A Show That Goes On

By Rhea Sabherwal
Image Source: Google Images

Jeena yahan, marna yahan. Iske siva jaana kahan.

From ‘Mera Naam Joker

If these lines featured in Raj Kapoor’s masterpiece, Mera Naam Joker, don’t capture the true
spirit of showmanship then I don’t know what does. While the philosophy and sentiment
behind the statement still ring true, the industry certainly has come a long way since the
time of Raj Kapoor. Over the past few years, the Hindi film industry has gone through
substantial changes. The emerging popularity of OTT platforms has led to a significant shift
in the type of content we are now being served as audiences. The power hierarchy has
shifted from the big studios and A-listers to the underdogs and those with good content.
“Content-driven” movies seem to have become the norm.

As the age-old Hindi film industry was close to finding its footing in the age of modern video streaming platforms, it hit another roadblock – COVID-19. This unprecedented health crisis has affected every industry – and entertainment has not been spared. Closing theatres meant that many big-budget movies had to be released on OTT platforms. Consequently, the people who craved the old-school way of going to experience movies in a theatre- who formed the backbone of the industry’s reason for relevance till now- were also forced to start streaming content online now, making it the new normal.

Even with all these new challenges facing the industry, it has survived. I think it is because
Bollywood is way more than just an entertainment industry in this country. It’s a way of life. It
is what has set cultural and social norms for decades, and that is not about to change
any time soon. But the immense popularity of the industry in this country comes at a cost.
While it makes it for the most beloved industry, it also makes it the most scrutinized one. The
attack on Bollywood since the untimely death of Sushant Singh Rajput has been vilifying,
unflinching and unsparing.

Bollywood has been accused of nepotism, sexism, favouritism
and so much more. Painted as a dark scary place filled with drug peddlers and heartless monsters. While I don’t claim that it’s all false, I certainly question this much: which industry is so
pristine that is free of all these things? And though it does not dilute the bitter and unfortunate reality, neither does it justify the attack on all the people in an industry by stereotyping. It seems to me that the industry is caught in a crossfire between corrupt political agendas and the media’s inherent need to sensationalise any and every piece of information.

Because of this, many do believe that the Hindi film industry is dying a slow death and it
would be hard to disagree with them outright. The Hindi film industry does seem to be
fighting too many battles at the same time and whether it will emerge victoriously is something
only time will tell.

My two cents? I think Bollywood is here to stay. It has been a tumultuous journey so far and
seems to not be getting any easier soon. The winds of change are surely blowing through
the entertainment industry, and as long as the Hindi film industry is ready to keep evolving,
it’s here to stay. Because in Bollywood, the show must go on. As it always does.

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