The ‘Problem’ with the Hindi Film Industry
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The words Hindi Film Industry should not take you by surprise. It is obvious I am referring to Bollywood however; I desist from choosing that term. Reasons are aplenty which I won’t discuss here.
It is apparent for the atypical ‘quality’ movie watcher they tend to seek something new or different from the typical ‘masala’ flick. A ‘masala’ flick is a genre of Indian Film containing everything from comedy, melodrama, action, musicals and sometimes defy logic and commonsense! (Golmaal Again-2019, Hamshakals-2014)
The Hindi Film industry mainstream genre exists with little to no room for experimentation. That, I am afraid – is the sad part. If a film does not evolve, it leaves no room for growth. No room for growth leaves no entry strategy for potential loyalists. Who can you refer to as a loyalist or potential loyalists?
I’ll give you an example, Superhero flicks are a completely new genre of film. You cannot classify them as sci-fi despite being CGI heavy. The reason they are CGI-heavy is that they have to remain true to the comics adaptations. Superhero films have ready loyalists from comic book fans. Potential loyalists are those who have little to no background knowledge from comic books but still like and love superhero films. That includes me.
Such films which refuse to evolve and change with the times will compel them to die out eventually. If they don’t they would only cater to fans making moderate business. That is the state of the mainstream films that cannot be called cinema.
Let us take a look at Salman Khan who also happens to have a strong hold in the industry and a massive fan following. His films are typically made for his fans and not for the general audience. He is a known do-gooder in real life and most say he has a good heart. At least that what I have heard of. I cannot comment on that subject simply because I do not know him personally.
He can act (to an extent) but cannot deliver powerful emotions that can sync well with his acting. Check this scene here from the movie Baghban (2003). Please turn on the closed captions if you do not understand the language.
This scene needs to show him as being happily emotional and angrily emotional. His emotions are cold and facial expression is bland. For such a powerful scene, there should be a powerful mix of emotions. Any person in real life cannot cool down his anger almost immediately. Perhaps, the parents (Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini) in the film should have intervened to prevent further escalation.
How would you react if someone misbehaved with your parents as the car dealer did? You will probably feel like killing him or her? But you will hold yourself from doing that and probably beat him to a pulp. I would.
Although Salman Khan in the scene did slap the car dealer this could be handled better by showing him the pink slip. Practically, the car dealer lost the customer by forcing to close the deal on them.
When a film paying enough attention to detail it is very easily noticed by the atypical moviegoers.
In my opinion, the drama genres of films do not suit him. He is capable of films with simpler themes which do not require emotional delivery (facial expressions) or close – up shots, a little dialogue delivery here and there and some action. We should not forget, Salman Khan is also above 50 years of age (born 27 December 1965). He needs a more ‘mature’ role.
Drama most of the time require emotional and powerful dialogue delivery. The camera angle usually has a close-up view of the actors and their faces.
Let’s take another Hindi film actor who manages to pull out various roles with ease. Akshay Kumar is known for playing a variety of roles. He has not done any compelling drama films but he manages to do justice to his character. No. I am not a fan of Akshay Kumar but I do watch his films. I have been watching his films since childhood. Whenever any of his movie releases, the audience is generally aware that there will be something different about the movie and his movies are guaranteed to be good. Though, they don’t cater to the general audience since some of his flicks tend to cater to a different section with different tastes. I would hesitate to call them mainstream.
I love films that make you think and appreciate the candour towards the subject.
Let’s take the film Good Newwz (2019) (Don’t mind the spelling, that’s how the movie is spelt!). The movie is about a couple who are seeking solutions to starting their own family. Due to that uncertainty, they approach an IVF specialist.
One of my friends who went through the process of IVF concurs the movie was true to the real-life process. The movie was very relatable. It will connect with those audiences who have been through the process of conception. It also highlighted the process of IVF albeit briefly so that the general audience who are unaware of IVF would know about the process.
