By Krati Gupta
Edited by Sanchita Malhotra, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
The Indian film industry is now centenarian and it has come a long way from its first silent monochrome feature film ”Raja Harishchandra”, to the multi crore vivid and dazzling motion pictures being produced in bulk today. It is more of a global venture now with annual revenue a soaring high of 93.4 billion as of 2013. Indian movies have also found a strong fan base in countries like Bangladesh, Canada, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. But amongst this utopia, questions of the Indian celluloid being repetitive, imitative and uninspired have constantly surfaced up. Let’s take a look why:
The epithet ‘bollywood’: The name given to Indian cinema itself is an imitation of its United states counterpart hollywood. Our Cinema is a culmination of respective film industries of various Indian states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. The term bollywood stresses only on the Mumbai based film industry and thus stifles the recognition of others. At times we have seen prestigious actors and directors such as Amitabh Bacchan , Irfan Khan and Dibaker Banerjee condemning the use of the phrase. Amitabh Bacchan ,at Cannes last year was quoted as saying ,”I request everyone to call it ‘Indian film industry’ rather than ‘bollywood’. We have completed 100 successful years and its time our industry gains its unique identity”.
The rat race of making it to the 100 crore club, it’s the age of ‘masala movies’ and money spinners. Shove in a gallant sizzling item number, a spate of SFX stunts, a sequence of star cameo appearances , some more songs at outdoor picturesque locations and you are ready to go. The plot of the story may be rumbling and lacklustre but that’s no issue. It’s the money that drives most of the directors and producers today. The target is to cover entire cost of the film within a week and make it to the much coveted 100 crore club, however illogical the concept of the film may be.
Lack of funds and opportunities to the ‘parallel’ cinema, even when a few directors take the plunge to show the actual INDIA and the social and economic conditions prevailing currently; they are sidelined by the behemoth commercial cinema. These films not only lack funding and technology, but also the mass audience ,leading to a large chunk of them being wind up in the box, never seeing the light of the day. Despite of being critically acclaimed and winning accolades at various national and international film festivals, they can’t just earn enough at the box office, because the Indian audience is now accustomed to large budget movies boasting of some big names.
Aping the Hollywood, plagiarism is on an all time high in our film industry. A plethora of Indian films can be pointed out as being blatant copies or as drawing ‘ inspiration’ ( as our directors frame it) from their western counterparts. It might be the entire storyline or the movie poster or even the songs and music, there is nothing that our directors haven’t put their hands on and adapted it to suit the Indian version . A few film makers have cleverly tried to disguise this situation by ”buying” the rights of the respective films, but it doesn’t make us worry less about the deterioration of quality and concept creeping into film making.
The remake mania and the sequels ( and I guess prequels shall soon follow too ), ow that our producers and directors have started running out of ideas, they started digging graves and remaking the oldies. Although it’s better not to nitpick , but a recent catastrophe like “Himmatwala” can definitely not be ignored. The film makers believe that they can magnetise the audience towards theatre by using the charm of the established old films. The other trend , if the film fairs well in the first time then keep on making its sequels also follows. It is evident that there is a paucity of screenwriters which compels film makers to seek these options and take the easy way out. Noted director
Tigmanshu Dhulia’s comment in this regard says it all, ” There is no creative satisfaction in remaking a film. Someone has already made a film, so what is the point of making it again in Hindi or any other language.”
The never ending string of song sequences; we have some really fine and easy on the ear voices in the industry (barring a few nasal ones) , but gratuitous song and dance sequences extending the duration of a film , mostly render their talent a total waste. Nowadays songs are intended solely for promotional purposes. It’s not like the yesteryears, the melodies of which still prevail. Now you listen to the songs of a newly released movie and whoosh! the next week they are out of your memory and the playlist forever.
The numerous year round award functions; and how can we forget the extravagant and pompous award functions celebrating the success of Indian cinema annually. The lavish amount of money spent on managing and arranging these can serve various other purposes of significance; some of which include supporting a large number of veteran actors and musicians, for example the 1983 singing sensation Mubarak Begum, who is neglected by film industry and is living a life of sheer poverty or opening up film education institutes at par with the international ones or funding and encouragement to the art movies
Okay! Enough of lampooning and browbeating; well its unjust to say that there is no good work being done at all .But it’s time that we focus on bringing the ‘Indian’ness back to Indian cinema and shunning the sectarian attitude. Instead of drawing inspiration from west, work can be done towards cultivating our own vast heritage of epics and puranas like Mahabharata and Ramayana ,only a section of which has been explored till date. We have had great conquerors like Tipu Sultan and excellent mathematicians such as Srinivas Ramanujam whose life history still remains uncharted. These are merely a few examples. A lot can be churned out once a sincere thought is put in this regard. To make celluloid a medium which educates as well as entertains simultaneously and represents the common Indian man and puts forward his struggles in an effective manner has to be the ultimate endeavour.
Krati is currently a pre final year, Chemical engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad. She loves watching movies and posing for pictures. Apart from juggling between the concepts of thermodynamics and heat transfer during college hours, she is a greenhorn at writing and is highly optimistic about exploring the vast horizon in this field . She believes penning down her thoughts will make at least a small difference to the world.