“Systemic lacunae creating over time, precipitated by the pandemic.” This was the response given to me by a number one producer once I requested why Hindi cinema is languishing. The query occurred to me as I put collectively a mid-year listing of the most effective Indian movies of the primary half of 2021. The listing was dominated by Malayalam cinema (The Nice Indian Kitchen, Joji, Kala, Nayattu, Drishyam 2: The Resumption).
There was additionally a Marathi movie (The Disciple), two Tamil films (Karnan and Mandela) and a Telugu one (Jathi Ratnalu). Just one Hindi movie made the lower, a 43-minute brief referred to as Geeli Pucchi, directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, which was a part of the anthology Ajeeb Daastaans. Bollywood’s greatest movie of the yr, Salman Khan’s Radhe, encapsulated every thing that appears to be mistaken with the trade proper now — it was bloated, mediocre, myopic, and one more try to substitute storytelling with star energy.
June 14 marked the primary anniversary of Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic dying. The previous yr has been (as Queen Elizabeth II memorably described 1992) annus horribilis for the trade. The pandemic and massive financial losses had been compounded by an existential disaster that rocked the foundations and revealed the fractiousness, inequity and varied fault strains of our system.
In all my years of reporting on Bollywood, I’ve by no means seen the trade take such a public bashing. I’m hopeful that the disaster and consequent introspection will lead to long-standing adjustments, however even a cursory survey and informal conversations reveal that the current state of affairs has been within the making for years now.
The producer summarised it like this: “In Bollywood, the insistence on good tales is trumped by the insistence on industrial cinema. There are only a few actors who’re prepared to reinvent themselves. This isn’t the case within the south. There, established administrators encourage and mentor youthful expertise. What number of protégés are you able to identify right here? Within the south, administrators inform tales of lived experiences. Right here, administrators with genuine voices get corrupted in a short time. Furthermore, within the south, the star acknowledges failure with the producer. Right here the star walks away from failure along with his hefty paycheque and says: ‘Not my drawback’. Within the south, the producers’ councils guarantee honest play. Right here, the economics are lopsided and star energy solely goes up.”
This era, my supply says, “will take a look at the health of the trade” and its skill to “proceed to perform because it did earlier than”. Which is simply as effectively. It’s time to demolish the previous construction and construct anew. Maybe we will take inspiration from one other anniversary this previous week: June 15 marked 20 years because the launch of Lagaan: As soon as Upon a Time in India. The movie — three hours and forty-five minutes lengthy — continues to dazzle with its sensible screenplay, terrific performances, AR Rahman’s very good soundtrack, and the sheer ambition of the workforce that made it, led by director Ashutosh Gowariker and main man and co-producer Aamir Khan. Lagaan represents the most effective of Hindi cinema. It reveals us the artistry that Bollywood is able to.
The via line of Lagaan is “Sach aur saahas hai jiske mann mein, ant mein jeet usi ki rahe (These with reality and braveness of their hearts, victory is ultimately theirs)”. Maybe it’s time for the Hindi movie trade to search out its sach and saahas. And reinvent itself.
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