A combination of changing audience preferences, state-of-the-art technology and an acceptance that story-led films are the only successful formula is altering the face of Hindi cinema
Audience is accepting films without ‘stars’. A whole host of new faces are fronting films now and finding success with the audience. Names like Radhika Apte, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rajkummar Rao have become known all over the country. These people are known first as actors, and it shows that the audience are willing to watch anyone who fits the role they inhabit and does so convincingly. At Yoodlee, we like to consider our performers as ‘actors’ and not as ‘stars’. For us, the story is the star. The actor serves the story, as opposed to the story serving the image of the star.
There is a growing demand for ‘realism’ in our cinema. Escapist cinema is no longer considered ‘cool’ by the urban audience. This is a sign of the times. With increasing affluence, the need to escape the reality of a humdrum life by going into a fantasy world of cinema has reduced, especially for the younger audience. They want to see their own lives and issues reflected in cinema rather than get into a world of make-believe.
Yoodlee script teams actually use plausibility as a key factor when green-lighting scripts for production. Authenticity to milieu is another key factor, as is the language of the film being true to the character’s lifestyles and cultures. For the same reason, no dubbing is allowed in any Yoodlee film, as the dubbed performance can seldom match the realism of the original.
A younger audience is seeking films that are relevant and edgy. They are ready to question the status quo and want films that mirror this attitude. Topics earlier considered taboo are becoming the ones that find the greatest traction with audiences. Just look at Lipstick Under My Burkha and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan as recent examples.
At Yoodlee, we are particularly interested in making films that challenge the status quo, and in India, we have a wealth of issues that exist but are often brushed under the carpet. Compelling cinema will always arise out of compelling and unique situations and a fearless approach has to be
taken in making such films and getting them to the audiences.
Increased exposure to international content via VOD and torrents has led to an awareness of ‘story-led’ cinema that is a reflection of reality, rather than a distortion of it. In Hollywood, for example, high-octane commercial cinema has always peacefully co-existed with story-led drama. This is coming to fruition in India now. A Hindi film is no longer seen as a three-hour song and dance spectacle with seetimaar dialogue. An alternative to the more common ‘commercial’ cinema is being demanded by the audience, and Yoodlee, along with a few other producers, is here to fulfill that demand
Filmmakers are spending more time writing good scripts and less time chasing stars. They have a ‘no compromise’ approach to their films. Often films with stars have to cater to the existing image and brand of the star. This means the story is tailored to fit that image. Indie cinema works the other way, with story imperatives dictating character traits most of the time. Producers like Yoodlee are willing to pay greater fees to writers and even part with a profit share to them as emphasis grows on scripting stage. Sharing profits in a transparent and simple manner with key talent is an important way to keep upfront costs low while at the same time creating an atmosphere of mutual respect between technicians and producers. Treating filmmaking enterprise as a collective rather than as a corporate is one of the cornerstones of the Yoodlee philosophy.
Better camera and sound technology have driven down the basic costs of making a film, allowing for more creative risk-taking. A greater sense of professionalism has entered both the commercial and indie realm of Indian filmmaking leading to fewer cost overruns and greater efficiencies across the board. At Yoodlee, extremely minute and detailed efforts during pre-production, increased reporting and budgetary control during production, and a clear time and time-bound post-production plan are key to controlling costs. This is used to fuel riskier decisions while
Availability of various media now allows producers the flexibility to target their movies at more specific customer segments. So no more one size fits all kind of movies. The ability to target an audience segment with a movie tailor-made for their tastes and culture is what has made the regional cinema of our country so varied and artistic.
This advantage is now emerging for the Hindi space as well. With screen sizes shrinking, film consumption has become an activity that can be done in private, and the kind of themes that can be spoken about have to change to reflect this. As data costs continue their downward trend, this kind of private film consumption will rise even more, allowing for even more audience fragmentation.
International film festivals are showing increased interest in Indian films. Films like The Lunchbox and Masaan have opened up new audience and revenue potential for the Indie Filmmakers. With time, Indian films should be able to carve a niche for themselves much like Korean or Iranian cinema has done, with the worldwide audience seeking them out.
As the indie movement in India gathers momentum and a certain minimum quality and quantity of films in this space are created year on year, we will find greater avenues for revenue open up for the industry. While the commercial Indian cinema mostly finds resonance with the diaspora abroad, indie cinema can and will find acceptance from a greater swathe of foreign audience.
– Eight Changes Over The Years, Siddharth Anand Kumar, Vice-President – Films, at Saregama India Limited [Brand – Yoodlee Films])