By: ASJAD NAZIR
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA MOVEMENT TO STOP WATCHING HINDI FILMS HAS NOW GONE OUT OF CONTROL
Shortly after actor Sushant Singh Rajput died, I had written about the boycott Bollywood movement started by those who were sad and angry over what had happened to him and the lack of empathy shown by the Hindi film fraternity.
Later as the movement grew, I had highlighted again how it should be taken seriously because there was real anger against the industry, but a film fraternity in denial and other media dismissed it.
Instead of noting the damage that this campaign of not watching Hindi films was doing, Bollywood blamed the lack of audience figures on the Covid-19 pandemic and consoled themselves with clueless streaming sites buying any sub-standard product they were making, at inflated prices. In fact, some had told me, Sushant would soon be forgotten, and people will move on.
But then, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Kannada, and other Indian language films started doing well at the box office, while Bollywood continued to suffer at the hands of the fast-growing boycott movement. This, subsequently, led to streaming sites finally rethinking how much they would pay for a Bollywood film, which added more pressure.
Fast forward to the present and the unstoppable boycott movement has mushroomed into a giant bomb that is being dropped on Hindi films on a weekly basis, with disastrous results. But it has moved beyond just Sushant fans putting the industry’s feet to the fire, with others, from disaffected youths to extremist right wing organisations and audiences tired of being taken for granted, making the boycott movement grow in unexpected ways.
It has now turned into an out-of-control cluster bomb that is exploding in different directions and it’s doing real damage, not only to the box office of movies, but also to lead stars working in them. Perhaps, the biggest casualty this year was Laal Singh Chaddha, which generated shockingly low figures, despite being a high-profile holiday release of 2022.
The disastrous box office results have now put many future projects into jeopardy with high salaries being paid to stars being reconsidered. This has led to an arrogant industry speaking about the boycott Bollywood movement and reacting in different ways.
Director Anurag Kashyap, who saw his latest offering Dobaaraa crash at the box office, said it wasn’t a boycott but audiences in India not being able to afford to go to cinemas. But that doesn’t account for audience figures plummeting all over the world and regional Indian films doing well.
Arjun Kapoor said the work should speak for itself, despite himself being an awful actor and starring in terrible turkeys.
Kareena Kapoor Khan went from not being bothered if people watched her films to asking them to support her latest effort Laal Singh Chaddha. Aamir Khan also urged people not to boycott his movie and Akshay Kumar pointed out that the movement was hurting the Indian economy. Meanwhile, Alia Bhatt said she wanted to cancel the cancel culture.
Taapsee Pannu mocked the movement, saying they should boycott her new film Dobaaraa also and the public duly obliged with its shows getting cancelled across India because of no audiences.
Filmmaker Karan Johar said he found the boycott movement ridiculous, and Ananya Panday claimed to not take it seriously. The rest of Bollywood has largely remained silent. But what no major name from the industry has done is to listen and make some much needed changes.
The only person to speak any real sense has been director Rahul Dholakia, who said Bollywood should make better films, stop being arrogant and be inclusive. But he has largely been a forgotten figure since his last film Raees (2017) and has no power to instigate a change.
Hindi cinema needs to ensure better writing, reduce nepotism, treat outsiders with more respect, not take audiences for granted, make better films with age-appropriate heroes, and evolve. Also, acknowledging they handled Sushant’s death wrongly and making a commitment to treat outsiders like him better would be a positive change, but that won’t happen. If Hindi cinema does make any positive changes, it could be too late because an extremist right-wing element in India has taken hold of the movement, which is targeting everyone from Muslim stars to those they deem anti-national.
The industry is slowly suffocating under the weight of this boycott movement and desperately needs to find ways to breathe again.
Has lead star Amitabh Bachchan boycotted Brahmastra?
The boycott Bollywood movement dominating social media all year has taken an ironic twist and no one seems to have noticed.
There has been a tidal wave of social media posts urging people to not watch Brahmastra, but the biggest name who seems to be boycotting the superhero movie is its lead star Amitabh Bachchan. The actor clearly seems to have fallen out with producers and it has been noticeable that he is the only key cast member not promoting the film.
This won’t help a mega-budget movie under pressure to clock up huge figures just to break even and has put a whole new spin on the boycott movement.