Bollywood Breakdown: The Fantastical Film Industry Leaving Fans Frustrated

When most people think of Indian cinema, one of two things come to mind: big dance numbers or incredibly vibrant saris. However, there is much more to the complex Indian film industry than Bollywood. India produces well over 1000 films a year and sells up to 6 billion tickets for these films.
Based in Mumbai, Bollywood blockbusters are quite different to their Western counterparts. Often over 3 hours long, they are elaborate masterpieces of song and dance. Exotic for both Western and Asian viewers, the films are made with the intention of providing escapism for it’s audience.

However, due to their exaggerated nature, it is rare for Bollywood films to depict real indian life. This is where their independent scene comes in – yes, they do have one and it is thriving. However, with an influx of foreign cinema gracing the Indian silver screens, we spoke to two students from Chennai to see what the future of India thought of the future of Indian cinema.

Revati and Soumyajit both attend the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, India. Their views on Bollywoods current attempts are pretty similar. Revati “[doesn’t] enjoy the Bollywood films [because] they lack content, such as story lines, believable characters and things like that.” Soumyajit agrees, stating “I’d rather watch a hollywood film because I’m fed up with bollywood. I find them wildly unrealistic.”

“I think they’re made more for the older generation,” continues Revati. “They are less aware or less approving of Western culture, which is silly because a lot of the popular Bollywood films are inspired by Hollywood films!”

One example of this is Dil Bole Hadippa (2009), a Bollywood facelift of She’s The Man (2006). The only real change is seen is the sport from soccer to cricket and the introduction of colourful musical numbers.

“Given the state of what they’re trying to produce these days, many people don’t want to see it anymore,” claims Revati.  “The mindset of the people who are watching the movies are changing, however the film makers are not.” 

The target audience for Bollywood film remains to be India. Therefore, for many film makers, it would seem unnecessary to tailor the storylines for a more Western viewpoint. The issue is, as the newer generations become more and more exposed to new cultures, Revatis view that “it’s nothing new” will be carried forward. While yes, it is important to keep the cultural ties and heritage pride in their films, “there’s only so many times a girl can fall in love and get kidnapped by a love rival.”

Soumyajit is hopeful for change to the film industry. “Hollywood films are becoming more and more prominent and we’re also seeing british block busters being introduced more commonly. It’s a growing market, for sure, [however] in terms of critical movies that have come out, we have a long way to go.”

Already, The United States of America hold 30% of India’s favourite films, with a further 5% coming from other countries around the world.

 

“What I’d like to see in the near future is for Indian cinema to be more realistic and be on a smaller scale,” muses Soumyajit.  “The stories now are so wildly out of control, the acting and costumes are unbelievable. Theres nothing subtle about them!”

However, this disillusionment from Bollywood isn’t to say that all Indian cinema falls into that trap. This is recognised by Soumyajit, who believes “there are some great regional films in regional languages, but the independent scene needs as strong leader, thats for sure.”

Los Angeles are preparing to host it’s 15th annual Indian film festival and have high hopes for the line-up. “As India’s diverse array of talented filmmakers continues to be recognized around the world for their compelling and daring work, IFFLA is extremely proud to collect the best films from emerging voices and experienced masters and present them to Los Angeles,” Mike Dougherty, director of programming, said.

A full list of the festival’s line up can be found here.

Holly McLaren

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