All of a sudden, it’s a brave new world in Indian cinema and filmmakers are finally daring to step outside the boundaries that have virtually dictated their craft to date. However, this sudden burst of courage is no random occurrence. It was only a matter of time before the Internet – and the access it gives – kick-started a metamorphosis in audience tastes and preferences, in what they wanted to watch and were willing to pay to watch. Long story short – movie-goers today are demanding strong content and will accept nothing less.
This evolution has emboldened filmmakers, many of whom are now taking risks and experimenting with stories, genres and narratives, to cater to the more nuanced tastes of Indian movie-goers. And, judging by the Hindi movies that have done well at the ticket counter in the last two years, their gamble is paying off. Clearly, it’s a golden time for a filmmaker to strike out and make what he or she believes in making.
Years ago, Raj Kapoor decided to make a film called Mera Naam Joker, which was different from the movies he had made earlier. The film tanked but the film was called a ‘cult movie’ years later. Today, Raj Kapoor’s name is virtually synonymous with Mera Naam Joker, a film that was, ironically, a disaster when it released.
The same can be said about Shakti featuring Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan and directed by Ramesh Sippy. The film tanked on its release but, years later, it was dubbed a ‘masterpiece’ made by Sippy. Even though, Yash Chopra delivered many blockbusters during his lifetime, his film Lamhe tanked when it released but, as is the case with Ramesh Sippy, Yash Chopra’s name is synonymous with Lamhe.
Returning to present day, we are looking at a virtual revolution in Hindi cinema. The staple of the masses – the typical Bollywood masala entertainer – is all but a fading memory now, and movies with up and coming actors are impressing the audience, like the content-rich Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Pyar Ka Panchnaama and many more.
Apart from the seemingly unlimited opportunities for new actors and fresh platforms being presented to young filmmakers daring to experiment, there is another upside to the flux that’s gripping the industry. It is the opportunity to rediscover what works, keep at it and reboot the flagging fortunes at the box office.
This week, we ask distributors and exhibitors to shed light on how the audience has changed and what the future of our films looks like.
People wanted a change in the films they watch. Movies based on reality like biopics have grabbed the attention of movie-goers. These are not routine type films. Now, people like watching films with strong content and tight scripts.
Changing tastes in movies can be attributed to exposure to quality content on the Internet, web series and TV channels. And with the arrival of Amazon, Netflix etc, quality is bound to only get better. Not only are movie-goers demanding strong content, they also have plenty of options. That’s why regular commercial films don’t have the same market they used to command earlier. Also, high ticket prices are a deterrent for average films. And actress-centric or niche films no longer work without engaging content. That content is king has been proved, yet again, by the box-office collections of Dangal.
I think people have developed a taste for films that have the novelty factor. Of course, the star cast and the name of the director still influence the outcome of a film but, lately, people want films with a novel script.
People in our territory have definitely changed over time and are showing a lot of interest in films that are unpredictable. But the fact remains that they still need a big name in the film as in they need some desi tadka. The audience no longer wants to watch mele me bichda hua bhai type films. Women-centric and niche films are working but the storyline has to be impressive.
With the changing times, movie-goers all over the country have developed a taste for different type of films. Where comedy was once in demand, these films are no longer popular. A film like Dangal, which is based on reality and also has a good subject, gets the audience to watch the film in cinemas. But, regardless of territory and type of film, like women-centric or hero-centric films, only movies with a strong script click.
People want to watch something different and ‘Seeta and Geeta’ type films are history. Dangal and Sultan, both huge hits, are based on reality and were therefore big hits as people were able to connect with them. The best part is in Dangal, the two women protagonists took over the film and still people loved the movie. Remember Band Baja Baaraat? Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma made their debut with that film and even though the two actors had no star value then, people still loved that film because of the script, which was different. Bhumi Pednekar in Dum Laga Ke Haisha pulled it off because of her acting skills and people encouraged the film because of the type of content it boasted. This demonstrates that the audience today watches films for their content and script regardless of genre.
The Kolkata audience doesn’t look at a film as a product but as an art form. They definitely don’t like the typical film with a hero, an actress and a villain. Audiences here want good and sensible cinema. They love films that touch their hearts and that are paisa vasool.
I think the audience will watch any kind of film that delivers good content. The script is the main element, and no star can salvage a bad script. Even women-centric films need to have strong content. Neerja worked because people connected to the story and the content was good but Akira did not really work. People are tired of films like FAN, Raaz and Azhar. These films had poor storylines and did not do great business at the box office. However, Airlift, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Neerja, Rustom and Sultan have done exceptionally well and that’s what Indian viewers need. Audiences are changing because they are accepting good and relevant films and adapting to the changing times.
Times and audience tastes are definitely changing. What worked ten years ago does not sell today and that is only natural. Apart from that, content plays a key role in the success of a film. Also, a large chunk of the audience comprises young people and they have different tastes.