Boycott, streaming services make Bollywood press the panic button

Bollywood crisis: Hindi film industry is facing the biggest ever crisis of its lifetime where its survival is at stake. The first day first show of any big budget movie, which till a couple of years ago, was the most exciting event of the weak, has become the cause of panic among filmmakers and actors alike. Many big-budget Bollywood films like Brahmastra and Lal Singh Chaddha have tanked at the box office in recent times while films like Kashmir Files, made on a small budget, have seen unprecedented success.

And amid such upheaval, it’s the South Indian film industry that’s reaping the rewards of Bollywood boycott culture.

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Commercially viable actors like Akshay Kumar had three back to back flops while Mr Perfectionist Amir Khan failed to woo audiences with his Lal Singh Chaddha. Some screenings were cancelled in absence of public.

Pandemic effect

Agreed that the pandemic took its toll on the industry and only around 50 films were released in the past one year. The shocker came when only one fifth of these could meet revenue targets.

Theories like post-pandemic people have no money in the pockets were belied when South films like RRR, Pushpa and most recently PS-1 turned out to be blockbusters earning Rs 400 cr to a whopping Rs 1100 crore or more.   

“This is the worst crisis ever faced,” veteran Mumbai theatre owner Manoj Desai recently told AFP

OTT rise

Rise of streaming services too, especially during lockdown, has hurt Bollywood. With most people having access to internet, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar have 96 million subscriptions, according to a government estimate.

Many filmmakers are having OTT release directly while others turn to them just weeks after doing poorly in theatres.

But streaming services have not been able to make a dent in south cinema revenue target. So the question that comes to mind is, is content the culprit?

Quality content

Film critics like Raja Sen believe that regional cinema is now preferred as south filmmakers are telling more interesting stories. While most Hindi films are just a rehash of a story told million times. Audiences are spoilt for choice. They go for quality content.

Even Aamir Khan admitted that Hindi filmmakers’ choice of what is relevant to them is perhaps not so relevant to a larger audience”.

Akshay Kumar said, “If my films are not working, it is our fault, it is my fault. I have to make the changes, I have to understand what the audience wants.”

Boycott call

Bollywood’s distress has been aggravated by social media campaigns against certain films like Brahmastra and Lal Singh Chaddha. Campaigns were run on Twitter to boycott these films.

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However, talking about boycott campaigns, actor Shefali Shah said, “It’s a trend. I don’t think it’s long-lasting.” And is there a chance that Bollywood could die? She said, “I don’t think it’s possible. Films is a culture like cricket. It can’t die… it can’t. People have their point of view, they have their opinions, but there is also a lot of love and appreciation that we get. I think we should just take it in our stride and just say ‘we tried’ and we move on.”

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