Back To Basics

Attempting to bring a change in the trend, filmmakers have taken a shift towards movies which are grounded in terms of their settings.

After over-the-top dramas and slick urban stories, Hindi cinema is drawing inspiration from small-town India.
Hindi cinema is fast evolving even as the industry grapples with keeping its finger on the pulse of changing audience tastes. Despite this uncertainty, one thing's certain – larger-than-life dramas that inspired flights of fantasy in the audience are passe. Hindi movies are no longer aspirational, at least, not in the traditional sense of the term.
So, out with dream sequences in foreign locations and uber-cool settings as shown in films like Student Of The Year, Jab We Met, 2 States, 3 Idiots, OK Jaanu and many others. It seems Dangal, which released in December 2016, was a turning point. The film seems to have struck a desi chord and set off a trend where stories that are grounded and simple in terms of their setting are capturing the audience's hearts. Take a look at the success stories that released this year and their performance at the ticket counter.
The year 2017 started with two superstars, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan, coming out with decently successful films like Raees and Kaabil. Both films were not only set against the most basic backdrops but also presented heroes that the audience could easily relate to. These two movies were followed by films like Jolly LLB 2, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Tubelight, Hindi Medium, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and several others.
Interestingly, while almost every filmmaker is trying to elbow their way to the `100-crore club, the top four films in the `300-crore club – Salman Khan's Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan and Aamir Khan's PK and Dangal, featured somewhat rustic concepts.
The recent line-up of films makes one wonder whether there is a deliberate shift towards cinema that connects with the Indian audience at a basic level. Or is it pure coincidence that we have a slew of 'grounded scripts' making their way to the silver screen in quick succession?
To shed some light on this, we spoke to experts from the industry. Here's what they had to say:
I have never deliberately placed a film in a rural setting; it has happened naturally. I have made no attempt to 'Indianise' a storyline to make it more appealing. It is the world in which the story is set that attracts me. Whenever one forces something, it is bound to backfire. This year, people have been connecting with ethnic storylines and things have been flowing in that direction naturally. But we have to be careful not to push too much in that direction.
Many of our current films have been shot at beautiful locations in our country. The location of a story in our Hindi films usually turns out to be a character in the film. So, if you want your film to look convincing, it is important to shoot within the country. It helps the audience connect with the film easily.
This is not the first time films are being shot in India; we shoot overseas only when we are offered tax benefits. It majorly depends on the script of the film. Last year, we had a lot of films that were shot in India but if the story requires the film to have a foreign country as its backdrop, we go for it. Nowadays, audiences are accepting good scripts. It is more about 'film following' than 'fan following'. People are looking for content. Films like Baahubali have proved that people will watch a film only if it has strong content. No one knew who Prabhas was in other parts of the country before this film released. Recently, Hindi Medium and Bareilly Ki Barfi have made a mark.
I have written and directed 19 movies, of which only four movies were shot abroad. Pardes, Taal, Yaadien and Yuvraaj were films where locations were the part of the stories. I prefer to shoot in India as we tell stories of Indian people. Also, we know these people who are connected with their roots. The fascination for foreign locations is just a personal fascination; it is no longer a fascination with the audience, with social media growing.
For me, it is always the story and the characters that should dictate the location and not vice versa. If the story doesn't really demand a particular location, then there is merit in setting it up in a location that allows the characters to flourish and the story to be told more interestingly. In that case, small – or mid-town India is getting chosen more often now because it has a distinct and charming appeal that people haven't experienced much.
I think as filmmakers we still do not know what will work but a lot of us have finally begun looking for inspiration from within India. I don't think it's only about desi versus foreign, even in Baazaar, we are making a film about India, about Mumbai and power, money, rules that are always broken. Once again, as filmmakers, we chose to take inspiration from real life incidents that have rocked the financial markets.
That's the real India. What connects with the audience is a good story. It's true that more films are being shot within India. There's a bunch of new filmmakers who are setting their films in India. People are identifying with those stories more and more because those films are about our problems, our celebrations. So they are more rooted in our society and that is why they are connecting with people better. I have only shot Thathastu in India. Most of my movies have been shot abroad. And I am shooting in India next month. The reason is that I got a little tired of stories that were set abroad. So it happened organically. BOI



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