Bollywood’s Unholy Lust For Money
In their never ending quest for success and money at the Box Office, Indian filmmakers have lost the creative spark and the magic touch that was so prominent in the 80’s which made the global film fraternity wake up and take note of Bollywood.
Strangely the general perception is that the Indian film industry hit its nadir during the turbulent 80’s. Nothing can be farther from the actual truth. It was a revolutionary period for both film and television, both of which experienced a great churning during that decade. Admittedly mainstream pan India Hindi movies fell into the throes of mediocrity, churning out the same formulaic content again and again. However creativity wise, it was a golden period for Indian cinema. Sadly this creative energy was pushed to the sidelines and marginalized by a plethora of formulaic movies that included an endless number of mindless NRI romances, over the top action flicks and family melodramas.
Truth to be told, Indian cinema enjoyed much greater respect and clout globally in the 80’s than what it does today. Today the movie stars may have tremendous mass appeal but their movies are hollow bereft of any substance which is a stark contrast to the deeply introspective, poignant films of the 80’s. In the course of three decades undoubtedly Bollywood has improved by leaps and bounds both commercially as well in terms of its reach. But in terms of actual content the film industry has actually regressed. Today the filmmakers’ overriding concern is Box Office success. The films are looked at as being mere business ventures and not as a medium to educate and raise awareness of the common public on burning social issues. It is understandable the commercial success is an extremely important facet but it should not be the only driver so much so that the actual soul of the movie ends up getting sacrificed at the altar of commercial expediency. And if one looks at the actual picture, Bollywood may be raking in tons of moolahs in domestic and overseas business but this constitutes only 3% of the global showbiz pie. So money wise also the film industry is nowhere near global standards. Given the current shambolic situation, it is surprising that not too long ago Indian films were spoken of in the same breath as that of their Japanese counterparts in terms of their content and cinematic brilliance. Saytyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak or Shyam Benegal were more than a perfect match for Japan’s Kurosawa and Imamura. Together they conceived a slew of masterpieces like “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” Akrosh or Ardh Satya which propelled Indian cinema to newer heights. Even mainstream cinema saw releases like Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s” Parindey” and Mani Ratnam’s “Nayakan” , where content and styled were blended seamlessly.
While the box office numbers that Bollywood has managed to garner over the last three decades are undoubtedly impressive, in that period Indian films predictably have come a cropper in major international festivals like The Cannes or The Oscars. The Movie Moguls of today have managed to master only one trick of the trade- the art of maximizing profits. With an overwhelming emphasis on bottomline and bottomline only, the industry may soon find itself in a quagmire from where there will be no escape.
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