#MeToo, weakening of star power, biopics: Five trends that shaped the Hindi film industry in 2018
The Hindi film industry has witnessed several changes in the year that has gone by, from a more open dialogue about sexual harassment to a growing preference for biopics
The Hindi film industry's performance in 2018 was rather inconsistent, with some films doing unexpectedly well, and other bigger projects failing miserably. As content steadily emerges as the king and entertainment options beyond the traditional cinema hall emerge, it would be safe to say that this year has witnessed the sure signs of the beginning of an entertainment revolution in India. Here are five key trends that were the highlights of the Hindi entertainment industry in 2018:
The #MeToo movement
On 26 September, 2018, actress and former Miss India Universe Tanushree Dutta accused actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment on the sets of the 2009 film Horn ‘OK’ Pleassss. By doing so, Dutta practically opened the floodgates to a deluge of accusations, survivor stories and horrific accounts of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and other crimes against hundreds of women from virtually all strata of the society.
Countless stories came out of the Hindi entertainment industry. The repercussions led to the fall from grace of some star actors, directors, producers, talent managers, music directors, stand-up comedians and casting directors. Phantom Films, one of the most reputed film production and distribution companies, was shut down. This decision came a year after one of its co-founders Vikas Bahl was accused by a former employee of sexual harassment.
As a direct outcome of the movement, the Film and Television Producers Guild of India announced a number of important steps to address the long-existing menace of sexual harassment at the workplace in the film and television industry, one of which is the mandatory presence of an active Internal Complaints Committee at each and every production house. Such a committee is to be headed by a woman.
Will things change? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure – the unpardonable denial of such issues, that has plagued the industry for decades, will perhaps take a beating now, and that in itself is a positive change.
The death-knell for the star system
The much-worshipped triumvirate of the Khans – Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh – made one film each this year. All three films were severely panned by critics and audiences. While Salman’s Race 3 was criticised and trolled for the unintentional chuckles it generated through its brash silliness, Aamir’s Thugs of Hindostan was branded as an overlong headache-inducing torture. A few days ago, Shah Rukh Khan came back to screen after last year’s heartbreak with Imtiaz Ali’s Harry Met Sejal – only this time, he had trusted filmmaker Anand L Rai and frequent collaborators Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif to support him in his latest offering Zero. It seemed nothing could go wrong this time. But, it did.
While audiences praised his effort to some extent, they rued the lack of a believable story that they could relate to. Finally, after all these years, the star system in the Hindi film industry has received a nasty jolt – one that has shaken its foundation to the core – so much so, that even producers and studio heads have started talking openly about refusing to bow down to star tantrums, and audiences have begun to believe that there is only one king in Bollywood – the script. While the star system may not entirely disappear and while big names will still continue to bring in the audiences to theatres, stars will need to up their game and look for good stories to tell.
Ye public hai, sab jaanti hai
When filmmaker Sriram Raghavan showed the rushes of his film Andhadhun to Viacom, the studio expressed its doubts regarding the cerebral nature of the film, especially the highly ambiguous ending, fearing that the galleries may not ‘get it’. Raghavan refused to alter the ending of his film, and the rest is history. With its presence in the favourites list of almost all critics in the industry and setting the cash registers tingling, Raghavan’s film has crushed the myth of the lowest common denominator, disproving a long-standing belief in the industry that the common man sitting in the audience is an escapist and is hence sure to shun ‘intelligent’ cinema.
The mad rush for book adaptations
In 2018, two productions changed the entire process of sourcing content for entertainment in the country. The first was director Meghna Gulzar’s unconventional spy-thriller Raazi – an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat. The second was Netflix’s adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s epic crime saga Sacred Games, directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. With the unprecedented success of both projects, there came a mad rush for more book adaptations in the industry, as productions houses and studios suddenly seemed to realise that they are sitting on a treasure trove of literature – a fact that critics, readers and erudite film fans have been crying their voices hoarse to announce, for several decades now. While Netflix has already announced an adaptation of Prayaag Akbar’s Leila, other books which have been optioned for film/digital adaptations include Anand Neelakantan’s Vanara: The Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara, Saiswaroopa Iyer’s Avishi and Madhulika Liddle’s Muzzafar Jung series.
The clutter of biopics
The trade aspect of the Hindi film industry seems to have a habit that is pretty well-known by now – they are extremely risk-averse. This is amply elucidated, time and again, in the way the industry chooses to invest in projects that belong to a genre that has already worked at the box-office in the recent past. If one horror film works, everyone makes a beeline to make more horror films, investors usually try to go by the mood of the audience rather than challenging them with something new. 2018 was the year of biopics. Fueled by the massive success of Dangal last year, this mad race to make biographies (Sanju, Gold, Soorma, Padman, Manto) led to an unhealthy clutter in which some good films got lost and some sub-par films flourished without merit. What is even more frustrating to note is that this race seems to be more of a marathon that a sprint, with at least six more biopics to hit the screens next year, if not more.
Bhaskar Chattopadhyay is an author and translator. His translations include 14: Stories That Inspired Satyajit Ray, and his original works include the mystery novels Patang, Penumbra and Here Falls The Shadow
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