Bollywood is recognised as being the world’s biggest producer of films starting with a short film in 1898, leading to the first feature film ever, Raja Harishchandra, being released in 1912. It’s known to have created some of the biggest classics that still resonate with us today even though the audience has moved on. Now, that was a long time ago and this Is the here and now, where things may just have taken a turn. Now what type of turn, only time will tell or have the audience already spoken?
The 1040’s after independence to the 1060’s is known as the Golden era of Indian cinema where it has given the country some of the most memorable productions to date. If you look at the scripts closely enough, you’ll find that they tend to reflect the social and political themes prevalent at that particular time. It was the era of the great socialist Pandit Nehru, and directors such as Bimal Roy and Mehboob khan decided to create movies with a sense of regeneration where India needed to be great again. Moreover, It gave us method actors such as Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand , and Dilip kumar and actresses like Madhubala , Nargis , and Waheeda Rehman not far behind. Definitely, a time of Epics, melodies and timeless lyrics which are still around today and will most likely be around tomorrow as well. Nobody wants to let go of the old classics as they watch and re watch old and new versions. Films, at this time seem to be more about a country dreaming and in love, creating a nostalgia in our hearts that just refuses to leave us. The good old days where it was just about feeling the emotion and being carried away with it.
Time moved on and we then transited into the unforgettable spicy action movies that got our adrenaline going. With the juxtaposition of the old and new, and an infusion of the west, we glided from the romanticism of Pakeezah and Anand to a more aggressive and rebellious emotion. The life cycle of movies took a turn with Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra, Rishi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor in movies that again mirrored the state of society where Salim Khan and Javed Akthar took it upon themselves, to portray the larger political picture through their scripts. Sholay, Muqaddar ka Sikandar were movies that portrayed the idea of victims in an unjust system, conveying the harsh reality of life. It was pretty much now that ‘The angry man’ was conceived in Zanjeer, with the lovable Amitabh Bachan. Movies like Sholay and Muqaddar ka Sikandar, reflected the highs and lows of life with their own bittersweet endings that stayed with you long after you left the cinema. Bollywood right now, was all about the drama and dialogue with music high on the decibel scale but low on the scale of memorable lyrics. Some would go far as to say that the 1990’s was when it all started going down hill, with the entry into the 2000’s, taking Bollywood into a completely different direction altogether.
THE MODERN HAZE
If movies were supposed to reflect the times we lived in, then it definitely became dark, confused and painful in the 2000’s. I would say movies like ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and ‘Salaam Namaste,’ were for me, a defining moment where I realised something had just shifted and dissatisfaction and depression seemed to be an underlying theme in cinema. With ‘Salaam Namaste,’ suddenly, romance had died and physical relationships outside of marriage were seen as acceptable, within the Indian culture. The coming together of two people wasn’t about two flowers merging anymore, but two real people. Where were we going as a country and a culture, I wasn’t quite sure. India had definitely come along way and the paradigms had shifted, which can easily be seen in the type of movies released year on year there after.
But as you see Bollywood evolve, its glow seems to have tarnished into a grey haze filled with stories of mental decay surrounded by a system deep in nepotism, prejudice and injustice. There is more talk about the politics behind the scenes rather than the visions of art that it is supposed to be creating. So are we seeing another shift in the Indian mind set which almost mimics a revolution that just can’t be repressed anymore? The place of dreams is now filled with intrigue as audiences watch the political drama unfold, almost like another Bollywood saga after the death of that very lovable actor ‘Sushant Singh Rajput.’ It’s not as if he was the first but was he the catalyst, the straw that broke the camels back, as actors and directors lash out at the ‘few that control Bollywood?’ The advent of social media has certainly allowed many to speak out to the world, without confronting a single person, in the safety of their own home, with the ability to reach thousands. People now have the strength, only now, to speak out about things that they didn’t dare discuss out loud before.
A place where we once created dreams and epics which stayed with us long after the lights went out, has now become a dark stadium of accusations. With more and more people coming into the business, it seems that this was always going to happen. How long can Bollywood be in the name of only a few as new comers come in throngs to try their luck. They’re tired of waiting on the side lines for a crumb of recognition, and now it it looks like the ‘angry man’ has turned into an ‘angry crowd’ waiting to explode… and it has. The big images in Bollywood, that once seemed unreachable on their pedestal of perfection, look as if they are gradually floating down to earth, morphing into faulty images of the ordinary man.
Whether the advent of the digital platform is a good development or the nemesis of the big names in Bollywood, is yet to be seen. The OTT platform has definitely opened up other doors and made way for new entrants where it may just be responsible for creating an even playing field for all. Is the big image of Bollywood shrinking before our eyes as we see it for what it really is? Is this particular curve flattening? Realistically, the only reason that anybody sits on a seat is because the masses put them there and it only takes a moment to take all that away. But let me tell you, once the audience speaks, it’s lights out and game over.