What did the film get right? I’ll describe it in three words: relatable, practical and simple. The subject is true to the real-world scenario- a couple goes through the same procedures. Practical – the movie stuck to the storyline. Simple-because of the story – there’s nothing much to it. The drama was added to a simple story for added punch and the need for an emotional roller coaster ride that occurs in the latter part of the film. The films transition well from being funny to serious to emotional. The pacing is just right.
Most Hindi films get the pacing right.
Dancing on the Tree-Tops!:
Hindi Films are best recognised by their sing and dance sequence. A film may typically have anywhere up to 6-7 songs. There are some films which have even more. They are typically musical and family-oriented.
The trend right now shows a drastic reduction in songs. It makes tremendous sense to exclude songs entirely.
The way I looked at it is that the movie producer would need to make one song a hit. That hit song would be enough to increase the sales of the album. Should the film not do well at the box office, at least the producer would make some profit to mitigate the loss of the film.
However, during the 60s, 70s, 80s and even in the 90s, most Hindi films had songs. The songs were good and memorable. It was worth listening to repeatedly. Some producers/directors would also incorporate a little bit of story in the song sequence.
For example, the male and female actors are dancing to a song professing their love for each other. During the song, a killer would try to snipe the male actor. Watch this song sequence from the movie Yudh to get an idea. Strictly speaking, not all films follow this process. I’ll provide you with two links, the earlier link will show you the song sequence and the audio is not digitally mastered. For the remastered version, please click on this link.
Now, the songs are void of any meaning. Some songs are ruthless remixes. This is a fairly recent trend where the remixed song sounds more like an insult rather than making it sound better.
What I would like to believe, the idea of the remix should be to re-introduce the song to the newer generations who have not yet heard of it. It would be obvious the listener would know it is a remix. Then some listeners would like to know how does the original sound like.
Another take, the purpose of the remix would be to introduce the song in a non-existent genre. For example, a classic number will be given EDM beats and heavier bass to make it ‘dance-worthy’.
Some classics deserve so much respect that nothing beats the original. Would anyone try to remix Micahel Jackson’s songs? I know some people would have miserably failed at their attempt.
There’s another song by Tears for Fears – Everybody wants to rule the world – this song is so good that it develops into an earworm!
Songs in Hindi films have been reduced to look like music videos.
What purpose do songs serve in Hindi films today? I have no idea.
During the yesteryears- songs had meaning, you would love to listen to them. They would play constantly over the radio. I don’t mean to say the current songs are lacklustre. Good songs are a strict minority and that’s unfortunate. Before the dawn of private FM channel in India, there was the typical government radio station. That was the only source of radio entertainment during the early 90s.
Coming back to the movies:
Very few films have broken the jinx in genres untouched by some directors. For example, the movie ‘Stree‘ (2018) directed by Amar Kaushik of Aaba (2017), Go Goa Gone(2019-Assistant Director) and most recently Bala (2019) fame and Stree (2018) translated as ‘The Woman’ is a horror-comedy film.
It a very well established unconventional versatile non-nepotistic excelled actor – Rajkummar Rao and a mainstream female actor – Shraddha Kapoor daughter of yesterday year’s famously infamous villain Shakti Kapoor. She has no acting background. But she can act and no she is not my favourite either.
When I made an unplanned decision to see this movie with Phoebe, some scenes did seem scary. Mind you, they were no ‘It’ or ‘The Conjuring’ type scary. There was no jump-scare as well! But yet, I was a little scared with the way some scenes, in particular, were directed.
I am not a horror-genre fan but I appreciate a good flick when I see one.
Such kind of film is widely appreciated with not more than three songs. One song may be used in the background, the second will be picturised, some films may not picturise it (aka music video format) and the last song is used as an end-credit song.
The last song is the most heavily invested as compared to other picturised ones in the films. Even some unconventional or non-mainstream films follow this format.
Last few years have witnessed some breakaway from traditional film-making while some remain unchanged.
Movies of Shah Rukh Khan, although, are different in terms of storyline and superior production values and special effects – his films does not seem to run. My guess is due to a lack of a strong storyline or his slight deviation from the traditional roles he has played isn’t liked by his fans or it could be both.
