Bollywood has come of age. It has finally transformed into a substance filled movie industry from a content filled one. Gone are the days when we used to be served masala potboilers which used to consist of rich girl-poor boy stint, running around the trees in songs, or a mindless action thriller where the hero beats up five to ten goons single-handedly! Can anyone remember those Mithun Chakroborty movies where some unspeakable action stunts were depicted! Audience today demands a more substance filled content in movies. This is evident in the type of movies that filmmakers are churning out nowadays. The multiplex culture has totally revolutionized the way the audience perceives a film to be made. The way a story is treated and the variety of subjects the Indian filmmakers are handling is definitely a good sign. And we really hope that this change is here for the better.
We were sure of a better change sweeping through Indian cinema when we saw Bollywood churn out movies like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge in the 90s. Fortunately, I feel that we were not disappointed in this. Atleast we got a relief from those mindless action thrillers which dominated the 80s. A newfound wave of romance swept across tinsel town. And we got some great classics like Dil To Pagal Hai, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. This time around music also reinvented itself and finally we got out of those horrid tuneless songs of the 80s and early 90s. The music created during this period was reminiscent of the musical jewels that were created in the 60s and 70s. It was like a renaissance sweeping across Bollywood. We also had during this period some coming of age movies like Salaam Bombay. Indian cinema, during this period, also delved into newer territories in terms of ideas and storytelling. We had films like The Bandit Queen, Fire, Bombay Boys and Monsoon Wedding. What was most encouraging was that the Indian audience known for its conservatism embraced most of them with open arms and they proved to be fairly successful. And with this emerged a new breed of filmmakers and storytellers who wanted to make films which the audience could identify with. Thus, among the mainstream commercial flicks too, we had movies like Satya, 1947 Earth and Company. What was now evident was that the audiences wanted films which were backed by a great script and involved some new ideas.
Over the last ten years, what we have seen is that Bollywood has churned out many films which have set landmarks in Indian cinema. The new breed of filmmakers that have come up have lived up to their expectations. Thus, we have Farhan Akhtar making a Dil Chahta Hai. Homi Adajania making a Being Cyrus. And Navdeep Singh making a Manorama Six Feet Under. Even established production houses have made some off-beat films like Yash Raj Films’ Salaam Namaste which dealt with the subject of live-in relationships. Or in the recent case of Karan Johar’s Dostana which dealt with gay men. The variety of topics that films are handling nowadays is really a signal that the audience along with the film industry has come of age. Even when some filmmakers have burned their fingers in their quest to explore other themes, it has not discouraged others from experimenting as well. Filmmakkers like Madhur Bhandarkar have redefined the way women are portrayed in films with flicks like Chandni Bar, Page 3 and the recent Fashion. Even existing genres have got a different treatment too . Patriotism assumed a new jingoism with flicks like Rang De Basanti, Chak De India and the recent Heroes. Horror saw a new style with flicks like Raaz and Bhooth. Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om gave a new meaning to the way the retro style is handled by Bollywood. The way infidelity was handled in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was something never seen in Indian cinema before. And romance, Indian audience’s favourite subject, is also getting newer treatments with each passing films. We have some off-beat romantic films like Cheeni Kum which delight us inspite of a different handling of the topic. And we can also hope for some more different treatment to romance in upcoming flicks like Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
I think in today’s multiplex culture scenario, the gap between mainstream commercial cinema and parallel cinema has diminished to a great extent. When we have films like Khosla Ka Ghosal and Mithya doing fine business, we can understand that all the audience wants now is a slice of difference in the films that are being served to them. Even flicks like Rituparno Ghosh’s The Last Lear and Shyam Benegal’s Welcome To Sajjanpur have lessened the gap between the two streams of filmmaking. When we have a hardcore commercial filmmaker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali make different films like Black and Saawariya, and another formula following filmmaker like Subhash Ghai make a Black & White, it is time for us to realize that serious cinema has finally arrived in Bollywood. Even well-known actors are exploring the newer themes in Bollywood. Thus we have Aamir Khan doing a Taare Zameen Par, Shah Rukh Khan doing a Chak De India and Salman Khan doing a Phir Milenge. The change has arrived . And it is definitely here to stay.
As an avid movie-going Indian, I’m looking forward for this change to consolidate further in Indian cinema so that we may experience more variety in terms of themes and ideas. Cinema is a very powerful mode of expression and this mode has finally hit substance in our country. Three cheers for the new wave in Indian Cinema!