I just can’t stop gushing over Indian cinema this year. Mostly because many big budget star-powered movies did poor business, and a lot of small budget content-driven movies saw success with both critics and the box office. The good thing about these films is that they brought back characters and stories much closer to the real Indian folk. Characters who seemed to have lost their way into the cinema after Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s era.
There was a time when the common man took the centre stage along with the angry young man. Directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar and Basu Chatterjee made many memorable slice-of-the-life films.
They told stories closer to the reality and sketched characters who resembled people from the real world. Somewhere in the era of larger than life heroes, and surreal song and dance routines, we lost these characters and those stories. Even social dramas had oodles of exaggeration and tons of melodrama in them.
Finally, we seem to have rediscovered the fact that the most interesting characters and stories are hidden in people around us. People who travel in local trains and do nine to five jobs. Men who struggle with morals, idealism, and compromised lifestyles. Women who take on the inhibitions of the society and find their spirit of independence. Servants, radio jockeys, techies, businessmen…the people around us, with amazing stories to tell.
The women in movies are no longer the ultra-glamorous poster perfect item girls.
They are like Sulu (Tumhari Sulu). They are everyday women, struggling with everyday issues, like financial independence, giving a better life to their child (Nil Battey Sannata), or obsessed with English medium schools (Hindi Medium). We can relate to them, as we could relate to actors from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films. Be it Manju in Khoobsurat (1980)- who could not understand the family matriarch’s obsession with rules, or Indu in Masoom (1983)- who comes to accept her husband’s love child.
This genre of cinema focuses on the problems faced by people in their respective times. The only difference is that the stories are more inclusive of the small towns now.
Hence the audiences in small towns also relate to these movies and their subjects. Which in turn leads to better box office collections. We know that movie trends are simply commanded by Box office performances.
So, the success of low-budget content driven films like Newton, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Tumhari Sulu, Secret Superstar and Hindi Medium has motivated many production houses to spend less on sets and dresses and more on the story, screenplay and dialogues.
We hope that this trend carries into the coming year. With both the makers and audience choosing to celebrate these humble stories. Instead of big-budget movies made solely to massage egos of ageing superstars.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.
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