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Bollywood's big ideas are boring
Big releases. Major promotions. No dearth of stars, both small and big. Bollywood appears to be on a merrygo-cruise sailing through untroubled waters;the spray, as it cuts through the ocean, more fragrant than ever before. Since imagination defines assumptions often, the average watcher can blissfully conclude that the industry is facing few obstacles indeed.
Salman Khan's lovably absurd Dabangg rocked the boxoffice. The odd comedy like Golmaal 3 is a blockbuster already. Without threatening to eclipse the money-making histories of huge films of the past, some other films have done just fine. Times being reasonably comfortable, the industry seems assured of a decent record in the foreseeable future.
A closer look reveals a different picture. While the industry's smooth journey might be a fact of sorts, it is surrounded by some seriously stiff challenges. It was only recently that the release of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 coincided with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish. Although Potter is a worldwide phenomenon, Guzaarish stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, two of the hottest stars in the business. After the films were released, a day was all it took to figure out that Potter was hotter. Not that this has happened for the first time, since major Hollywood films have been known to split urban audiences. The bigger problem is this: the situation shall worsen inevitably till someone does a Harry Houdini to make it disappear.
Inhabiting an era in which every film viewer is wired to the world, repeating one's self can only lead to financial disasters. There was a time when Amitabh Bachchan could allure millions to the theatres in the avatar of the angry young man. Govinda's comic escapades had a long golden run at the box-office. Today, an Akshay Kumar, who had been repeating his funnyman acts, is biting the dust. The present generation tires easily, seeks diversity, knows a lot, compares intelligently, and has many more options to choose from. That may not be good news for every filmmaker.
For a long time, Bollywood heroes used to be infallible gods in Indian film-watching households. Their divine status may not have changed much, but there is a difference. The modern-day hero is a god who can err. An Aamir Khan may have been able to steer clear of flops, but Salman's bull run should not be taken for granted, keeping in mind his miserable phase before Wanted rewrote box-office statistics.
Even Shah Rukh Khan cannot guarantee a surefire success, and Hrithik Roshan cannot do so either. Whom do you cast? What story do you choose? At a time when no hero can promise a success - or even an average film - times have become a lot harder for the average producer and filmmaker.
Many insist that the biggest achievement of the modernday Hindi film industry is the small-budget film. These films do not need stars and can be shot inside a couple of rooms, their USP being the fine telling of an unusual story. A few years on since this genre came into the picture, it is evident that the progress made has been exceptionally slow. Besides, the average film's publicity is like a whisper that you can barely hear. The sound gets buried in the cacophony of loud noises made by their big-budget counterparts, leading to the rare accidental success story when destiny and good quality come together. If the genre needs to thrive - and it must - that is not enough.
And, here is one more dilemma the industry faces. For ages, Bollywood plagiarised films from the West to 'create' success stories. Today, such misadventures don't escape uncaught. If the critics fumed over the making of such copies earlier, the modern viewer does the same, having seen the originals on cable. There are no easy escape routes, no guarantees that the Hindi remake of a Hollywood success will make sweet music at the cash counters.
The industry needs to deal with many tough challenges. Will it conquer them to emerge triumphant? It could, but only if it pays heed to the ominous wake-up calls being sounded every Friday.
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