It’s no secret that 2017 was even worse than 2016 when it comes to Hindi movies. With multiple disappointing trips to the movie theaters, we kept hoping for a miracle which never happened. In times that are as dark as these in terms of entertainment at the movies, the smallest of rafts looks like a lifeboat and this role was wonderfully played by films like Trapped, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha amongst others in this otherwise dull year. The rise of these smaller films is not happening for the first time and when we look back at the illustrious history of Hindi cinema, we can find evidence.
The 70s were dominated by the scripts of Salim-Javed. The larger than life aura of Vijay, the angry young man who was against the establishment and the one whose morality couldn’t be classified into black and white, these were some of the essential elements of the movies in those days. And while the audience lapped up these films, there was another wave that probably did not find as many takers but it was noticeable enough to find a place in the history of Indian cinema. This was the era when films with realistic characters were made on a smaller scale but their simplicity clicked with the audience and found a place in their heart.
The Amol Palekar starrer films like Rajnigandha (1974), Chhoti Si Baat (1976), Chitchor (1976) and many of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films like Chupke Chupke (1975), Mili (1975), Gol Maal (1979) were released alongside the Sholays and Deewars. The big ones certainly dominated but the little ones gathered their fandom as well.
We often hear the saying that history repeats itself and looking at the current scenario, it would be fair to say that Hindi cinema is undergoing a similar phase right now.
2017 has been the year of content-driven cinema. Multiple listicles have credited films like Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Jolly LLB 2 as the best films of 2017 and the same listicles have also been quick to bash the likes of Jab Harry Met Sejal. But what is the reason behind this shift in audience’s perception?
In every other interview given by Hindi film personalities, they keep insisting on how stories are the real heroes but the same people keep contradicting their own statements over and over again with the products they deliver. Same was the case this year.
Breaking the monotony of the lush landscapes and larger than life heroes, we saw the emergence of a new flavour of cinema, which can be called new for this generation of cine-goers. Films that comprise of an ensemble cast rather than the traditional format of being hero-heroine led, films that pay attention to the details like dialects and setting instead of just making everything excessively beautiful.
But there is a flip side to this as well. Hindi cinema is a firm believer of formulas. If a Wake Up Sid works, then we get a slew of films that will all be of the ‘coming of age’ genre. With the success of smaller films in 2017, we can gauge that in 2018, Bollywood will start the mass production of films set in comparatively smaller towns and with a barrage of similar films hitting the theaters, chances are audience will get tired of this as well.
The rise of these films does not signal the decline of the big massy entertainers as we saw with the success of Judwaa 2, Golmaal Again and Tiger Zinda Hai this year but it certainly opens up avenues for different kinds of films. Hindi cinema isn’t as restricted as it was until a few years ago when anything non-commercial would be termed as parallel cinema but we are yet to reach a stage where our fanatic nature doesn’t discredit credible work.