Bollywood Movies – Changes in the content and business trends vis-a-vis the ’90s movies!
More than a century old is our Hindi film industry and time has witnessed mammoth changes in the way of its working as well as the kind of movies being made. This is one such industry which has always been in the limelight for every aspect of it which can be possibly talked about, the people, the business, the grandeur and also the evils of the industry has been the daily dose of gossip for the common man in India… we have the link ups, the controversies, blames of casting couch prevailing from time immemorial and now open blames of nepotism as well. But our topic here is not about the celebrities’ lifestyle or negatives within the industry, rather let’s analyse on the kind of films being made today, the trends of marketing and changes in the film’s content in comparison to what it was back in the day. The evolution in the past two decades to be precise…
Trailers can be deceptive…
One noticeable change in today’s time is that more than the movie, it is the trailer which has to be appealing and saleable, it creates a strong hype and box office collections shoot up easily. That two-minute teaser should be so well edited, with good music and a new concept for the audience that it attracts them to watch it in a theatre. They disclose what the movie is all about (the main topic) and what all you can expect from it. The problem arises where a trailer promises a lot to you in terms of content, dialogues, sequences and acting performances but the movie turns out to be a disappointment. I remember how much hopes I had from the first trailer of ‘Fan’ being an SRK fan myself… “SRK in a unique role of his own doppelganger and playing as a die-hard Fan of the superstar SRK, wonder what all the movie would have? The make-up and visuals look so appealing that we would possibly have an amazingly different movie with a unique script and power pack performances”. Then came the ‘Jabra Fan’ song as the ‘Fan Anthem’ giving more hopes but when I saw the film, I was disappointed with logic flaws and unnecessary chase scenes… also the weird climax. Indeed the positive was SRK’s performance but it didn’t make a movie we could name as the best ones of SRK or the Yashraj banner. This happens with most big budget movies with big stars. We also have ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’, earning approx. 400 crores worldwide gross collection  (includes 207 crore – India collection) but was it actually that entertaining? And ‘Dhoom 3’… Surely not!!
Difference between a Superhit movie and a Supergood movie
The records say that the highest grosser movie of 2016 earned somewhere around 1956 crores  (Worldwide gross). Bollywood makes hundreds of films every year (Mainstream Hindi films) but we have merely 5-10 good movies. Here definitions of a hit movie and a good movie are different, hit is as per collection (might not be a good one or a sensible one always) and good movies would be some which you actually liked but rarely recovered the money invested or not even that. ‘Tamasha’ was one in the recent times which a major segment of audience appreciated but collections say it was a flop (made a loss). ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ made money for the makers but… Ahem ahem! ‘Dangal’ is one rare movie, liked by all and the highest grosser as well, Hats off to the team. So was ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ in the year before… but there are other hits which you would not even feel like watching ever again, this I feel has been a change from the olden times.
The good old days Vs. times now!
Being a movie buff and a ’90s kid, movies for me was magic… it was the most entertaining form of storytelling. In those days, people would enter a cinema hall just with the information revealed through the poster, one ad on TV, an article in a film magazine and probably one or two songs from the film you know of by the time of release. It goes house-full if it is a good movie and the word of mouth publicity helped their business. If it is not an entertaining one for majority audiences, the movie would eventually be a flop on box office too.
