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Bollywood - A West Side Story

Bollywood - A West Side Story

July 30, 2010
Jayanth Tadinada

Why is it that Bollywood consistently falters in making movies with good screen-writing and original themes?



Ben Kingsley and Rohini Hattangadi starred as Mr. and Mrs. Gandhi in Sir Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. It was the first major recognition for them and both won BAFTA awards for their performance and then split ways. Ben Kingsley went on to act in both TV and cinema playing memorable roles directed by the likes of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese and was eventually knighted to become Sir Ben Kingsley for his contribution to the art. Rohini Hattangadi was last seen playing a wicked mother-in-law in a weepy soap on Zee TV. This, my friends is the difference between Hollywood and Bollywood – we make our best talent play wicked mother-in-laws! So what is the reason for the long, painful and continuing death of Indian cinema? Ok, not all Indian Cinema but the ones with a sensible script, good acting and an original theme?

In the spirit of true Indian democracy, the most culpable reason is you – the NRI. We resident Indians are doing everything in our power to abstain from going to those theatres. Do you think we enjoy the weepy afternoon soaps or the replays of the IPL? Do you think following the 24x7 news channels is fun? Do you think we are excited to vote for the next Indian Idol? No! And yet we put ourselves through all these! Have you ever wondered why? Because we want to punish the bad movies, that’s why! And you people are destroying all the fruits of our abstinence by going to that multiplex near you!

Consider a typical Saturday evening. You go to a multiplex with family or friends to watch yet another dumb Bollywood flick with hummable music. For you it might be a calm quiet evening of entertainment for 10 dollars, something to relive old times and connect to your roots with a dash of desi. But have you ever wondered how these movies are actually made? The opportunity cost and the collateral damage that they bear?

By buying one ticket for 10 dollars, you are encouraging people like Karan Johar to make brainless potboilers set in London or New York. By buying a ticket for 10 dollars, you are denying talents like Rohini Hattangadi and Paresh Rawal a chance to perform to their full potential. By buying that one ticket for 10 dollars you are making a combination of pathetic script writing, half thought plots, zombie acting and crappy humor into a profitable venture. By buying that DAMN TICKET FOR TEN DOLLARS, you are giving the film makers A CHANCE TO GET AWAY WITH BAD FILMS! *takes deep breath to regain composure*

NRIs, you are supposed to be the brains that have drained from this country. You are supposed to be the “smarter” ones and yet you are the ones who make Akshay Kumar the highest tax payer of Bollywood year after year! It just doesn't make any sense… You are forcing us to reconsider the intelligence of your diaspora! The only way we can force them make good movies is by punishing the bad ones. It’s your chance to make a difference… PUNISH THE BAD MOVIES!


28 Comments

  • chirag shah
    By
    chirag shah
    07.10.11 11:18 PM
    Jayanth, are we long lost brothers lol???

    Dude you have no idea how similar your thoughts are to mine when it comes to bollywood... That whole Kites example of yours and how bollywood films aren't really Indian is what I often think about... Check out this article I wrote on my blog...

    http://cmj-network.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/8568477-bollywood-can-go-international-only-if-

    Also I'm a screenwriter too (Just started out)... If you're in mumbai perhaps we could meet up sometime??
  • Rajiv
    By
    Rajiv
    27.09.10 08:55 PM
    chirag, well said. The image of bollywood is associated with making b and c class films. thats where the challenge is. I have seen some great movies made in bollywood and there's some great regional cinema too. One movie which I can add to my favourites is 'Peepli live'. I watched 'Kathik calling..', nice one to watch.
  • chirag shah
    By
    chirag shah
    27.09.10 02:36 AM
    This is a great article...It's unfortunate that great, quality Indian films go unnoticed...Thanks to the NRI"s the average westerner thinks all Indian films are ONLY song and dance musicals....It's PATHETIC! What about Black Friday, taare Zameen Par, Maqbool, Hazaaron Kwaishein Aisi, Chak De India, and Udaan???? These are also Bollywood films...Why do these films (besides those backed by a STAR-TZP and CDI) go ignored??? I doubt Indians are that dumb...Or I would like to doubt thatnnn
  • Krunal Dave
    By
    Krunal Dave
    30.08.10 09:10 AM
    Jayanth, really good article. I would say this is the criticism our filmmakers deserve. But friend, what you are telling with this sentence, PUNISH THE BAD MOVIES, it's not possible with NRI. I am in Australia since 2007, what I realized is good movies are not coming at all. I really wanted to see Peepli Live but what I found was Aisha. You are absolutely right, Bollywood filmmakers found a loophole with NRI to earn money.

