Hindi Film Industry, also known as Bollywood, churns out approximately 1000 films every year and is the largest film industry in the world. Ever since Alam Ara, India’s first sound film was produced in 1931, till the present day decade the film industry has had an astonishingly wealthy record of producing a wide range of movies, illustrating diverse spheres of Indian life, in myriad themes, viz. comedy, thriller, action, romance and horror.
Nonetheless, the trend has changed over the years in the way Indian films are represented. Movies made in the 1950s are entirely different from ones made in the 21st century in terms of their production, direction, acting as well as marketing and distribution elements.
Let’s try to walk around the changes Indian Film Industry has undergone over many decades and the plausible elucidations for them.
The Indian Film Industry can be graded broadly into four sub-categories:
The first period would cover the films made between the 1940s till the early 1960s. This period is termed as the “Golden Era Of Indian Cinema”, where film industry witnessed a few critically acclaimed movies like Awara (1951), Shree 420 (1955) and Mother India (1957), to name a few. These films circled around the struggles of the common man and their lives, drawing the audiences to travel through their journey and emerging triumphant with the protagonist who would eventually come out as a man with right morals. These stories showcased the central character as a poor man, who gets swayed away
from his course due to greed and success but ultimately realizes his mistake to turn into a scrupulous person in the end by prevailing over his predicament in a just approach.
The second period commenced from the late 1960s and extended till the early 1980s. This phase saw a distinguishing swing in the general plot of the films marked by movies like Aradhana (1969), Anand (1970), Bobby (1973) and Sholay (1975). These movies had an elegant mixture of action and romance. Violence became a fundamental part of the films, highlighting the villains, who were essentially underworld dons and mafias. The title of “angry young man” spawned from here. An ominous threat to his foes, the hero would annihilate the villains after delivering his signature punches and kicks. A plethora of films made during this phase revolved around this basic subject matter.
From the late 1980s till early 2000, began the third phase of Bollywood. This phase bagged the honor of producing the most diverse change in Indian movie making. After the liberalization reforms were undertaken in the early 90s, advanced technologies were introduced in the nation. India’s first sci-fi film, Mr. India was released during this time period, and it became a massive hit. Foreign locations and tourism spots also became the prominent choice of producers.
The most significant phase in the history of the film industry is, obviously, the current one which started from the early 2000s with breakthrough cinemas like Kaho Na Pyar Hai (2000), Koi Mil Gaya (2003), Ra. One (2011), Dangal (2016) laid large emphasis on visual effects, state of the art production values and commercial interests.
With an evident change in the target audience (demographics) and the accompanying taste patterns, the content in movies became more urban-centric. The demographics of India till 90s were predominantly rural, and films were made keeping in mind the socio-economic and political factors catering to the villagers and economically weaker strata of the society.
With a shift in time, the huge migration from rural to urban India saw massive changes in the demographics resulting in a new trend. Changes in income brought upper middle class and rich class into focus and movies were made taking into account the emergent psychographics. Heroes with bikes, cars, big bungalows started playing leading roles. The producers and distributors also had to make sacrifices with the trend by expanding their business empires due to the advent of multiplexes catering to the young generation. In order to sell a movie, the stereotypical story of “poor Indian” became less and less relevant for the filmmakers. Popular music and masala potboilers also attracted rural audiences, who revealed in song and dance sequences shot in overseas locations like Switzerland and Egypt.
Movies, at the end of the day, are business enterprises, and most production houses generally like to deliver content which matches the wavelength of the average movie goers. Thus the primary reason for the shift in the subject of films can be attributed to the change in the mindset and attitudes of the people watching them. The film industry has evolved over the last few decades with “box office” playing a significant role in how movies are made making it imperative for the filmmakers to develop scripts with potential to sell, and sell big, not only in the domestic market, but also overseas with the burgeoning growth in the NRI population across continents.
However, it would be utterly simplistic and myopic to completely write off contemporary cinema with profits as the only raison d’être as long as subjects shedding light on distinguished social, economic, political and cultural issues of the nation are appreciated and widely accepted.