• Sunday, December 04, 2022

Arts and Culture

Big pressure for Bollywood films




BOLLYWOOD has been in huge trouble over the past 20 months due to cinema
closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but an even bigger problem has been the unprecedented hatred it has faced since Sushant Singh Rajput tragically passed away in 2020.

That negativity towards Hindi cinema manifested itself in various ways, including mass calls for boycotts across social media, record breaking dislikes on YouTube and pretty much all the straight to streaming site releases failing to pull in audiences. The three most recent streaming releases Hum Do Hamare Do, Aafat-e-Ishq and Dybbuk all received terrible reviews.

Those films that did release in cinemas like Thalaivii, Chehre and Bellbottom clocked
up shockingly low figures. The industry has been able to hide behind the fact that streaming sites don’t officially release viewing figures and the excuse of not all cinemas being open. But cinemas being open again means there will be a big Bollywood reckoning this month. The Hindi film fraternity have nowhere to hide and will have to face the public head-on.

Bunty Aur Babli

What happens will be massively interesting. If audiences stay away from fully open cinemas, it will be out in the open to see in the form of box office figures and show just how much the audience has turned its back on Bollywood. A recent indicator of this has been Punjabi film Honsla Rakh outperforming all the Bollywood films released this year. The flood of forthcoming films flopping will be catastrophic financially, but also humiliating and start the end game for many major stars.

The first big test will be the release of Sooryavanshi, which releases globally this week. If the biggest budget blockbuster release of the year so far fails, it will send a wave of fear through the industry and show just how far Bollywood has fallen. Early indicators are not good. It looks certain that major Hindi movies can’t pick up where they left off and will clock up much lower than expected figures. This will set a bad precedent for films that are due to release before the year ends like Bunty Aur Babli 2, Satyameva Jayate 2, Antim: The Final Truth, Tadap, 83’ and Jersey.

Antim: The Final Truth

Although, producers are publicly acting confident and booking release dates for the next two years, they are feeling the pressure and know there has been a dramatic downward shift. That is because boycott Bollywood continues to trend across social media, big Hollywood films are being released in Indian languages and streaming sites are offering more free content than ever before.

Also, the talent pool in Bollywood has never been as bad in its entire history. There are old heroes trying to play young roles, star kids like Arjun Kapoor getting repeated chances despite starring in flop films and awful ageism against women that is packing talented actresses into retirement early.

So, instead of celebrating big box office returns in the months ahead, the industry is in for a reckoning, which will turn into a rude awakening that will show this is the worst time for Bollywood in its history.

Fake social media followers, bogus online campaigns, dishonest box-office reports, paid for positive reviews and manufactured hype isn’t going to be enough to change that. The world re-opening again is resulting in international blockbusters like new James Bond movie No Time To Die and regional Indian language films pulling in big audiences, which means Hindi cinema can’t hide any longer. It has to pull in audiences or face the horrible truth that a major change needs to happen. Deep down some stars know this and are cashing in by signing a whole stack of films while they can.

Hindi cinema needs to get better screenplays, stop nepotism from watering down talent, have heroes playing age-appropriate characters, stop making self-indulgent films and importantly put across a better impression. Maybe this forthcoming reckoning is what they need. Maybe the industry needs to hit rock bottom before it can rise again.

Eastern Eye

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