But now, it is a 3-days game… release it on a long weekend with a festival (especially if it’s a big budget movie), there would be good earnings in those 3 days even if the movie is absolutely disliked because that is the time required for people to spread the word. The calculation is such that they need you to watch it only once and their money is recovered (thanks to the huge number of cinema goers). 100 crores and the movie is termed a hit, indeed it is a difficult number to cross but for an A grade star and a typical massy film, it is quite manageable. Then we have promotions stating it’s a hit, so the people who did not watch it would rush to a theatre. They have a success party within the first week and fake good reviews everywhere. The word of mouth is more from PR agencies and not the general public. Social media helps to build up a false image quite easily be it political parties or big banner movies. Plus prior to the release, you would hear so much about the film (gossips about its star, controversies created for media hype, songs being played everywhere on TV & Radio and stars promoting it on every platform possible) that you finally decide to watch it out of the ‘built-up curiosity’. Ironically, to promote a feature film, they need support from TV channels and online platforms like YouTube. You would watch a film star on ‘The Kapil Sharma show’ every weekend who visits to request you to watch their movie and also reminds you the release date. Some appear as a temporary judge on singing and dance shows for that weekend. They are also involved in plots of fiction shows… Imagine Salman Khan does Garba with Daya bhabhi on ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’! Actors also visit shows like ‘CID’ to solve a case or even on other saas-bahu type daily soaps. They tweet, retweet, give interviews on various channels and also come on YouTube to promote. Thus revenue collected in first 3 days… Talking about revenue, we also have satellite rights and music rights apart from overseas rights. There is a huge investment in the marketing of films, the funda is ‘You market more, you earn more’.
The changing trends
This trend was not present earlier. Back in the ’90s, a good film was the key to a successful film. Forget taking selfies, you would feel lucky if you got a glimpse of a film star in real life. Autographs were saved and shown to people as if they were some big achievements. Also, you would notice the credits of an old movie where story, screenplay, dialogues, produced and directed by was only one person in many of them. That one person was the risk bearer and the idea generator. The movie was his brainchild and he nurtured it well, he preferred not compromising with creativity for box office collection and yet would succeed in both. Now the times have changed, the work, as well as the risk, is segregated which was not the case earlier. You have a different person writing the story, a scriptwriter, a dialogue writer, a director and 5-6 producers which include some corporate houses, some other production houses and the hero himself (a big star) as one of them. This is good in certain ways… work is allotted to professionals who have expertise in one of the jobs only, the risk is being divided making it a safer play for the investors and the director have to focus more on the movie-making than arranging finances. But here the flipside is it somewhere compromises with the creativity… you play safe and include an unwanted item song or a kissing scene, some weird plots and characters to create controversial subjects (get hype in media and social media) to earn a buck while the movie in itself is not even worth watching once. Obviously, the makers are aware of it but since it’s a profitable venture, why not make it? Here the quality deteriorates… content is being sidelined for business, so much of technological advancement, so many musical instruments and editing equipment yet we can’t have good songs, they need weird hook lines or remake an old song to complete the album, so many talented actors, directors and writers yet a handful of good watchable films. Probably 100 years have saturated the potentially good story ideas and so we have a few good movies to watch in a year. We still have movies like ‘Aligarh’ with such an amazing concept and brilliant performances yet receiving only critical acclaims. We can term such movies as those which get good reviews but not good revenues…
The best thing about trends is that it keeps changing
The positive side of it is that we still do have a few of those good movies where the story is made with seriousness and not in a hurry to just release and make money. The current trend is of making biopics on great achievers from different fields and social topics involving female protagonists which are appreciated by audiences. Also, the ones with female protagonists are now counted in commercially successful mainstream cinema unlike it was in the past. The good part is that the masses are accepting and motivating Bollywood to make something different yet sensible unlike the previous trends of a senseless Romcom or a love story being the highest grosser and chosen by the masses while social topics or serious subjects were taken as one for the classes (the art film or parallel cinema category). People have appreciated the cause of the film be it ‘Neerja’, ‘Pink’, ‘Dear Zindagi’, ‘Udta Punjab’ or ‘Dangal’! Fortunately, we have some hope for better films coming in the near future with the changing taste of audiences demanding more realism and sense and also a few filmmakers understanding it to meet up the expectations and demands. Now that’s real honest business, isn’t it? Supply what is demanded! It will sell for sure… Well, we hope Bollywood keeps delivering good movies and entertaining us yet earn enough profits without those extreme marketing activities making it the ideal win-win situation for both makers as well as viewers!!