Why Bollywood is like the Congress Party (Rohan Sippy)

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Furious 7 is breaking box office records for Hollywood films in India. It has beaten The Amazing Spiderman for the biggest opening for a Hollywood film, and looks like it is also the highest grossing film in any language in India in 2015. With Rs 50 crore net over the opening weekend (Thursday to Sunday), the movie has grossed more than three times what the new Hindi release Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! recorded. Hollywood’s non-tentpole films are also growing impressively, so it’s a good time as any to speculate on how our Hindi industry is doing.

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4 Responses to “Why Bollywood is like the Congress Party (Rohan Sippy)”

  1. sanjana Says:

    The government with its heavy taxes, the superstars with their unrealistic pricetags are pushing the industry to ruin. And multiplexes are not audience friendly. Who wants to pay high ticket prices to watch a movie when they can buy something much more substantial and surf so many channels at home comfortably?

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  2. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    What a well-written piece! and he talks so much sense. One that struck a chord with me is the one about trailers in multiplexes. Multiplexes should really not be charging to screen trailers. More trailers would make going to theaters fun and it would bring the audience back for the films whose trailers they saw.

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  3. @rohansippy wonderful piece on Bollywood’s economics. I must say at the risk of sounding a bit impertinent that there’s perhaps some unintentional irony that comes about if one is anyone in contemporary Bollywood and one uses the Congress as a metaphor for its malaise. Given one of the constant charges that the Congress faces from just about everyone and which supposedly makes it the last outpost of ‘old India’ you might have missed an elephant in the room (admittedly your piece has a different focus)! Not that I have any sympathy for that charge. It is unhealthy for the industry to seal itself in terms of its talent pool but a) it does not at all follow that there cannot be talented people within that otherwise limited pool but b) everywhere else in Indian society from politics to the corporate world the same dynamic is in evidence. Including by the way among those first generation entrepreneurs of New India whose offspring now seem ready to take over! And of course ‘influence’ in life can also be peddled in lots of other ways as well as surely most Indians in most walks of life who avail themselves of whatever opportunities are presented in this sense ought to know. We often lack mirrors in life.

    But then ‘New India’ isn’t as different from ‘Old India’ as it would like to believe. The latter often comes more disguised in the former than the former would like to believe. The ‘New’ if anything is more conservative if not more regressive than the old. One sees this in the movies. This is the case even with otherwise ‘interesting’ films today. Few buck the trend though there are shining exceptions. Some include my favorite directors, including the addressee of this note, even if I wonder why so much promise is put to such infrequent use. Compared to this Fellini and Bergman seem like bread and butter filmmakers churning out stuff all the time!

    You demonstrate very well just how much Bollywood is the name of a consumption industry. And even if Hollywood or other industries around the world often function much more ‘rationally’ they are still victims of the same phenomenon. Movies are not experience anymore, they’re simply joyrides. From stunts and SFX to Indian men apparently coming of age in Pamplona. And middle cinema or the alternative once again from Hollywood to Bollywood is quite overrated. It is ‘better’ than outright commercial cinema perhaps, it might be accomplished in other ways but its truths are often banal and don’t really disturb anyone in the (multiplex) audience.

    At the same time one might dare to state the opposite and therefore reiterate a point of yours. One has to make true films. Not all true films work of course and for different reasons but ‘fake’ films in any genre or at any end of the production spectrum can only be ‘consumed’ not ‘experienced’. But ‘Bollywood’ is the name of an industry and a social class and/or a set of attitudes that is in flight from the Indian ‘real’. Because it is entertainment coding for a ‘New India’ that is forever trying to forget the ‘old’, that is as often trying to wish away that in the present that does not fit its aspirational dreams. The market economics that you’ve detailed at length have in some sense followed from this. When business decisions are made irrationally (Bollywood is NOT like Hollywood on this score.. this is a point people often forget and you do well to show why this is so) there is always an ideological explanation.

    Bollywood I have long believed is a ‘bankrupt’ industry. It is simply in the business of consumption. It is simply one more ‘app’ in this entertainment super bazaar. It is precisely because it stands emptied out of anything that might be considered ‘true’ that allows it to become global. I rue this development but this also makes it a perfect industry in this globalization paradigm. Capital becomes global when it adapts to all cultures but also empties them out of their rootedness in similar ways. But the more precise point I’m trying to make here is that the economic troubles of Bollywood as you’ve analyzed them might rest on a deeper ideological (or sociological) anxieties.

    Perhaps in this arrangement one is right to make films rarely! There is nothing more to do..!

    And yet.. couldn’t there be that irrational attempt?.. that risk.?. that wager?.. that perhaps changes things a great deal..?

    Cinema after all is built on this paradox.. everything is a commercial decision and yet everything important quite often escapes this logic or at least tries to evade it.. even if structurally the industry cannot be changed so easily there is still space to make that work that argues for an opposite set of values.

    I’d lastly say this.. the director of BM & DMD possibly has the gifts to attempt something as important as his father did.. in a different key of course.. on a different scale quite obviously.. but something as noteworthy..

    Only the gifted need imagination and vision.. the rest can’t do much even with these qualities…

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  4. What bollywood did to regional films unintentionally, hollywood is doing to bollywood. Audience want original not copies as the former is available without waiting for it.

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