My own thoughts on Bollywood movies.
The Bollywood industry is going through a decline. You can read about some of the flopped movies of this year here. Now, you can play the three ds: deny, distract, and disrupt. But you cannot cancel reality, as much as some of us may like to do so.
So, what are the reasons? There are many reasons for it; some people have done a lot of research about it, such as this guy. This article won’t be like that, however. I will express my thoughts as a viewer, what I have seen, what I am seeing now, and I will try to explain this downturn from a viewer’s perspective.
And yes, the video linked above is in Hindi. But there are subtitles, so I do think you can watch it. The guy makes wonderful informative videos with tons of research.
First, the hell is Bollywood?
If you look around, you’ll realize that most countries have one movie industry. United States has Hollywood, and though I do not know what their movie industries are called. I can certainly say with confidence that Australia, Britain, China, and Japan do have their movie industries, and there is only one movie industry in these countries.
So when you look at India from the outside, you might be tempted to say that India is the same. Bollywood is the Indian equivalent. However, this is where you are wrong.
You see, Bollywood is large, but the regional movie industries dominate in their region to a large extent. These regional movie industries exist because India has a lot of languages, and they want their entertainment in their own specific language. (Let’s drop this topic here. Language discussions are dangerous in India.)
As a result, you got states like Punjab and West Bengal who create their own movies, created in their own languages, and then you got the south cinema, consisting of southern Indian states like Tamil Nādu and Andhra Pradesh, who are giants in the movie making scene in India, and south cinema is the one which Bollywood competes with.
Though it is true that you can find the watchers of the Bollywood movies in every state, Bollywood’s biggest audience comes from northern India, where Hindi is the common language. As a result, Bollywood mostly caters to this audience. This ranges from taking place in northern Indian cities, to displaying the life of northern India.
Now, the reasons of decline:
First, let’s get the first thing out of the way. I don’t think that the declines are because of remakes, or celebrity controversies, or even nepotism. People didn’t used to give a damn about these things in the past, and the public largely doesn’t give a damn about it now either, aside from a few people who are always trying to give their hot-takes. (Ahem, kind of like myself, but not entirely.)
That doesn’t mean that there is no outrage regarding those things. But they do not explain this near total collapse, not completely.
So what gives?
I think the biggest problem is the stories. And more specifically, the formula. Bollywood has a formula on which it has been set for years. How long you ask? Since 80s. My father was a teenager back then, and these producers and directors are using the same formulas. Bulk of the Bollywood movies are from the romance genre, and even if they are not romantic in nature, they will be turned into one.
Here’s an example. You got a hero, (always a hero, for Indian people accepting something like Black Widow is impossible), who is good, and messing around with some dangerous people. But then he finds a girl, stalks her in such a way that he would be a certified criminal in real life, and those dangerous people come, and take that girl as hostage to teach the hero a lesson. But of course, through shear willpower alone, this guy manages to overcome these obstacles, and get his happy ending.
And just in case you think only Bollywood uses this formula, let me disabuse you of this idea. Bulk of the films from South cinema are also like that. You will never see the hero ever saying to the girl that she should stay away from him; his life is dangerous, and she could end up in danger because of him as well. Or try to distance himself from everyone around him, given his dangerous life. No, that would be too much to expect.
Second, they have been making these movies for the people who used to watch them in 80s and 90s. Which is why you get old stars still taking on the main roles, instead of leaving the place empty for the newer up-coming stars. Naturally, the formula continues to be strong, until it is suddenly not anymore. Besides, there is a creepy factor to it. The heroes continue to be in their fifties, and yet the female-led continues to be half their age.
The third problem I see are the songs. I can write an entire article about that, but let’s just say the songs in Indian movies are not what they used to be once. There’s a reason why people like to hear the songs of the 60s to 90s most of the time.
The fourth, and perhaps the biggest problem is the internet. And there is no escaping this one. When there was no internet, you didn’t have any choice; you had to watch what they were showing you on the TV, and theaters. But ever since the internet spread in India, people have realized how wide their options are. While anime watchers like myself already knew this from 2013 and earlier, this realization has spread among people ever since Netflix arrived in India in 2016, and other digital platforms have also started to offer their services. The pandemic hammered this realization even further into the heads of people.
This has spread to such an extent that people are not willing to go to theaters. They rather watch the movies, or other entertainment in their home. If they are going to the theater, then the movie itself has to be worth it, visually and emotionally. Otherwise, they are not willing to spend money on a lackluster film.
Besides, the films offered online seem to be quite good, despite their lower budgets and little-known actors. It also helps that you can watch international content on the internet, and Indians are willing to watch the content in dub, or subtitle if need be. The Korean series have gotten quite popular here, and of course, anime is ever popular with people like myself who grew up watching it, and the online platforms are bringing the younger viewers as well.
The Bollywood formula cannot hope to compete with all these factors. It will have to change, or be left behind. Whatever happens, I’m not worried. I was never the biggest watcher of the Bollywood films anyway. Books and anime are quite enough for me thank you.
If you like this article, then perhaps you might like my thoughts on Debt, The First 5000 Years, which you can read it here.
Next week, I’ll talk about the songs of Bollywood.
8 thoughts on “A Viewer’s Thoughts on the Decline of the Bollywood Films”
I have never seen a Bollywood movie. Then again, I haven’t seen many movies here for that matter. If something is popular I prefer not to partake in it unless its popularity is long gone.
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You’re same as me in that regard. Though an amusing inversion happened when people discovered Death Note anime here, whereas I already finished it a long time ago.
Then again, they did watch it when Netflix came here. This resulted in them recommending me Death Note, whereas I acted like some high and mighty guy, telling them that I’m way ahead of them.
Having grown up in Malaysia, I’ve always been exposed to Bollywood movies. Dangal was super big here, but I’ve yet to catch that yet. I’ve been feeling the same about Hong Kong movies too. They used to be so big in the 90s, but have since faded. Maybe some of it has to do with the reasons you’ve listed as well.
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Dangal is some of those movies which are internationally famous, and yet a certain faction hates it here in India for one reason or another.
As for Hong Kong, You’re right. I’ve not heard about any good movie from there. That industry is far from the days of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
Thanks for reminding me though. I’ll go watch Drunken Master the original movie now. Thanks for reminding me of a great movie, Stuart!
I believe the biggest set back for Hollywood was there was no Justice for shushant 🥲🥲
Media milked it for the most of 2020, and now they don’t even talk about it.
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It’s sad really 🥲