Bollywood’s Roller-Coaster Ride
From the era of studios to hero worshipping, and to corporatisation, Indian cinema has traversed a long way. From glorification of underworld dons to social-message giving movies, Bollywood stands testimony to an era of up and down
Today, whenever we talk of the box office, we talk of the 100, 200 crore clubs. In the recent past, Indian cinema has achieved this target, but it has travelled a long way to achieve this. Many people’s perseverance and sacrifice has made possible, for Indian cinema to scale to such heights. It has more than eighty years, that Indian cinema got its voice. At that time, cinema had studio system, in which studios were responsible for movie making. Himanshu Roy’s Bombay Talkies, V. Shantaram’s Prabhat studio, Minerva Movietone of Sohrab Modi were some of the studios of that time. Everyone working with these studios was on the pay-roll of these studios. Stars were there at that time too, but were all salaried workers of the studios. Stars like Ashok Kumar, Devika Rani were all on the pay-roll of these studios. But slowly, it started changing. These stars, whether actors, music directors or directors, they all started to demand more salaries. They started demanding more freedom and by the time acting trio-Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, came to the fore, we saw that these stars started working independently. People started coming up with new ideas in the field of production. Along with Bimal Roy, Mehboob Khan, Dev Anand also started his own production company. In these production companies, people were not on pay-rolls but were a signatory to a contract paper. Raj Kapoor has given first chance to Shankar-Jaikishan, and worked with them for a long time, but it is interesting to note that these music director duos were working for other production houses too. There were many producers at that time, who spent all their money (earned from the movies), in movies only. If the film works on the box office, they started living a rich life and when the film bombed, they came on the road.
Here comes a change in the industry. Due to the World War, inflation was on all time high. Budget of film making were getting high and high. Films who were made, earlier, in thousands, were raking lakhs and lakhs. Film historian Manmohan Chaddha, in his book History of Indian Cinema writes “In 1938, any extravagant film was made in 70-80 thousand only. By 1946, this budget went up to 7-8 lakhs of rupees. Even making of a cheap film started costing five lakhs of rupee. Concerning films, the main rise in the costs, were costs of actors. Earlier an actor which demanded Rs. 5,000 for working in a film now started demanding 2 lakh rupees. In these two lakhs, he/she would take 30-50 thousand as a token and other one and half lakh as black money.” Due to this, money from legal sources, for film making, started lessening. After Second World War, money from hoarding, black-marketing, smuggling, started making inroads in the film industry. Film industry became safe haven for these businessmen to invest their black money. There came an era, when illegal money took more precedence over legal money. Under world don Hazi Mastan, also came in the fray and started investing his money in the industry. In the magazines of that time we can see pictures of many film stars hobnobbing with Hazi Mastan.
This led to the glorification of underworld crimes in the films in the decade of seventies. Story writer duo Salim-Javed, who got their stardom by that time, wrote story of Deewar for Yash Chopra, glorified the position held by the underworld dons. Shakti was also an extension of the same genre. However, as these movies were a success, such characters became the main stay of many movies of that time. It can be said that, at the same time, in west, glorifying the character of Italian Mafiosi Don Carleone, Godfather series were made. But, it was not that actors of these movies were being seen hobnobbing with these real mifa dons. In India, it became a norm and led to a situation, where any director-producer were started being threatened.
Leaving aside the underworld episode, we can see that Indian cinema has always maintained its growth with western cinema, but in the last years of last century, there came a gap between the technologies of film making in these two hemispheres. We couldn’t catch up with the special effects western cinema was using in their movies. Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was dubbed in hindi and it opened a market for the western cinema in India. This led to the opening up of Indian market to movies of this genre. Wachowskis brothers Matrix series has created mayhem at the Indian box office. Even Avatar had even surpassed the income for that week, form what Hindi movies could earn released in the same week. In all these films, computer graphics were used on a large scale. This technique was an expensive affair and could have derailed the economics of the Indian film industry. Despite this, in tamil, Rajni Kant’s Robot and Shahrukh Khan’s Ra.One attempted to give a clap on the beat. Dhoom and Krish series movies were applauded for their special effects, not only in India, but also in Britain and America, and also these movies raked in big amount of money from these western countries. It also proved that India was always ahead in the field of computer graphics, from rest of the world and Hollywood directors always saw towards India for special effects in their movies. In this manner, some of their money is also coming in India.
Other than these changes in cinema, audiences are also crazy about the particular styles of our film stars. Salman Khan’s bold act in Dabangg has impressed audiences so much that it earned 100 crore and made a new record in the history of film collections. Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots has expanded this income to 200 crore, which was equalled by recently released Shahrukh Khan’s Chennai Express. Collections gained due to these stars, have made the demand for these stars hitting to the roof. It is being said these days, that these Khan stars are now not only demanding 40-50 crores, but also distribution rights for any distribution area and producers are accepting these demands. In this rat race, a thing which gets degenerated is the quality of the film. With the exception of 3 Idiots, which was a high grosser despite being a movie with a message, every other movie is a sham.
These days corporate are foraying into this field. Once again the condition is of old studio system. These corporate does not only possess money for making films but also their own distribution system. Even to even, they have their own cinema houses for the screening of movies. Like all other corporate, these also have a system. Actors also don’t do their nakhras in front of these corporate. All movies are made in ‘start to finish’ module. UTV, Asht Vinayak Films, Big Cinema Sahara Communications, Balajee Films and Pritish Nandy Communications are some of the corporate. Like the common businessmen, these corporate also have to maintain their products. For these they make small movies in between big movies. Nowadays, while production houses like Warner Brothers, Columbia, and 20 Century Fox are investing their money in Indian cinema, Anil Ambani’s Big Cinema has forayed into the Hollywood market.
By Suresh Uniyal