2018, like every past year, saw a lot and that included cinema too! I feel that a society can be fairly judged on the choices it gets for entertainment and in turn the choices that it makes to be entertained. For this very reason, I have decided to write about the changes that Hindi cinema (Bollywood) or movies have undergone in 2018 and what a fabulous change has it been! The taste of Indian viewers is changing, or should I say maturing and to cater to that, our Bollywood too is changing. The manifestation of this change was never as palpable as it is now. The new-age audience is eagerly embracing well-told narratives regardless of perception-laden paraphernalia like banner and director. These don’t matter beyond a point. That is a welcome change in the industry, and surely great news. It wasn’t long ago that the Khans and a big, lavish canvas brought the guaranteed success of a movie to the table which by the way, now has turned.
The magic of ‘Khans’ doesn’t work anymore. Race 3, Thugs of Hindostan and finally Zero- need I say more what a big ‘zero’ a movie becomes, despite having ‘Khans’ if it doesn’t have good content. ‘The star’ of the yore, is no longer the star. Rajni and Akshay starrer 2.0 was nowhere closer to the expected success level. ‘Content’ is the star today. Given the easy access to good content via internet and other platforms, audiences now expect filmmakers to give them something new every time. Indian viewers today have access to the best of the world and they don’t want to settle for anything less than the best. Also, with better education, aspirational lifestyle, global exposure and travel, Indian viewers have become much classier and fastidious. Now that most of urban youth is quite clued up about Hollywood movies; they are simply not ready to spend their time and money on a ‘trashy copy’ of the same. They are not dumb anymore and know the worth of their precious time and money. Alas! The ‘Big Daddies’ of the Bollywood are not yet getting it.
But there are some cool directors and producers, who could read the writing on the wall well in time and along with some very talented writers and actors, have come up with some amazing movies. And the audience is showing them that they are treading the right path. 2018 is the best year to date for the movies with genuinely good story and people who have acted in them. Other than the aware and well-informed audience, what’s helping these trendsetting movies, which have the ‘content’ as their main lead? It’s the social media and much more visible, audible, accessible public opinion which is making these movies work.
I watched Andhadhun after reading a lot of good words about it. Such a well-crafted and executed dark comedy that was! I watched Raazi and enjoyed this spy-thriller film, set in the Indo-Pak War of 1971, for its brilliant story and fabulous acting by Alia, Vicky Kaushal and Jaideep Ahlawat. 2018 saw a magnificent run of a horror-comedy, Stree, which appealed to the viewers purely for its great content. Before 2018, one couldn’t have imagined that people would go to watch a movie which had a middle-aged woman (Neena Gupta) as the protagonist and an old woman (Surekha Sikri) as semi protagonist (rather parallel lead)! Badhai ho Badhai touched more chords than one. In a subtle way and layered way, it touched the issue of sex in middle-aged people. What a gem this movie is. This year truly has given us the reason to be proud of our creativity as far as Bollywood is concerned. Finally, we are making movies for ourselves and not for the NRIs settled abroad.
( Finally, the female star cast is doing so much more than just looking pretty and play the love interest of the male lead- but on that, shall write another piece, for the likes of Surekha Sikri, Neena Gupta, Kiara Advani, Alia Bhatt, Bhumi Pednekar, Radhika Apte and all, deserve so much more than just another paragraph!)
2018 has also changed the way we watch movie. Netflix, Amazon Prime are now mediums, giving serious competition to even Hollywood. Without any censorship, these platforms are able to dish out contents that today’s audience want. Watched ‘Lust Stories’- a collection of four short movies and amazed I was, at the brilliance of each of them! Kudos to the directors, the writers and applause to the audience. The audience so much more, because had it not been for them, such movies wouldn’t be made. As viewers, we have changed folks! From making a film about a topic like Menstrual Hygiene (PadMan), to telling a story about a teacher with Tourette's Syndrome (Hitchki), from the story of medieval times (Padmaavat), to the stories of India's Nuclear Test (Parmanu) and some brilliantly acted films (Sanju (just wish that it wasn’t labelled a biopic), Raid, Manto, Mukkabaaz), we have come a long way.
However, I do feel that we still have to grow a bit more to appreciate hard-hitting movies as well. Mulk, I feel, didn’t get the treatment it deserved. In this movie, Director Anubhav Sinha sets out to lay bare the prejudice that often precedes people’s perception of the Muslim community in our country. In the times that we are living in, where our country is polarised, and the cracks caused by the religious divide is getting deeper; a film like this is the need of the hour. Even Manto didn’t get its dues from the audience, may be because these movies made us feel uncomfortable, forced us to question that we do not want to answer. One of the finest biographies, 'Manto' provides sufficient cause for the protagonist’s nihilism and his agony of leaving his own homeland. It showcased an amazing account of how people change when they are thrown into an anarchic situation where killings are normal and hatred spreads without logic and medium. While watching that, I wondered, if it was a tale on present times as well.
If the success of content-based movies, is any parameter, I am sure we shall evolve further to appreciate these kinds of movies too and by appreciating, I mean, making them commercially successful. As I had written at the onset, society can be fairly judged on the choices they get for entertainment and in turn the choices that they make to be entertained- and we want to be judged as mature, informed and evolved audience- don’t we! So, cheers to the new STAR of 2018- the CONTENT! Hope this star shines more and more in 2019 and the coming times!!!!!!
Copyright © Aradhana Mishra