The pandemic is making us pause, think, reflect. Maybe it’s time to start working on that book after all. Or reboot your life and start all over again. We thought it’s a good time for Bollywood to do the same. We did the thinking on its behalf and asked members of the Film Companion team to come up with a wish list of changes we want to see in the Hindi film industry.
1) Putting To Rest The Crore-Club Conversations
Over the last 10 years, the conversations around how much money a film has made had become louder and more insistent. Each mention of the 100 crore club reinforced the idea that box office equals quality. In fact, in a producers’ roundtable we hosted, it was said that 200 crore is the new 100 crore. I hope this goes away and only the trade pundits spend time mulling over opening collections and which film made a profit and which lost money. The rest of us would be better off not knowing.
2) Widening The Casting Pool
In Shakespeare’s theater even the female roles were played by men and the same argument -that a versatile actor can play anything -would have been made to deter female participation. Now, by making the casting choice authentic, we might start to widen the casting pool. So, for example, if you have a transgender character, hopefully we will now cast from the community.
3) Early Previews
Purely from a film journalism perspective, if and when movies do return to cinema halls, it’d be a good time for producers and financiers to finally change the preview-screening format. If anything, the lockdown and subsequent digital boom may have convinced filmmakers that most publications can be trusted to sign embargo forms, which in turn should give them the confidence to provide critics with early previews (maybe the future is online) and a fair opportunity (nobody wins on Friday mornings) to publish detailed reviews. Given that most everyone has access to streaming platforms, it’s a good time for both sides to work in unison. If a global pandemic can’t turn this trend, nothing can.
4) Rendering Promotional Interviews Extinct
These are interviews where many times even the actors haven’t watched the film. After all, these interviews are part of their contractual obligations, you rarely expect candour. Oftentimes the same questions keep getting asked because what can you ask about a film that you haven’t seen? Perhaps more focus should be placed on post-release interviews, generating conversation once the film is out.
5) Be More Anti-Establishment
Less jingoistic films, less cheerleading the political party in power. Hindi cinema used to have a secular core, until not so long ago.
6) The Social Message Movie
This isn’t a genre and throwing up random crime statistics at the end does not a great movie make. The idea that a strong social message can be a substitute to an engaging story has meant that year on year some of the worst films made are preachy vehicles that feel like a lecture rather than a means to gather awareness for an important issue.
7) 6 pack abs
The obsession with 6 pack abs and bronzed bodies. No matter what the character, our young male stars look beefed up and a bit too sculpted. Also, they all look the same. Like they were mass produced at the same gym. It would be nice to see them look like regular Joes once in a while.
8) Functional Work Plans
Given the new shooting rules and restrictions, and given the money-drain that the industry has suffered all year, perhaps it’s possible that most film production crews will automatically cut out the flab, stop overpopulating sets and make optimal budget plans. Post-production, too, has become a remote option. Filmmaking tends to be a very crowded and loud exercise in this part of the world, and perhaps it’s the best time to change a culture that has long needed to be changed – out of necessity more than choice.
9) Scaling Down The Storytelling
Bollywood is known for its larger-than-life palette and stories, but sometimes the obsession with convention cuts out all the originality of artists. Maybe the temporary lack of space and mobility, travel and budgets could change the way writers and directors think. Necessity is the mother of invention, and given that so many have already experimented with lockdown-centric films, we might just see a new middle-low range of storytelling that might reflect the economy of our times.
10) Endless List Of Brand Mentions
The minutes and minutes of special thanks, partner logos and brand mentions that play before a movie starts. For bigger films, this can last up to five minutes before you see a single frame from the movie. It’s ridiculous. No other country does this and it needs to be done away with.
11) Use The Song To Tell The Story
The lip-sync going away isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we wish there is more use of the song as a storytelling device. More of those and less of the promotional numbers.
12) Shorter Intervals
Showing trailers during the intervals (assuming movie theatres are even a thing anymore) when you’re bang in the middle of the film completely takes you out of the headspace of that film and it’s that much harder to jump back into the story.
13) The Small-Town India Film
The small town film has become such a formula that it’s boring. They have no distinct visual style and they all look so homogeneous and generic. We’d prefer a good big city film over these.
14) Keep Streaming For Indie
Streaming platforms initially felt like places to discover indie talent, people whose films wouldn’t have gotten a theatrical release otherwise. Yet, more often than not, we see the same established people, who make films for theatrical release, release their films on streaming. The easy access to their films is great, but wish streaming platforms would take a break from Bollywood and give newer voices a boost.
15) Do Away With The End Credit Song
Even ‘serious’, issue-based films have the ‘end credit song’ and the sudden shift in tonality is never not jarring. Their loudness ruins films with quiet, meditative endings (Badlapur) and those that show the protagonist and antagonist dancing together make absolutely no sense at the end of thrillers (Judgementall Hai Kya).