Bollywood or Hindi cinema has been mainstay of entertainment for Indians since ages. The biggest stars even today are from Bollywood; Amitabh Bachchan’s films ran from Bihar to what was then Bombay to Bangalore while South stars had a limited market. Chiranjeevi does not have a market outside Telugu states, while a few Tamil stars have some market in Telugu states, but none of them have been consistent. Take the case of Suriya, Karthi or even Vishal, their last hit in Telugu was ages ago. So Bollywood has been, is and will be the biggest entertainment medium of the nation.
Let me discuss a few points on why I feel Bollywood is still a force to reckon with and why it will bounce back.
Are Pan Indian films the way forward?
No, they are not. The only films which run across India are Bollywood films, a south film has to be dubbed even in other southern languages to reach out to the audience, A Hindi film can run housefull in Palakkad for weeks in regular shows while a Malayalam film without dubbing won’t find audience outside the native speakers when released in the other Southern states.
After Baahubali: The Beginning, there was lot of talk about how Pan Indian films are the flavour. Guess what which film did well after Baahubali, it was the second part, there was no South films which impressed the audience on such a large scale.
Films like Saaho, Radhe Shyam did not even bring in crowd even in their home state let aside their other markets. I am sure nobody remembers films like Prabhu Deva starrer Tutak Tutak Tutiya, Rana Daggubati’s Haathi Mere Saathi, Mohanlal’s Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, Sudeep’s Pailwaan and Vikrant Rona, Chiranjeevi’s Sye Raa Narasimha and many more. No one even remembers them in their home market. Like in case of Sudeep and Chiranjeevi, they have attempted so many Pan Indian films that it got panned even by their home state.
Dubbing in four languages does not mean, the film is Pan Indian. The content has to be right and producers should have the money to pump it aggressively. Take the case of Har Har Mahadev, the makers claimed it was a Pan Indian film, yet no posters in Malayalam or Tamil were printed, nor was even the film released there.
There was, is and will be anomalies like Ek Duje Ke Liye, Hindustani but that does not mean Bollywood is in danger. For Telugu their biggest hit of 2022 was RRR. Films which starred their biggest stars were turned out to be dud right from Mahesh Babu, to Chiranjeevi to Nagarjuna none could capture the seats at the theatre.
Gangubai Kathiwadi made more money than Telugu’s Bheemla Nayak and Tamil’s Valimai which featured the biggest stars of respective industries and their collections could not match the female centric Hindi movies. In fact Valimai’s Hindi collections were so poor that they could not even recover the costs of poster printing.
Does Bollywood have to make more native stories?
There is no clear cut answer to this, because Bollywood has to cater to a wide range of audience from Kolkata to Chennai, in fact major parts of this area do not even have primary language as Hindi.
If you see the success of Baahubali and KGF series both of them are not rooted in specific milieu, so when people claim films with native or rootedness work, it seems a bit difficult to digest considering the data which is available to us.
Will only event films work?
The answer to this is also no. Gangubai Kathiawadi and Drishyam 2 are two of the biggest hits of this year, not only in India but also in overseas. Bollywood has to make diverse films with the right budget which can cater to large number of audience across various section.
Are ticket prices the reason for audience alienating?
Now this is again a complex issue, right pricing of ticket is something which is what producers, distributors and exhibitors have to figure out. One thing I am sure of is that the audience does not have to problem to pay for tickets if we look at collections of Brahmastra and lower pricing will not help a film, if you look at the collections of Chup.
These are my two cents on why Bollywood can still survive, I have avoided mentioning the points that Bollywood should do right as I feel that there are better and well informed filmmakers to do that.
To conclude I would like to say that, people like to simplify things and predict things, but then we need to look at the bigger picture and patterns, right now it is not indicating that this is the end of Bollywood. It is just a phase and am sure it will bounce back again
I think more than language the content and making matters the most. I still remember how much I loved the Movie Sairat. I am illiterate in Marathi, still I watched that movie in Marathi and without a sub. But content and the making made me to fall in love with that movie. Its always one of my favourite.Its just an example. Like that lot more. For audience like me its east west south or north the content and presentation matters.The kind of entertainment matters.The magic of Cinema matters. Movies that connects will work and others will fail. Anyway monopoly of bollywood being the face of Indian cinema has changed.
(No offense to the entrainment that bollywood provided to us for all those years. At his 80s Amitabh Bachchan is still the biggest star of india.)