Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Small Is Not Beautiful In Hindi Cinema Universe, Is The Audience To Be Blamed?

Distributors and multiplex owners have to back the big production houses to the hilt for the sake of their business since small-budget movies have no takers at the box office.

A Still From 'Matto Ki Saikil'
A Still From 'Matto Ki Saikil' Instagram

Hindi cinema is passing through a critical phase of change. Movies with a huge star cast and budget are not only falling flat at the box office but are also being boycotted. The film industry is currently in introspection mode to wriggle out of the situation so that Hindi cinema regains its stature soon.

In contrast, small-budget movies such as “Siya”, “Holy Cow”, “Chup”, and “Matto Ki Saikil” released in recent times are being talked about due to their content despite the ongoing ‘boycott Bollywood’ trend. Such films have Hindi cinema relevant even in the transition period, which has otherwise been written off by people singing paeans to the so-called ascendancy of the ‘golden era’ of South Indian films.

However, it does not mean that small-budget films are getting commercial success. Such films have always been known for their content. They do not boast of the presence of big stars and primarily bank on their stories. But most producers are not yet ready to invest money in a movie without a big star. As a result, the makers of such films have to endure prolonged spells of struggles.

The foundation of Hindi cinema cannot be strong until the issues related to the small-budget cinemas are solved. The directors and writers keep knocking on the doors of the production houses with their stories, only to return dejected time and again. After a long wait, if a producer finally agrees to invest money and their film gets ready, another challenging phase begins.

Most distributors are still interested in the box-office draw of leading man rather than the overall content of a film. A movie starring a saleable star is lapped up by them even before their launch while everybody keeps distance from a film which does boast of a big star.

There are ample reasons behind it, the biggest being the double standard of the Hindi cinema audience. They often complain that quality cinema is not being made in Hindi these days but when a meaningful and sensitive film is released in theatres, it finds no takers. More often than not, such films run to empty theatres leading to the cancellation of shows.

So, is the audience to be blamed for the fate of small films? According to actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, people criticise his work in films such as “Munna Michael” and “Heropanti 2”, but the same people keep away from the theatres to watch critically-acclaimed films like “Manto” and “Photograph”. As a result, no distributor or exhibitor picks up such films.

Actually, if a small-budget film gets released in theatres after a lot of efforts, it has to face challenges on many levels. The first challenge remains the promotion of the film. Since it is often made on a shoestring budget, the expenditure on the marketing of the film is understandably very less. Consequently, it fails to create the desired buzz in the run-up to its release that can draw the public to theatres in droves.

Even on popular TV shows such “The Kapil Sharma Show”, “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, or “Bigg Boss”, rarely does one come across the stars and makers of a small-budget film promoting their films.

Brahmatmaj says, “The Hindi audience is still obsessed with big stars. It prefers to see a superstar's film in theatres despite having the option of small-budget films at their disposal. Besides, small-budget movies are available by the dozen on various OTT platforms, YouTube, Telegram, which is another reason why small films don't get the required audience in theatres."

From the commercial point of view, it explains why multiplex chains look down on small-budget films. Actor Yashpal Sharma says, “Small-budget movies have to struggle hard. First of all, no one shows interest in releasing them and if someone gives space they do not get more than one show in a day.”.

Even then, the timing of the show is kept at 9:00 a.m., which further reduces its box-office chances. In any case, small films hardly get 500 screens and if its release clashes with the movie of a big star film, the number is further reduced.

Ironically, even if the shows of a big star run to empty theatres after its release, the number of screens for low-budget films is not increased. Since the big-budget movies are usually made by a big production house, they have the monopoly over theatres, especially multiplex chains.

As Ajay Brahmatmaj says, the person who buys and releases a film is basically doing business. “While a small-budget film is made and gets released in two or three years, big production houses release 5 films in a year with a huge star cast in each one of them," he says.

So, the entire business of film distributors and multiplex owners depends on big production houses. They simply cannot afford to back small-budget filmmakers. They have to keep the big production houses in good humour otherwise their future will be at stake.