Every society changes with time and India is no different. As any art form is a mirror of the society we live in, it is obvious that it will also undergo change from time to time. The same is the case with Hindi cinema.
The change of societal mindset has brought a change in the perspective and ideologies of the audience and this is reflected in the kind of unconventional films we have been witnessing since last decade or so. The arrival of multiplexes is also considered a boon for such films.
Hence, a lot of Hindi film fanatics and film experts have been making claims that there has been a massive change in the taste of the audience in today’s modern times.
But how true is it? Has there been a major shift in the taste of the audience? Have people come out of the obsession of superstars and commercial factors and are willingly accepting content driven cinema even if it has no big stars?
There is no denying that unconventional subjects are gaining acceptance since last 8 to 10 years or so. A decade ago nobody would have imagined that subjects like Barfi! (2012), Vicky Donor (2012), Queen (2014), Kahaani (2012), Newton (2017), Tumhari Sulu (2017), October (2018), etc, would succeed at the box office. In fact, hardly any producer would have even agreed to finance such scripts.
But at the same time, a large majority of the audience still prefers the age-old hero-centric films with commercial factors. If we look at 2017 and 2018, the biggest business is still brought by films like Judwaa 2, Golmaal Again, Tiger Zinda Hai and Baaghi 2.
During the same period, the unconventional films with no big stars that received acclaim include, Hindi Medium, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Newton, Tumhari Sulu, The Ghazi Attack, Anaarkali Of Aaraah and Qarib Qarib Singlle.
Here’s the India box office comparison of both categories of films (numbers derived from BoxOfficeIndia.com):
|Judwaa 2||132 crore|
|Golmaal Again||205 crore|
|Tiger Zinda Hai||339 crore|
|Baaghi 2||160 crore (still counting)|
|Hindi Medium||63 crore|
|Bareilly Ki Barfi||34 crore|
|Shubh Mangal Saavdhan||42 crore|
|Tumhari Sulu||33 crore|
|The Ghazi Attack||20 crore|
|Anaarkali Of Aaraah||1.5 crore (!!!)|
|Qarib Qarib Singlle||16 crore|
This indicates that the masses or the large chunk of the audience is unfazed by the unconventional and novel subjects. It is only films with big stars and commercial factors that are still pulling them to theaters. That even a flop like Tubelight goes onto score 114 crore in India alone just because it had Salman Khan speaks volumes about the mindset of a large majority of audience.
In other words, there is a huge division among the audience in terms of the kind of films they prefer. Interestingly, both sections enjoy Hindi or Bollywood films. However, they vastly disagree in their choices of films.
Moreover, this division is a byproduct of the massive change in the mindset of people from urban cities and smaller towns or villages. After all, Hindi cinema audience comprises of people from all parts of India. The aforementioned unconventional films have found acceptance mostly only in urban cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
On the other hand, the big hits are the ones that have received thumbs up even from semi-urban or rural India. This chunk of audience still prefers desi entertainers where the word ‘actor’ is replaced by ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’; the former being more important that latter.
The single most factors relevant to them are the ‘hero’ or the male actor. It is fine if the girl is shown to be dumb and he stalks her in the name of love, makes it look as if she needs his constant protection and bashes up baddies like killing mosquitoes; something the hero has been doing since ages.
This also explains why the dubbed versions of the regressive south Indian films are so popular on TV in non-south regions, especially small towns and villages. So, obviously, films with female protagonists or central characters (Queen or Kahaani) don’t work well with this section of the audience.
The moral of the story is that there is still some way to go before we can claim that there has been a major shift in the mindset of the Hindi film audience.
By Keyur Seta
I am a senior film journalist working with Cinestaan.com in Mumbai. I am born and brought up here and I have no native place. I live and breathe Hindi and, since a decade, Marathi cinema. I feel fortunate to have been working in this field as I am seriously not interested in any other work even if it pays me more. Other than this, I am just an ordinary person who prefers only simple joys of life. I am like a face in the crowd.
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