Bollywood is a wasted opportunity
The word ‘Bollywood’ itself is inspired by Hollywood. That truly reflects the creativity of the Indian film industry.
When you see any of the cult superhero movies, you know there is a much larger mission at play than pursuing your failed love interest. Not in Bollywood, though. Unfortunately, the two Indian superhero movies that we got — ‘Krishh’ and ‘Ra.One’ — they fit the romance genre more than sci-fi.
It would be, however, wrong to say that the industry doesn’t have enough talent or lacks funding. Language isn’t a barrier either, as foreign language movies are getting increasingly lauded worldwide for their diversity.
What then prevents us from competing on a global scale?
Bollywood is plagued with many issues — let’s try to unfold ten such issues that keep surfacing time and again without being addressed ever.
#1. It is highly commercialized
While a few artists, directors, and production houses have given us some thought-provoking movies in the last few years, such as Thappad or Chhapaak, they are not a game-changer. They are not crowd-pleasers and often don’t resonate with the wider audience, which wants to see a masala flick that either has some larger-than-life elements or a love story.
Even in these genres, mainstream commercial movies have buried their creativity long ago. Gone are the days when movies like Andaz Apna Apna and Golmaal were made — they are watched and remembered till today. Unfortunately, there are no such classics in recent times that we can watch over and over again. What we get today are films like Jawani Janeman, Malang, and Baaghi to name a few. These are so trashy that most of you might not have even heard of them.
There is zero creativity, it's the same old formula being given in a new package.
#2. It doesn’t have the guts to stand up for the right cause
Bollywood doesn’t have the guts to stand up for the right cause
They seldom use their stardom to promote the right message. Maybe they want to play it safe, maybe they can’t deal with the repercussions, or maybe we expect way too much out of them.
Just a month back, there was a complaint filed by a group of directors, actors and writer’s against Republic TV for maligning the image of Bollywood. Guess what? When it befalls on them, they do have a voice, but that same voice gets lost when it comes to other matters of national interest. I guess they can learn a thing or two from their Punjabi counterparts.
While they are not obligated to have a political view or express it openly, they ought to recognize the lost opportunity they have — that have the power to influence millions of their followers.
They can turn the winds of the politics in India if they want to or at least educate the public through arts and culture. There is a good deal of patriotism-themed movies made to date to depict the nationalist sentiment, but very few that really portray the political angle. Article 15 comes really close but still leaves the role of politics open to interpretation.
They may choose to remain silent in real life, but they can still speak the truth in reel life. They have a platform to showcase the ugly politics being played to a global audience.
Leila had shown us how to educate the masses on the social issues that plague us. But one Leila or one Swara Bhaskar isn’t enough — we need more. We need more creativity to awaken the masses amidst the rising authoritarianism in our country.
#3. It is synonymous with nepotism.
Any article on Bollywood would be incomplete without talking about nepotism.
There is so much already said and written about it — you don’t want another lecture on why is it so difficult for newcomers to make a mark in this industry.
What is, however, important to highlight is that no matter how much the industry acknowledges the problem, it does little to nothing to stop promoting this culture. On the contrary, it seems to have only promoted the star kids. And it isn’t just the industry to blame, it is the society and us as the audience who want to know about Taimur’s potty stories or Suhana Khan’s birthday celebrations.
We can’t stop patronizing them, and they won’t stop promoting themselves.
#4. It is troubled with several issues — age-gap, gender-bias, and pay-gap
Why is Bollywood biased towards females? Unequal pay is not limited to only the film industry, but the gap in the movie business is glaring — some top actresses make only half of what the top actors do.
To add to the fury, their active career spans for a much shorter time as compared to some of their male counterparts. Talk about being unfair — the industry has normalized double standards to the extent that we have become oblivious to these facts.
We are fine with a 60-year-old actor wooing a 20-year-old actress (who might as well have played her father when she was a kid), but it definitely can’t be the other way around — we would be outrageous as a society.
#5. It objectifies women
Directors have long used item numbers showing scantily dressed actresses making lewd moves to fuel the male testosterone. These dance nos make more money than the film itself.
We also witness it in the portrayal of female characters, the lyrics, and dialogues that depict this patriarchal mindset. And we are talking about the recent times — remember Kiara Advani’s character in Kabir Singh? The fragile, submissive, and helpless Preeti falls in love with the macho man — Kabir Singh — who slaps her in front of everyone to show his fondness. While it drew harsh criticism, Kabir Singh was the third highest-grossing movie of 2019.
Misogyny sells. Bollywood has a long history of misogyny.
It is in fact so deeply ingrained in our mindset that even a woman-centric film sometimes misses the point. Take Sonam Kapoor’s character in Veere-Di-Wedding — she is a highly qualified, independent, and successful divorce lawyer, yet she eventually falls for a crass womanizer.
#6. Success doesn’t equate to talent.
I had once been to a play called Where there is a will — it left me spellbound. Never before had I witnessed top class acting and dialogue delivery in a live performance.
To provide a perspective, I love theater and have seen quite a few, but nothing like that one — that’s when my understanding and respect for the artists had gone up considerably.
Bollywood does not evoke a similar emotion.
Although the mainstream cinemas far outweigh any of the other segments when it comes to commercial success, as we know — But box-office profits don’t equate to success.
#7. It welcomes bad guys with open arms
When the Metoo movement finally came to India with Tanushree Dutta’s accusing Nana Patekar of sexual harassment, we all felt that now is the time for women to reclaim their lost status in Bollywood. But boy-oh-boy, they proved us wrong and how.
While some of the most prominent names came out, it made very little impact on the lives of those who were called out. Anu Malik, who was asked to step down as a judge in Indian Idol in 2018, was brought back in 2019. Our very sanskari Babuji — Alok Nath, who was named by several prominent actresses, got away by being expelled from the various film association circles. No one got prosecuted or held behind bars for their wrongdoing.
A few of them have such excellent PR that the filth didn’t even touch their image.
#8. It also has a history of suicides
The bigger question that arises is whether the industry is connected and collaborative as they portray to the outside world or is it broken and closed? Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide due to mental health issues — while the media twisted the reality to promote the saffron agenda. However, he is far from being the only victim of depression.
Many stars have dealt with depression — Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, and Karan Johar to name a few. Celebrities far too often live a dual life — one on-screen and the other off-screen.
There is a lot of pressure to maintain a certain reputation in the industry — an industry that is fast-paced, emotion-charged, and always under the scanner.
Overall, the industry has a lot of work to do before we compare them to Hollywood.
- We need to up our game in creativity — we require more mainstream cinemas to paint brilliance on the big screens.
- We need to promote new talent who do not have any insider connections. Talent would up our quality game.
- We need to stand up for the right cause.
- We need to educate more than influence.
- We need to pay our actresses their worth.
- We need to stop objectifying women — they aren’t mere ornaments in the movies.
- We need to show the door to the bad guys — discourage uncouth, unruly behavior. This ain’t the 80s and we ain’t no naïve anymore.
The time has come for Bollywood to act for real and not just for the reel.