Bollywood Desperately Needs Revival. Experimental, Offbeat Films Are the Only Way Out
One thing is now clear—old stars are fading and content is the new hero.
Starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte in lead roles, AndhaDhun released on October 5, 2018. (Image: Instagram/AndhaDhun)
At the ongoing 24th Kolkata International Film Festival, celebrated Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi finally said out loud what industry experts, trade pundits and cinephiles have known for a long time.
Majidi said, “If Bollywood supports offbeat films, independent cinema would flourish.”
Considering that Indian moviegoers have unabashedly dismissed some of the biggest films in the last two years—Jab Harry Met Sejal, Jagga Jasoos, Tubelight, and most recently, Thugs of Hindostan—and have lapped up small-budget films—Newton, Hindi Medium, Raazi, Stree, AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho—one thing is clear. Old stars are fading and content is the new hero.
2017 was popularly billed as Rajkummar Rao’s year. He had four major releases last year, including Newton and Bareilly Ki Barfi. This year too, he has had four releases again, including Stree, which has emerged as one of the highest-grossing films of 2018.
However, giving him some solid competition this year are Radhika Apte and Ayushmann Khurrana. Both of them have had a terrific year. Radhika has starred in six major projects across mediums. Three films—PadMan, AndhaDhun, Bazaar—and three Netflix originals—Lust Stories, Sacred Games, Ghoul—later, it is impossible to not take notice of her anymore.
Meanwhile, Ayushmann, with films like AndhaDhun and Badhaai Ho, has made the boy next door bankable like never before.
As the Shah Rukh Khans and the Aamir Khans go bigger on promotions and marketing gimmicks, each more novel, glitzier than the next, it is these off-beat outsiders who are getting it right, one project after the other.
In a slight modification to what Majidi said, Bollywood, in its present state of utter despair, needs to support offbeat films to flourish, for the lines demarcating independent cinema from the mainstream are blurring faster than ever.
Ronnie Screwvala, known for producing big-budget mammoths like Rang De Basanti (2006), Jodhaa Akbar (2008), Fashion (2008), Rowdy Rathore (2012) and Chennai Express (2013), is now backing new actors and small, experimental films like Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Karwaan, Pihu, Uri: The Surgical Strike and Sonchiriya, under his new banner RSVP Movies.
Talking about it, he told News18 at Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, “Stories are changing and the way we consume them is changing too. So it’s time we also change the storytelling techniques.”
“I am still working with big stars but it’s been a conscious effort to provide platform to new talents across mediums so as to bring freshness in the way we look at and make films,” he added.
With Hollywood, global online streaming platforms, regional cinema and film festivals foraying into the space that was once almost exclusively Bollywood’s own, the Indian film industry hasn’t suffered an identity crisis more severe.
But since Bollywood cannot match Hollywood’s production standards, online streaming platforms’ reach, regional cinema’s relatability and film festivals’ exhaustive experience, it’s time it created its own niche and found its own ground before it’s too late. As of now, small, offbeat films are its only big hope.
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