Standing up to bullies, embracing better scripts: Things Bollywood could do better in 2018

Karishma Upadhyay

Jan,13 2018 10:43:52 IST

The Hindi film industry needs to make some changes — here are our recommendations on how Bollywood can better its game in 2018:

More Female Directors

Reema Kagti (Gold), Zoya Akhtar (Gully Boys) and Meghna Gulzar (Raazi), you can count the number of women at the helm of films releasing in 2018 on the fingers of one hand — and have digits to spare. Last year, among the handful of buzz-worthy films, only four – Bareilly Ki Barfi, Death in the Gunj, Lipstick Under My Burkha and Qarib Qarib Single – were directed by women. There is a huge gender imbalance in Bollywood when it comes to having women tell their stories and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Putting a woman in the director’s chair doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d tell only women’s stories but it would ensure a different perspective and, of course, achieve gender parity behind-the-scenes.

Stand Up to External Bullies

What happened with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati — now known as Padmaavat — was nothing short of bullying. And, unfortunately Bollywood gave into political pressure instead of fighting back. Padmaavat will hopefully open to packed houses but the compromises that the makers have agreed to (including changing the film’s title) are all sacrifices on the altar of free speech and signal tough times for Bollywood ahead. Unless the industry resists.

Members of various associations of Indian film and television industry protest to demand the release of upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmavati' in Mumbai, India, November 26, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui - RC1327870D40

What happened with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavati, now known as Padmaavat, was nothing short of bullying. And in 2018, Bollywood needs to stand up to external bullies. REUTERS

Think Digital

It’s 2018 and filmmakers need to understand that not every film needs to have a theatrical release. There’s been a proliferation of online streaming services in recent years and both Amazon Prime and Netflix are lapping up desi content. This would be a great avenue for smaller or ‘off-center’ Bollywood films that aren’t necessarily for the masses. Instead of compromising the story they want to tell, filmmakers should take advantage of the new medium.

Stop Using Sexual Assault As a Plot Point

Last year we had five films — Kaabil, Mom, Maatr, Bhoomi and Ajji — that, at the core, were stories of a parent (or grandparent) avenging rape. These films simply retraced the '80s sensationalistic tales of violent retribution, with dialed up gore and violence, geared to elicit over-the-top responses from the audience. So, in Kaabil, Yami Gautam’s character is raped for a second time after she picks up the pieces of her life after the first assault. In Ajii, the man who rapes a 10-year-old child is shown humping a humanoid sex doll. The makers of these films are more interested in avenging rape with violence instead of understanding the complicated dynamics of recovery.

Give More Power to Writers

What a colossal hit like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha had in common with an indie darling like Death in The Gunj was a story unlike anything the audience had seen before. A script is the bedrock of a film. Despite churning out almost 1,000 films every year, scriptwriters in Bollywood are still poorly paid and wield little influence over how their story is translated on to screen. Bollywood urgently needs to recalibrate where scriptwriters fall in the hierarchy and maybe then, we can start talking about a more diverse pool of writers.

Think Big

If there’s anything the Baahubali films taught us, it was that bigger can be better. The underwhelming performance of some of last year’s biggest movies is a result of a steady decrease in footfalls. The audience doesn’t want to shell out for expensive movie tickets unless they know they’ll get their monies worth in entertainment. Filmmakers need to deliver a big-screen experience that a viewer can’t replicate at home.

 

Embrace Realistic Body Types

Bikini bod. Size Zero. 8-pack abs. Bollywood’s stand on body image has meant that pretty much every A-list actor, with the notable exception of Vidya Balan, is sculpted and shaped to perfection. The idea of perfection that our films sell is getting thinner and thinner. It would be nice to see women with average sized bodies or men who are more than just muscle-bursting bodies.

Updated Date: Jan 13, 2018 10:43 AM