Hindi cinema has often been accused, not unjustifiably so, of following a certain herd mentality wherein the success of one film begets a host of me-toos who hope to recreate the same magic.
And that is true at a larger level too with any given era having a pre-dominant genre. So if the 1950s and 60s were a time for films that were replete with themes of socialist utopia and virtuous love, the narrative turned much darker and angrier in the 1970s and 80s with most films revolving around a vigilante anti-hero who took the law in his hands to fight the many ills plaguing the nation and society – personified best by Mr Bachchan’s Angry Young Man, who dominated those decades. As India, and Indians, gathered more exposure to the rest of the world post the liberalisation of the early 1990s, our films too started increasingly being based in, and catering to, the Indian diaspora around the world with what was often called NRI cinema.
The last decade or so, however, has been a state of flux in which we have seen many mini-trends – from a bunch of films that aspired (unsuccessfully) to cater to a global audience with the so-called ‘cross-over cinema’ to remakes of South hits to sex comedies to biopics to women-centric films and more – without any specific one holding sway for an extended period of time. A great example of this widening of successful genres is the list of the Top five films of the year so far which features a period gangster flick (Raees), a romantic drama (Badrinath Ki Dulhania), a social satire (Jolly LLB 2) and an emotional thriller (Kaabil) ruling the charts.
So which genre really defines Hindi cinema of the 2010s? To answer that question, we thought it would be interesting, perhaps even revelatory, to try and map the highest grossing films of the last few years along with their respective genres and see what is the picture that emerges.
AT – Action/Thriller BH – Biopic/Historical C – Comedy D – Drama R – Romantic S – Sports-based
For the purpose of this exercise, we have limited the number of genres to six broad heads – comedy, drama, action (including thrillers), biopics (including historicals and period-based films), romantic and sports-based films.
Further, the task of slotting films is slightly more difficult for Hindi cinema given our unique penchant for cramming multiple genres into a single film as opposed to the more singular and genre-faithful Hollywood films. In order for this study to not get excessively diffused, what we have done is restricted the number of genres that apply to a film to a maximum of three. So a Grand Masti, for example, is an out-and-out Comedy and classified as such. A Dangal, on the other hand, may have a comic track but the more dominant genres are the fact that it is a drama, a biopic and based on the sport of wrestling; hence, these three categories are listed.
While the table above makes for very interesting reading and there are a host of useful insights in there to be gleaned, it still doesn’t answer our starting question: which genre rules the roost?
We do see a lot of Dramas, Action/Thrillers, Comedies and Romances in the chart but it is hard to discern a pattern as trends fluctuate quite dramatically. The first year under review (2009), for example, had five out of the Top 10 films featuring a dominant comic track and not a single film that was a biopic. However, last year (2016) featured only one comedy in the Top 10 and as many as four films – incidentally, all in the Top 5 – that were biopics or inspired by a true event.
But let’s not give up hope just yet on trying to pin down the top genre! In a subsequent week, we shall try to address that question from another angle.