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  • Writer's pictureNishant Mittal

Bollywood Renaissance and the CoronaVirus: Way to the future

Are you surprised at the unbelievable jump in the quality of Indian Cinema? Scam 1992, High, Serious Men and so many other series and films are not just connecting with people, but they’re “redefining” Indian art. This is nothing short of a revolution. A renaissance! Beginning of a new era. Start of new conversations. Great stuff!

Now. Are you also wondering where Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and others are hiding when this revolution is at its highest? Where are those guys, exactly? So much is happening in the kingdom, and the kings are taking a nap? Isn’t that surprising? It’s really not.

For decades, the kings sold crap to Indians. And they literally owned the system. India was always a treasure chest of incredible stories, yet Indian Cinema only churned out garbage. It was never a “quality” play. This happened for a time long enough to make us believe that it’s really “our fault”.

“Indian audience is fairly ‘backward’”, said Satyajit Ray.

“Indian people are stupid and it’s demand and supply! They really like such shit on their big screens, man! What do you expect?” said a friend of mine. Not Satyajit Ray, but a good guy.

Consider this. 1994 brought Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction & Forrest Gump to the West, while we got Hum Aapke hai Kaun and Andaaz Apna Apna. “This is who we are and what we like”, everyone was convinced on this. But was this a fair evaluation? Can you really blame an audience for being “backward” when they’re technically not being allowed to experience other stuff? There should be options, right! A level playing field?

Something strange happened in around 2005–07. India got introduced to Multiplexes, and with these Multiplexes came the new idea of a “level playing field”. There were more screens out there now. A fair chance for Indie filmmakers who didn’t like making crap was now visible. Suddenly, we saw films like Mithya, Bheja Fry, Dev D, Khosla ka Ghosla becoming runaway hits. Why was there an instant demand for these “art” films? Had Indians grown smarter all of a sudden? No. The answer lied in distribution. These smart films just got their place in the sun. For the first time.

And then something really interesting happened: Nothing.

The Khans (especially Bhai), launched Wanted in 2009, and the distribution game was on steroids. They bought all the screens, even the new ones. The little space which was just created for the Indie guys was gone. And then we were back to those shitty movies all over again (in 10x the number of screens). The revolution was over, and Khans and Co (and other crap salesmen) tightened their Mafia like grip on Indian Cinema (which was basically defined by the Box Office). It was sad, until the Chinese Virus hit us.

Because of the Pandemic, the iron clad grip of a few on the “Box Office” has been rendered meaningless. OTTs are the new level playing field. Once again, the Indie filmmakers are enjoying their moment in the sun. We’re getting great stuff to watch and Khans are on a break. How long will this last? No clue. But there’s a lesson here.

Better products will bleed themselves dry to no avail, if the entire ecosystem is sold in the hands of a few. Call it Nepotism or whatever, but Monopoly is Capitalism’s Achilles heel. Furthermore, it’s wrong to blame an audience for being “backward” if they’re not given fair choices with adequate visibility to begin with. And finally, let’s enjoy this dream run while it’s here. We never know how and when the crap salesmen will hijack the revolution once again.

Because they can, and they will. They’re smart.


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