Shah Rukh Khan used to rule Bollywood (not literally) – his films were box-office success. Although he did make some attempt to break the mould. His idea did not seem to take-off which is very unfortunate. I have not yet seen any of his recent released flicks to pass a proper judgement at that.
I can’t leave out Amir Khan – aka the perfectionist. He is known to make good films which are not only different but seriously breaks the mould. Unlike other actors out there, he collaborates with reputed directors to bring the best to their audience. He rarely fails to deliver. Some of his noted films and performances are 3 Idiots (2009), PK (2014) and Taare Zameen Par (2007). These are not the only films he is known for but there are quite a few. I am sorry my memory fails me.
How films in India are measured?
This will come to you as a surprise. The storyline, unique camera angle, adopting new technologies, amazing stunt works, solid make-up works – these factors do not determine most mainstream Hindi Films. It is a stark contrast compared to the cinema of decades ago and the off-beat films that are currently made. Most youths are not inclined to watching too much mainstream Hindi Films – at least that is what I have come across.
To declare a hit film, they need to cross a particular collection threshold i.e. it needs to surpass the domestic and international collection of say ₹100-crore or ₹ 10, 000, 000 that’s 1-billion with a ‘b’ for you. Then some films surpassed ₹2000-crore. Dangal (2016) -This film worked its magic in the worldwide box office is only due to its storyline.
Then there are the ‘anti-nepotism’ films that have gained a solid foothold over masala films. Dangal (2016) is one such film.
South Indian Cinema has surpassed the Hindi Film Industry in terms of storyline. Sometimes, the South Indian Film industry churns out good films. It is not long until that film is remade in Hindi. Drishyam (2015) is one such movie. It is a Hindi remake of a South Indian movie of the same name released in 2013. I would highly recommend you to watch this movie if you can. It is hands-down an edge of the seat thriller. You can watch either the South Indian or the Hindi version with English sub-titles – the performance and direction are exceptional.
I am compelled to believe that most Hindi films are not made for the general audience. Most are made for the fans. Let me give you an example, I don’t have any female or male actor who is my favourite. I know some actors who are extremely exceptional in their respective roles, some of them are the late Heath Ledger, Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Depp, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellan, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Helena Bonham Carter, Whoopi Goldberg, etc.
In the Hindi Film Industry, there are a few actors who have experimented with their roles, Hrithik Roshan, Ayushmaan Khurana, Rajkummar Rao. Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan, etc. have done well.
Who do films cater to?
The story in current films always takes a back seat. Comedy most of the time does not make sense – it is either cheap, void of a good joke and does not evoke any laughter.
Some films are void of logic while some films require you to leave your brain at home! Let me share an example of a movie called Golmaal Again (2017). A scene in the film in which the female lead notices a murder, guess what she does. If you guessed she reports to the cops, you are wrong. If you guessed she kills the murderers, you again wrong.
What she does is void of logic: she approaches the perpetrators (the villain -Neil Nitin Mukesh) or perhaps the villains already noticed her that she witnessed the murder. She tells him that she will report this murder to the cops. I mean I was like WHAT THE F@#$!
Which murder or theft witness will tell the perpetrator that you will report the heinous act to the cops? That scene prompted me to change the channel that instant! Golmaal Again is the fourth part in a series of Golmaal films and this part is by far the worst!
What I fail to understand:
I live in the state of Maharashtra. The state language is Marathi. The Marathi film industry by far has managed to make great films. You will not find action films, unnecessary melodrama, slapstick comedy or CGI. These films have drama and a great story.
My problem with Marathi films is I am not that well versed with the language though I can understand but struggle to speak. With great Marathi film directors like Gajendra Vitthal Ahire, Shantaram Govind Athaval, etc to name a few. I admit this is the first time at the time of writing I have learnt the names of these directors! Shame on me!
Honestly speaking, Marathi films are not my genre of films that evoke any interest. Nothing against them either.
My point. These Marathi film directors are very good at what they do. If knowledge serves me right, then these directors have come from a theatre background. Why are Hindi movie studios and distributors not hiring these noted directors to make a good film? Could somebody answer that?
This is where the movie industry lacks and needs to pull up their socks in making great films.