With Hollywood, Netflix taking over, how long will Bollywood survive?
Bollywood has never suffered an identity crisis more severe. In a country that is increasingly preferring to Netflix than buy overpriced popcorn and soda to watch stale, regressive stories of ageing heroes for three hours, Bollywood, that once ruled over Indian hearts, is losing its magnetic pull. And how. With web streaming and Hollywood wolfing out its market share, will it survive?
Little has changed in mainstream Bollywood in the last 20 years. It's still the same heroes, music, and mediocre/formulaic content, just in rejigged versions. But the generation is changing, and with them movie-watching preferences and sensibilities. Why would millennials, with their horrible attention spans and legendary impatience with the substandard, subject themselves to mindlessness when awesomeness is just a click away? They won't.
2017 was a landmark year for Bollywood, a window showing it the future. Several glossy, big-budget films with bankable stars - Jab Harry Met Sejal, Jagga Jasoos, Baadshaho - bombed at the ticket window. Meanwhile, other, relatively smaller outings such as Newton and Hindi Medium won hearts and the box office, busting myths, silencing trade pundits, and forcing the industry to rethink its craft.
According to TRAI, the combined subscriber base of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar grew by 160% in 2017. Moreover, the domestic box-office share of Hollywood films between January-September 2017 was 19.8%, a major jump from 2009's 7.2%, reveals Box Office India. Add to it the widening reach of regional films. Baahubali 2's dubbed Hindi version alone raked in $74.8 million.
Interestingly, the highest-grossing Hindi movie of 2017, Golmaal Again, which was slammed widely for being puerile, grossed only $31.6 million (not even half of Baahubali 2's collection). This, despite it being a popular franchise film with an ensemble star-cast and having an India-wide Diwali release.
As major Bollywood studios/filmmakers partner with streaming platforms to produce content, what becomes of Hindi movies? Experts are banking on the 'small big film', hoping it would bail the industry out. But can it? Bollywood cannot match Hollywood's production quality, streaming platforms' reach and regional cinema's connect. To survive, it needs to find its singular voice and mark its territory before its too late.