What suddenly happened to Bollywood? Idyllic Switzerland has been replaced with semi-urban UP and Bihar. Glamour ‘Queen’ Kangana Ranaut morphs into a ‘behenji’ with a chameleon’s ease. Nawazuddin Siddiqui hurls the rawest expletives in Gangs of Wasseypur, as though he were a genuine native. What happened to all the glitz, glamour and utopic grandeur of Bollywood? Our filmmakers and actors are now savvier and aim for commercial and critical success alike. They have set trends that earlier had minimal presence on the Hindi screen. This blog analyzes some of the path-breaking trends that were waiting in the wings to take Bollywood by storm.
Small town appeal and semi-urban/rural settings
Europe has been done to death in Bollywood movies. Given that Indian tourists now have greater accessibility to foreign locales, the exquisite island destinations too are no longer exotic. Even Sapno ki NagriMumbai appears to have given way to smaller towns and semi – urban settings in current Bollywood movies; the reason being simple – it hits home. A larger percentage of Bollywoodgoers identifies with the raw earthiness of small towns and villages. It can easily relate to the dialect, mannerisms and lifestyle of the characters set in a small town. Today, the new cool lingo is as vernacular as it can get within the purview of a Hindi film. Movies like Raanjhana and Masaan (Varanasi), Dum Laga ke Haisha (Haridwar) and Gangs of Wasseypur (Wasseypur, Jharkhand) have brought Bollywood a step closer to the masses it entertains.We want more.
Successful low budget movies for niche audience
In the 80s low budget movies were thriving under the ‘parallel cinema’ tag. Though rich in meaningful content they were aimed at a smaller audience. What happened to parallel cinema in the 90s and the first decade of 2000 is pretty much a mystery. Barring a few there was hardly any buzz surrounding them. The advent of multiplex culture brought a radical turnaround in niche demand. Digital distribution facilitated the access of low budget movies to a larger audience and many low–to-modest budget Bollywood productions tasted mainstream success. Some of them even managed to get on board, big stars and critically acclaimed directors. Taare Zameen Par (Aamir Khan), Tanu Weds Manu and Queen (Kangana Ranaut), Haider (Shahid Kapoor) and NH10 (Anushka Sharma) epitomize this trend and there are more to follow.
It would be erroneous to state that Bollywood has hardly paid homage to real-life heroes in the past. We have seen successful biographical films before but the Hindi film industry is currently meandering through a spate of biopics. It is heartening to see our sportsmen finally get their due by Bollywood. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Azhar and the upcoming MS Dhoni: an Untold Story and Dangal are reinforcing the viewer’s demand for more inspiring and real stories. And filmmakers are trying to keep these biopics as factual as possible without overly glorifying the titular characters as seen in Neerja and Paan Singh Tomar. Movies like The Dirty Picture (loosely based on Silk Smitha) and Main aur Charles (Charles Sobhraj) have showcased controversial figures too. Presently biopics are setting the box office ablaze so one can easily assume that the trend will linger for quite some time to come.
Sex comes of age
Bollywood is finally out of chronic puberty! From squeaky clean puppy love a decade back to liberal doses of intimacy on screen now, mainstream Hindi cinema sure has ‘matured’ over the decade. The ubiquity of casual hookups, extra and pre-marital sex, live-ins, LGBT twists, erotic thrillers, sex comedies and realistically executed sex scenes in just about every other movie speaks volumes of the instinct’s acceptance by the audience … at least on screen. Success of films like Shuddh Desi Romance, the Masti series and the Hate Story series are proofs enough that once tabooed premises are relevant to today’s viewers. We can expect Bollywood to titillate us more in the coming years despite the censor board hopping mad.
Movie Franchises and film series
Bollywood has been intermittently flirting with sequels probably since the 1930s (Hunterwali and Hunterwali ki Beti), before embarking on a full-fledged love affair with the idea since the last decade. Filmmakers have earlier dabbled with sequels like Videsh (1977)/ Agent Vinod (1977) and Surakshaa (1979)/ Wardaat (1981). The very successful Nagina (1986) and its diluted sequel Nigahen (1989) slithered around for most of the 80s. 2003 was markedly the breakout year when superhits Koi Mil Gaya (Krrish series) and Munnabhai MBBSpaved way for more sequels. However, it was not until the Dhoom series (2004, 2006 and 2013) that our filmmakers warmed up to the concept of film franchising. Since then industry has churned out franchise after franchise. So it can be assumed that as series like Dabbangg (1, 2…going on 3), Golmaal (1,2,3…going on 4), Housefull (1, 2, 3…), ABCD (1, 2…going on 3) and co. progress, the trend will too in future.
South Korean influences
After decades of spicing up pre-cooked Hollywood ingredients and turning them into wholesome Bollywood fares, the current trend seems to be of shifting focus to South-East Asia for modifiable content. South Korea is a fan favorite. Be it the 2008 dud Ugly aur Pagli (My Sassy Girl) or one of 2015’s top grossers, Ek Villian (I Saw the Devil), our filmmakers are increasingly getting drawn to South Korean plots; probably, because of ease of their adaptability in the Indian milieu and their commercial and universal appeal. Murder 2 (The Chaser), Zinda (Oldboy) and the very recent Jazbaa (Seven Days) and Rocky Handsome (The Man from Nowhere) bolster this trend. If ‘remakes’ were deemed an official genre in Bollywood, South Korean remakes could comfortably be termed an impactful sub-genre.
No matter what the trend, Bollywood has come in terms with the absolute cinematic truth that content is king. While these trends may be interspersed with big-budget masala, they define to a great extent, what the present audience wants. Love ‘em, hate ‘em, you cannot ignore ‘em!