Winds of change in Bollywood

Madhusudhana Rao S

Strong winds of change seem to be blowing across Bollywood. Although a new trend in cinema is perceptible in the last few years, the new genre of movies reflecting the social churning has never been as evident as they are now. Earlier, a few non-formula movies were used to be described as New Wave Cinema or Off-Beat. Their shows were also restricted to a few theatres and the films were mostly seen by the elite of the society and critics. Some ‘experimental’ films used to be shown only in foreign festivals or theatres abroad as if they were not meant for Indian audience.

The popular perception at that time –still it prevails – was the Indian films were formula-based: A love triangle with one or two heroes and a heroine or vice versa and a villain to turn the dreams of love birds into nightmares; a liberal dose of dance and song in enchanting locations and comic interludes to give the audience a bit of relief from boredom; and stunts to pump up the adrenalin flow.

Without these standard ingredients, it was believed, no film would ring the till at the box office. That was true not only with Hindi cinema but with every other commercial film made in every major Indian language. However, a few movies made without formula trappings and commercial compulsions in regional languages like Bengali and Malayalam managed to find some space and a niche market in the highly competitive Indian cinema industry.

Now, thanks to the cine-goers’ changing tastes, the lovelorn aging couples have stopped running around trees and hiding behind bushes on the silver screen, sparing blushes and bemusement for the young generation. A good percentage of new crop of films coming into the market are more realistic in content and nature. They are no longer woven around absurdities, love and sacrifice or taking revenge in a bloody way.

These main features, considered to ensure ‘success,’ are passé now, though some traces could be found to cater to the masses in a few films. But, overall, many new releases and those that are in the making hold a mirror to society, its problems, inner conflicts, inherent contradictions, scourges like drugs, woman and child trafficking, job, family and parental pressures, personal wants and desires and the struggles to achieve the set targets.

The year 2016 has seen many such films: serious, thought-provoking and issue-based. They no longer make you pass the time in cool comfort of a theatre, but compel you to sit up and see the stark reality in raw form. What we shun in polite conversations and refuse to accept and see the truth is there on the screen. As they unfold in front of your eyes, sometimes in true colours and some other time in a little dramatized version for cinematic effect, the reality of it all  dawns upon you.

In a span of just three months, two films –Pink (September) and Dear Jindagi released a couple of weeks ago – created a sort of sensation and received rave reviews. While the first dealt with a common urban phenomenon of young working girls and how their free behavior with opposite sex is misconstrued as licentious and taken advantage of, the second one tackles the inexplicable relationships within and outside the family. Both films, done with little glamour quotient, convey subtle messages about a generation that is aspiring and trying to move away from the trappings of stereotyped life, a society full of hypocrites and a concerned and caring family. Films of such genre question our attitudes, double standard, hypocrisy, duplicity and everything else that is being practiced and perfected to the point of being holier than though. 

Surprisingly, most of these films have also become hits, which mean they are being accepted by the general public since they mirror the life and times of a majority of Indian people. In 2016, quite a few Hindi movies have veered off the beaten track. Among these, worth mentioning are, Airlift, Udta Punjab, Pink, Ki & Ka, Neerja and Te3N. Piku, NH 10, Manjhi The Mountain Man and Talvar should get the credit in 2015.

This is not to say that other regional language films are lagging behind. Considering the mass audience and appeal Hindi films have worldwide, generally they set the trend. In Telugu too, quite a few producers and directors have tried out but with limited success. However, one movie, Pelli Choopulu, a low-budget, no-frills family drama, has proved that crores need not be spent on mega stars and dream locations to capture the hearts and minds of cinema lovers or to entertain and educate the public through a powerful and influential medium like cinema.

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