The Raw Colours of Hindi Cinema

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Paurush Kumar, Film & TV Writer, casts a critical eye over Bollywood Cinema in an attempt to highlight its cultural history and pinpoint how it can improve in the future.

The Hindi Film Industry, more commonly known as Bollywood, is India’s sole representative at the global level in the field of entertainment. Over the years, the industry certainly has grown in terms of recognition, production and technical aspects. However, recently the race to produce bigger and better films has directly lead to a degradation in the quality of films being produced – with more and more focus being placed on star power and profitability.

While the quality in Hindi cinema has widely decreased there are films produced outside of this rat race which place a greater emphasis on story. Sadly such movies go unnoticed at the box office.

Hindi Cinema has tried to maintain the legacy and culture that the country has. Of late, this essence has been missing from more mainstream films. It goes without saying that making a profit has always been a priority – but there have been films to make it to cinema without a script and professional actors. Movies of the sort are actually the most common in the industry and these include films like Tiger Shroff’s ‘Baaghi’ and Akshay Kumar’s ‘Airlift’.

The comedy genre hasn’t really had any impact in the industry. We seem to lack writers who can perform in the genre. I’d recommend watching so-called comedies like ‘Housefull 3’ and ‘Chalk and Duster’ just to marvel at how awful they are. Don’t get me wrong though, these films make money in Bollywood – which is why they keep getting made.

But most films are all about homogenous sets, high budgets, and star power. Bollywood Cinema is terrified of incurring losses, which is why most films tend to play it very safe. There is a prestige involved with reaching the ‘100 Crore Club’, which is associated with hitting a monetary target and carries an elite status within the film industry. Somewhat tellingly there so hasn’t been a single film with a female lead to reach this club.

The importance of woman in the industry is howver slowly increasing, movie by movie. Films like ‘Gulab Gang’, ‘Aitraaz’ and ‘Mai’ places female characters at their front and centre. These movies are important because not only did they open to critical acclaim but they were also commercial successes, indicating to producers (and their purse-strings) that women can have a place at the forefront of Hindi Cinema.

“The importance of woman in the industry is howver slowly increasing, movie by movie”

Speaking of girl power, the country has started to recognise the unsung, forgotten female heroes of its history after the industry started to put forward its work on celluloid. ‘Mary Kom’, starring Priyanka Chopra (the highest paid Indian actress in the world ), is based on the life and career of the eponymous Olympic Medal winner. Kom was little known until she did the country proud by achieving a Gold medal at the 2008 World Boxing Championships in Ningbo, China. The film charts her personal journey to the podium, with many of the personal hardships she endured being deeply rooted in Hindi culture and society. The film’s success has helped to spark a new-found interest in biopics, which have proceeded to become a fixture in Bollywood. Other films worth looking at include ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, ‘Bandit Queen’ and ‘Main aur Charles’

Films that are produced outside of the race for the ‘100 Crore Club’ tend to do well critically but underperform where it counts – the ticket office. There are some big winners at film festivals like ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ (a personal favourite). It is based on a mother-daughter relationship in which, to get the best possible education for her child the mother enrolls in school alongside her. Encouragingly, similar budget films ‘English Vinglish’ and ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ managed to recover their costs entirely from theatrical revenue, which would seem to indicate that audiences are slowly and steadily shifting from poor to rich content movies. The hope is that, long term, the industry will come to be recognised by a quality standard of cinema rather than star power.

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Parish Kumar| Film & TV Writer

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