Everything has changed since the Coronavirus pandemic. The wave of this change has also passed through the corridors of Bollywood. There has been a perceptible change in the preferences of the audiences since Covid-19 struck. During the pandemic, people stayed at home for almost two years due to the lockdown and watched regional and foreign films on the OTT platforms.
They got to see great movies on OTT, which had rich content. Such films led to a drastic change in their taste and preference. Today, people watch a film because of its good script and not because a big star stars in it. The story of a movie, not the lead actor, has become the main draw for the audience. Several big-ticket Bollywood films have failed in recent months simply because they had weak scripts.
As of now, it can be said that Hindi films are going through a very bad phase. In fact, it will not be wrong to say that the Hindi film industry is in ICU these days. This is because films are constantly flopping, let alone recovering their production costs.
I have been watching the film industry closely since 1980. Films used to flop even in the past but the current trend is very different from those days. Earlier, films starring big stars used to rarely flop so badly on the silver screen, but now that is not the case. Worse, even the shows of their movies are getting cancelled for want of the audience.
There are many reasons for the failure of Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, for instance. Why would anyone go to a theatre and watch Laal Singh Chaddha when he has already seen Tom Forest Gump? The film flopped simply because it was bad and boring. Just because Aamir Khan is doing a film is not enough to make it a hit. Those days are gone.
The film also suffered a lot due to the boycott call. I spoke to several exhibitors and distributors who admitted that people did not come to see the film because of the boycott call. How big a disaster Lal Singh Chaddha proved to be could be gauged from the fact its collections could not even reach close to the amount Aamir’s previous film, Thugs of Hindostan had earned on the first day of its release.
If Bollywood has to revive again, it has to focus on content and story. There is no other way to get Bollywood out of ICU. Bollywood is heading towards a dangerous curve. If the audiences like one film, they also reject 10 others in a row. Times have certainly changed and the pandemic has played a big role in it. The audiences have come to know what kind of films are made in the world and now they want to see world-class movies.
Many people are saying that people don't have enough money, and that's why movies are getting flopped. It's not like that. People have money and they also have time to watch movies, provided you give them quality.
Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi was released just after the lockdown, which earned Rs 28 crore on the first day. There was also a craze among the audience for Spiderman. Bhool Bhulaiyya, Gangubai Kathiawadi and The Kashmir Files also turned out to be hits this year. Many films from the south also earned a lot. Therefore, to say that audiences do not have money to go to theatres is wrong.
Actually, Hindi filmmakers have not yet been able to understand what the public wants. They should understand that Bollywood movies are not seen only in Delhi and Mumbai.
Taran Adarsh is a film critic and cinema trade analyst. Views are personal. Based on a conversation with Rajeev Nayan Chaturvedi