, after which his expertise stopped working.

Things have changed. Patriotism has now broadened its scope and is described as nationalism. And, this seems to be in tune with the people’s state of mind. We have had a line-up of films in recent years that promote nationalism and many of them met with a favourable response. There are films that are event based. These are: “A Wednesday!”, “Airlift”, “Uri: The Surgical Strike”, ” Mission Mangal”, “Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran”, “Raazi”, “Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi”, “The Ghazi Attack” and, this year’s biggest hit so far, “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior”.

In fact, one of last year’s biggest hits also happens to be one such film, “Uri: The Surgical Strike”. Another way to inspire nationalism is through films that make the nation proud. These are films like “Dangal”, “Gold”, “Dhoni: The Untold Story”, “D Day”, “Rang De Basanti”, “Padmaavat”, “Mary Kom”, “Kesari”, “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, “Ek Tha Tiger”, “Super 30” with many more in the offing.

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As they say, reel life is a reflection of real life. Post-Independence, all kinds of films were made, and romance and family socials with music worked well till early 1960s. During the mid ’70s, the trend was of anti-establishment films. This was followed by a period of uncertainty when nobody knew what will work. Only making romantic musicals was considered safe.

But the decade that just got over has rekindled the spirit of nationalism. It is all about how the nation is made to feel. (IANS)