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Time For A Rethink?

Friday, September 09, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

Two new multiplexes have opened up in the suburbs in recent weeks, which seems a bit surprising, since the existing ones have severely reduced footfalls. It’s only when a big star film releases that audiences go to the cinemas; or when a small film gets tremendous word of mouth.

There have been reports in the last few weeks about how and why Bollywood is in trouble and even big production companies have either shut down their film departments or have curtailed activities. The pessimists say this was bound to happen, the way the industry was running wild with large budgets and substandard content.  Whenever a non-formula film gets success or acclaim, everybody heralds the arrival of a new, improved Bollywood, but that is yet to happen.

When the corporate culture came into the Hindi film industry, the good part was the streamlining of schedules, weeding out of black money, proper contracts, deadlines and professional marketing. This resulted in the shutting down of the small family-run production companies, because they no longer had access to stars. The major or saleable stars were tied up in multi-crore deals with the production giants, who could promise stars wide distribution and marketing their films deserved.  With so few stars and so much demand, it was inevitable that filmmakers without deep pockets could not make films with stars, and without stars their films had very little chance of being greenlighted by production companies, run not by creative people but by management experts and number crunchers.

The nature of show business is such that there are no guarantees; there is no film that goes perfectly as planned, and a very expensive film can fail, even with aggressive marketing. In fact, in these days of instant response on social media, and innumerable trolls at it, a film had better deliver what it promises. A badly made promo can destroy a film’s prospects – as the recent Mohenjo Daro proved.

Sadly, the directors who started out as rebels, who broke away from regular commercial cinema, ended up with the own formula, that also failed after a point. Audiences had great hopes from them, which were dashed.  For lack of choice they went back to the same old song-and-dance romantic dramas shot on exotic locations. But, of late, Hollywood has been providing that choice with their extravaganzas dubbed into Indian languages.

It’s time for Bollywood not just to invest in good stories and slash budgets, but also to get back that sense of adventure that marks the greats from the rest.

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