TRENDS OF CHANGING CINEMA
A hundred and five years and counting. That’s how long we have been making movies in India. Ever since Dadasaheb Phalke decided to wield a camera, we have witnessed the rise and rise of the most powerful and all pervasive medium of entertainment our country has ever seen. Today, the Indian film industry is nothing short of a religion in India, and movies are at the very core of the entertainment industry, a source of inspiration and aspiration for every other medium. The evolution in technology and storytelling that this industry has undergone over the last 20 years in particular, has been astounding. Through these fateful years, Indian cinema has evolved to a mainstay of global popular culture and is one of the primary forces of India’s soft power.
Since the time of Raj Kapoor, Indian cinema has enjoyed global fanfare. But the last twenty years have taken this to different heights. Indian films, from the late 90s onwards, saw a burst of shooting in exotic foreign locations. The beautiful locales of Switzerland in Yashji’s films are memorable to us all. As the Indian diaspora spread, so did the reach of our various cinemas across multiple languages. Indian movies are now screened across the Americas, Europe and South Asia, catering to a global audience. In the last few years, China has also become a lucrative market for our films, with audiences there, apart from becoming huge fans of Aamir Khan, also realising that the Indian population across the border is so much like them when it comes to family values and social constructs.
VFX as a tool of filmmaking took off in India in the last decade. Indian studios became experts in technical avenues like VFX and CGI. From Koi Mil Gaya to Ra.One, Indian audiences have been hooked to visual effects. In fact, we became so good at this, that significant portions of big Hollywood blockbusters like Avatar, The Golden Compass and many more were rated in the VFX studios in India. Chhota Bheem and Bal Ganesha etc. have become iconic characters today.
An interesting contrast to ponder upon is how much the industry’s filmmaking and structure has evolved. Content-driven storytelling has been on the rise, especially in regional cinema. Filmmakers from the South Indian languages, Marathi and Bengali especially have been consistently producing thought provoking films. Films like Swaas, Harishchandrachi Factory, Kaaksparsh, etc. are meaningful dramas that explore the human condition. On the other hand, we are also seeing the rise of big budget action films that offer spectacle and dazzling set pieces. Franchises and sequels have also seen their share of growth. I am glad that the industry and the audiences have matured so that all kinds of cinema are co-existing.
The corporatisation of the film industry and the establishment of the studio model also happened over the last two decades. The pioneers of the vertically integrated studio model in India were UTV, Yashraj and Eros, all home grown studios. And then with the entry of the foreign studios this model was further established. With wider releases, the metric for success went from Silver and Golden Jubilees, to 100, 200 and 300 crore clubs, but the fundamental need for a ”good story well told” to guarantee success hasn’t changed.
Another key trend emerging over the last 5 years has been the growing presence of streaming and OTT players. The latest films are out on OTT platforms in the matter of a few weeks, hence raising the bar for what constitutes a cinematic experience, since the viewer has to prepared to shell out money and face relative inconvenience to go to a movie theatre, compared to pushing a few buttons from the comfort of his or her couch.
Our filmmaking processes and our content have changed so much over these years. Yet the charm of our films, the passion of our filmmakers, and the magic of sitting in a packed theatre laughing and crying together has remained the same. I’m sure it will stay that way for another hundred years and more. It is this emotion that Super Cinema has captured so effectively over the last 20 years, with its expert trade coverage and insightful analyses. I wish you many such successful editions!