In an iconic scene in the 1990 film Agneepath, the late Goga Kapoor’s character brags about how he manipulated the villagers to crush the reformist teacher of the village, unaware that Amitabh is the teacher’s son. In his steely baritone, Amitabh retorts. “Hawa tez chalta hai Dinkar Rao. Topi sabhalo, udd jayega” (Wind blows hard. Hold on to your hat, it’ll fly away). It is a veiled threat, the tide can turn and the force of the common villagers can blow him away, too. It is ironic that two main forces associated with the film, Dharma Productions and Amitabh Bachchan, find themselves in the path of the storm that is bound to leave a trail of destruction in its wake.
Bollywood is perhaps the only industry where the rules of traditional business do not apply. It can be truly said Bollywood works on a formula that they don’t teach at business schools. It is a strange mix of corporate structure and family business where most are one-man shows even though they may be legally structured as a corporate. Not many know the CEO at Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment or Balaji Telefilms. Contrast this with the CEO of Apple, Microsoft and Google. The CEO is the face. He represents the company. What has stood in Bollywood is the utter disregard for the people who have sustained the industry for decades. Can you imagine any other industry where the company says, “I don’t care what the consumers want”? Let them not buy my product, I’ll keep making what I want and of the quality I want… my paying customers be damned”. I’ll bet such leaders wouldn’t have the job for too long. In Bollywood, they have gone on record not just expressing such sentiments openly, they have been glorified for it. And the consumers, too, were curiously unaffected by such insults. They even created a phrase for such farce in the name of films, “Leave your brains behind when you head to the cinema theatre”.
Things seem to be changing. Various forces have coalesced to create the perfect storm. The death of a rising star who connected to the larger masses in ways that the reigning stars could only dream of, the drug scandal, and the cold manipulation that goes on in the industry is visible to all. A large section that believed the persona on the screen to be the reality are infuriated to learn the truth. Suddenly, in the bright lights, all warts and insecurities are visible to everyone. And how does Bollywood respond? A sorry? No. Some humility? No. A promise to fix the system? No. What we get is the same mindset that we have been seeing for years… ”You should be grateful to us for entertaining you. How dare you question us? Anybody who works in the industry should be grateful to us that they have a livelihood. Anybody who wants to change the industry for better is a traitor!“ Unfortunately, it exposes the mindset of the people at the top that they own Bollywood and their disregard for the common man who has been funding their lifestyle over generations.
In the ocean of life, history is witness to many a boat that capsized when they tried to sail against the tide. We don’t know what the industry will look like after the storm is over, but many boats are surely going to sink. “Hawa tez chalta hai Bollywood. Topi udd chuka hai!”