    According to me, as of now, there is no solution. Bollywood will keep giving your one or two movies every friday, but my watch would be movies like 3 idiots, Peepli Live, Udaan and Antardwant
  • Rajiv
    By
    Rajiv
    26.08.10 01:56 AM
    Sharjeel,

    I think I understand your concern, however I can't change people, unless they want to change themselves. Incidentally it was subhash ghai productions which produced Iqbaal. People change their thinking when they are ready to. I can still carry on doing ( i hope ) what I think is honest for me. Best wishes / Rajiv

    Jayant, why I asked whether you are veggie was that I think being a non-veg isn't being right. However, its for me to follow what I think and not belittle people who have made the choice otherwise. Cheers / Rajiv
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    25.08.10 10:55 PM
    @Rajiv: Sharjeel replied to your comment better than I would have!

    I can see why you ask the veggie question but technically, I don't I qualify as a veggie ;)
  • Sharjeel
    By
    Sharjeel
    25.08.10 10:43 PM
    @Rajiv
    Although still waiting for an approval from the masses, the subtle art of movie making is already being studied by many many people. Hence a student of this art, utterly disappointed, has a right to analyze the deterioration.
  • Rajiv
    By
    Rajiv
    25.08.10 07:17 PM
    Thks for ur great advice and preachings! You don't watch if you don't wish to. Whoever gave you the right to belittle the intelligence of people who wanna watch singh is king? Its upto me to watch whatever I like whether it Dev D, Tahaan, or Garam masala.
    Just curious to know, are you a veggie?
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    03.08.10 12:06 AM
    @ Peddamavayya: thanks :)

    @ Pulkit: Wow! this is like a new blog post in the comment section... thanks!

    For good or bad, the economics of the industry has changed with the advent of multiplexes and Bollywood movies becoming more popular outside India. I was just writing the downsides of this system because most movies are targeted towards these niche markets and extensive marketing plans on TV and otherwise.

    The biggest problem I have with these movies is that they are not "Indian". Ever since Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon became a massive success, Bollywood wanted a huge crossover movie like that and we got was Kites! It could have Antonio Banderas instead of Hrithik Roshan and it would been the same movie. That is what I meant when I said, there is nothing "Indian" about Kites. It just shows that the industry desperately wants to be something that it is not.

    It is easy to write the story of a rich guy with identity crisis in London falling in and out of love for three hours with a couple of girls. The movie makers are content making movies like these and are heavily depending on the foreign exchange to make profits.

    I was not saying that NRIs are accomplices in the crime, I was suggesting that you boycott these cliched bad movies and in the process force the movie makers and the actors to work harder and not take success and profits for granted.
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    02.08.10 10:27 PM
    Hey Jayanth, well done for sparking a controversial debate. :-) I agree with parts of your article but I do think that some of your statements are sweeping based on one-sided assumptions. This whole Hindi film business is in a very complex stage right now. While you are right that the big Bollywood directors/producers have started to make films to appeal to the NRI audiences, it's not as simple as that. Firstly, as Jaspreet said earlier, most distributors are reluctant to release smaller independent films abroad because they already cater to niche audiences within India and are always a dicey proposition. Also, the Indian market is multi-layered - the urban audiences that go to multiplexes are more globalized and educated and can be more picky about the kind of films they watch. The big budget Bollywood films are made to reach out to the largest spectrum of people possible, which includes rural Indians, small town Indians, some urban Indians, the diaspora and these days even non-Indian audiences abroad.

    Economically speaking, these films may make more from NRI audiences than in India, but that has a lot to do with the conversion rates of the currencies. For example, one movie ticket in the U.S. is worth 5 tickets in India. So in terms of numbers, there are still more Indians watching these films than there are NRIs.

    I am not saying that these films are all great or that there isn't some consideration for NRI audiences when these films are made. All I am saying is that it's not as clear cut as pointing the finger at NRI audiences. Honestly, there is a very good reason why the Bollywood masala genre is so resilient - traditionally it is a successful formula for making films that entertain across platforms, ages, economic backgrounds, literacy rates, etc. There is a reason why films like Wanted, Ghajini and recently Once Upon a Time in Mumbai were hugely successful in India. Yes, the filmmakers should be venturing into new terrain in terms of content, and some are already doing that very well. Films, just like anything else, evolve over time. I think we'll get there eventually where you perhaps won't feel so frustrated with the scripts. :-)

    Trust me, I would love to see more independent Indian films released in the US market. We often have to wait for film festivals in order to see such films. Unfortunately, there's a complex web of economics and social behaviors that are preventing the truly innovative Indian films from being instantly released for the NRI audiences. Final thought: These "bad films" that you mention have been made consistently throughout the decades, well before the NRI market became a big deal for the filmmakers. It's just not as simple as good and bad and who's to blame.

