A common myth propagated by Bollywood is that there is no Indian cinema in the country, let alone good cinema. This myth has been dispelled in recent years with mainstream movies being more accessible like wifi plans of jio and people having a wider understanding of what constitutes cinema. However, not all Indians are aware of this change; and to make matters worse, people still view it as a cheap distraction from real life when they go to watch movie theaters. And because most of these films have such poor production values, the viewer does not have any recourse but to feel stupid for paying money for them.
- I am not a film scholar, so I don’t claim to know much about cinema, but I have been watching a lot of movies for a few years now. I have watched some real stinkers in the last decade, and there is no doubt that these movies leave you feeling stupid for wasting your time on such meaningless distractions. However, this is also the case with some of these so-called ‘high quality’ films. These are essentially the same as the mindless entertainers if you look beyond the production values. Example: Peepli [Live] (2010) which will forever be remembered by how naive it was to suggest that farmers in India are killed sometimes because they default on their loans.
- Another thing Bollywood does is to invest in movies which are beyond their budget when they have bigger and better things on the go. There would be no reason for them to spend $10m on a movie that does not make a profit, but it makes sense for them to do so for a movie that would cost $3m if they were shooting it in their village. In hindsight, “Rang De Basanti” (2006) feels like an absolute ripoff, but I applaud their choice considering the budget constraints.
- Bollywood is guilty of glorifying heroism through movies like “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa”(2006) and “Lagaan” (2001). It’s a big disservice to our society because it tells the viewer that being an idealistic hero is the only way to change things. In reality, it’s generally easier to keep your head down and do what you are supposed to do in life instead of rocking the boat.
- There are many elements of a film that suck, but this does not amount to bad cinema. Bollywood does not seem to draw lines between those movies it considers film and those which fall under entertainment. The average movie watcher is put off by the lack of effort put in by these filmmakers who often feel they are making art when they are only making money.
- Bollywood also tends to fall prey to what could be called the ‘star’ syndrome. There are absolutely genius actors who can get away with playing someone who is not as good as them simply because they own and market a certain brand of their personality. They play themselves, but they feel they are doing an honest job based on the fact that their face is on the posters in cinemas across the country. Since there are lots of these actors, this hampers filmmakers’ ability to tell good stories.
- Bollywood is also not completely wrong in believing that people want to watch ‘entertainment’. People are choosing to watch entertainers more often than not, and I don’t blame them. Most mainstream movies are just not good cinema despite whatever the perception of quality may be. Where I differ is that they are sacrificing the art part of cinema at the altar of entertainment.
- Bollywood filmmakers seem to care only about making money. Most of these filmmakers would rather make an entertaining movie than a good one as long as it will make money from the lowest common denominator; even if it meant creating artificial situations and cutting sensible corners in terms of storytelling and character development. Experimentation is not encouraged and a bit of ambiguity is seen as an anathema because it would hurt the box office collections.
- I don’t expect Bollywood to make good movies, or claim that they are making good movies when they are not. However, they could at least make entertaining ones instead of completely focusing on money, which is totally fine in the entertainment business. Audience is not there to judge their art, and maybe more of them should realise this instead of feeling stupid for wasting time and money on Bollywood movies.
- Bollywood is not alone in this. The mainstream Hollywood is also guilty of creating empty, superficial movies which have little to offer beyond superficial elements. They are investing in these movies as a business decision, and they know they will make money because there will be an audience for these movies.
10. Just because a lot of Bollywood filmmakers are making lots of bad movies doesn’t mean that there aren’t good filmmakers out there who are working hard to make good ones. I posit that their efforts go unnoticed because they have to create within the confines of the Bollywood formula; and most people do not bother watching their movies because they don’t fit into the perceived template of a ‘movie’.