    Again, good discussion and welcome to the NRI team. :-)
  • pgr prasad
    By
    pgr prasad
    02.08.10 07:14 PM
    Well written.Keep firing one after the other...Peda mamayya
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    01.08.10 02:30 PM
    @Jal: Yes, they are the next revenue generating target audience after the NRIs

    @Keerthana: Houseful? you should look for a new job then :p

    @Sharjeel: ;)
  • Sharjeel
    By
    Sharjeel
    31.07.10 11:39 PM
    Rishi B sounds like our pal Prudvi :D
  • keerthana
    By
    keerthana
    31.07.10 08:40 PM
    Not only NRIs even people in India also do the same.. I heard some people in office say Housefull was good! Yuck!
  • Jal
    By
    Jal
    31.07.10 08:15 PM
    Those in the Indian metros will have the greatest impact if they start voting with their feet.
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    31.07.10 03:03 AM
    No, I mean the Bollywood producers are banking on the NRIs to bail them out for their bad stuff... and I am urging the NRIs to boycott such movies (though boycott is a very strong word in this context)
  • avinash
    By
    avinash
    31.07.10 02:16 AM
    Do you mean that Pro-bollywood(high budget & lame) movies are totally encouraged by NRIs? or does it say that "Lets make a movie which can entertain people in here and earn dollars somewhere else?"
  • Rishi B
    By
    Rishi B
    30.07.10 11:13 PM
    yes.. u've made me had two pizzas already.. *burp*
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    30.07.10 10:18 PM
    @Rishi B: People can go to a restaurant for two reasons. One is to celebrate and have wonderful time in the evening, in which we expect a nice ambience, tasty food and good soft music in the background or they go to a restaurant because they were too tired to cook and they just want to eat anything!

    The purpose of the food in both the scenarios is different. In the first food is a celebration and in the second case, it is just for survival. In a cinema parallel to this analogy, you are the second kind of a movie fan. Nothing wrong with that but now the case with Bollywood it gives us no option available to celebrate!

    May be I should stop the food metaphors ;)
  • Rishi B
    By
    Rishi B
    30.07.10 09:46 PM
    no i wont, but i really go to the movies to unwind... and i really dont wanna worry about what are the implications of watching a movie...
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    30.07.10 08:25 PM
    @pradeep: Thanks ;)
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    30.07.10 08:24 PM
    @Rishi B: It takes the same ingredients to make tasty food and awful food and when we you go to a restaurant, I bet you wont say, "I'll eat it because the cook made an effort assuming that I'd eat anything!" Why should it be any different for films?

    @Jassi36: I am sure there are tons of people watching those movies in India too. But if you look at the economics of bad films, the revenue they make from one billion Indians is less than the revenue generated by may be a million NRIs. It is because of this assured overseas revenue that it is financially viable for them to keep on making such movies.

    The multiplexes in the cities have changed the business model of Bollywood and hence over the last few years, there were very few films that a rural Indian can identify with!
  • Jassi36
    By
    Jassi36
    30.07.10 08:06 PM
    Hey you cant balme it all on us NRIs!!! Are you saying that of the one billion Indians, none of them are going to the cinema to see bad movies and only sophisticated affairs. Rubbish! I'm sure there are plenty of Akshay Kumar fans in Delhi, Punjab, Mumbai, Bangalore etc who go and see his duds like Singh Is Kinng (despite the bad grammar). I yearn for interesting, hatke movies like Dev D, Iqbal, Love, Sex Aur Dhoka, Ishqiya to be screened in British cinemas but its the Bollywood film distributers who dont take the risk in screening them over here. They feed umpteen DDLJ rip offs and while some idiots continue to watch them, many are switching off. Just witness the poor performance of Yash Raj Films over the past couple of years. The poor box office performance of Hrithik ROshan's Kites is another exmaple that we dont applaud bad movies. It's more about film industry economics and less about bad taste my friend.
  • pradeep
    By
    pradeep
    30.07.10 07:59 PM
    "NRIs, you are supposed to be the brains that have drained from this country. "
    OOOUCH!!!! killer line... :)

    its all about te money.... who cares about art or common sense ? :)
  • Rishi B
    By
    Rishi B
    30.07.10 07:25 PM
    although all that you said a very timely advice but when i go to movies, i go don't really wanna care about anything else but my entertainment.. no matter how lil i get entertained but i'd still prefer the feelin that someone made an effort just based on an assumption that I would watch their so-called effort...

  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    30.07.10 06:00 PM
    @flawsophy: A lot of the big movies are profitable only because of the NRI market. Singh is King is the perfect example of a circus act script written just for the NRI audience; have a rap star sing a song; and then cash in on the hype in Dollars and Pounds. Its an insult to intelligent movie making!

    @Avinash Vijay: Yeah :)
  • Avinash Vijay
    By
    Avinash Vijay
    30.07.10 04:45 PM
    yeah some of these movies can make you wanna throttle ppl
  • flawsophy
    By
    flawsophy
    30.07.10 12:40 PM
    Absolutely True !!!

    I don't know why it's a popular assumption among everyone to think "people go to the movies to have a good time away from their dreadful lives". While I can grant some people a certain lack of distinction to appreciate good stuff ... i think a lot of people would enjoy a solid, intelligent movie making ... so these people are just hiding behind a baseless myth!

    Though with the likes of Dev D, it's probably a good trend emerging ...

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