The recent Academy Awards ceremony saw a surprising turn of events as a Telugu song from RRR and a regional documentary bagged top honors, leaving Bollywood with a reality check. While Bollywood has always been the benchmark for Indian cinema, the success of regional cinema has been rapidly changing the industry landscape.
Regional Cinema on the Rise
The rise of regional cinema in India’s entertainment industry is evident from the success of Bahubali, a big-budget South Indian film that broke all records to become the highest-grossing movie in India.
The recent Oscar wins by the song “Naatu Naatu” and the documentary “The Elephant Whisperers” directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga, show that it has now taken centre stage, leaving Bollywood behind.
The success of regional cinema in India has been gaining momentum for several years now. In recent years, there have been several blockbuster regional movies that have performed exceptionally well both in India and abroad, proving that regional cinema has the potential to attract a wider audience.
The Marathi film, Sairat, was released in 2016 and was a critical and commercial success. The film not only won several awards in India but also screened at international film festivals like the Berlin International Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation. The film’s box office success led to a Hindi remake, Dhadak, starring Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter.
Another notable example is the Telugu film, Baahubali: The Beginning, released in 2015, which broke all box office records and became the highest-grossing Indian film at the time. The film went on to become a huge success in China, Japan, and other international markets. Its sequel, Baahubali: The Conclusion, released in 2017, also shattered box office records, becoming the highest-grossing Indian film of all time.
The success of regional cinema is not limited to the South Indian film industry. In recent years, Punjabi films like Sufna, Qismat, and Shadaa have been doing exceptionally well, both in India and abroad. The success of these films has helped the Punjabi film industry to establish itself as a major player in the Indian film industry.
The rise of regional cinema is not just limited to box office success. Regional films are also gaining recognition and accolades at international film festivals. The critically acclaimed Marathi film Court, directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, won several awards at international film festivals, including the Venice International Film Festival and the Mumbai Film Festival.
OTT Platforms: Accelerating the Industry
The success of regional cinema on OTT platforms is exemplified by shows like Paatal Lok and Mirzapur on Amazon Prime Video, which have received critical acclaim and gained a massive following.
Other regional shows that have gained popularity include Asur on Voot, Aarya on Hotstar, and Family Man on Amazon Prime Video. OTT platforms have also given independent filmmakers an opportunity to showcase their work and reach a wider audience. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have invested heavily in producing original content in India, leading to an increase in the number of Indian movies and shows available on these platforms.
Moreover, with the rise of affordable data plans and smartphones, the number of OTT subscribers in India has skyrocketed. According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group and Confederation of Indian Industry, India’s OTT market is expected to reach a size of $5 billion by 2023, up from $1.5 billion in 2018.
OTT platforms have played a significant role in accelerating the growth of the industry. With content now being king over star power, the pandemic has led to changes such as a shift away from nepotism, evident in Rajeev Masand’s The Actors Roundtable 2020. The rise of YouTube content powerhouses like TVF, Zoom Studios, and Dice Media has also contributed to the growth of regional cinema.
In addition to the shows mentioned, several other regional shows and movies have gained a massive following on OTT platforms. For instance, the Tamil-language movie Soorarai Pottru, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video in 2020, became one of the most-watched Indian movies on the platform. Similarly, the Telugu-language movie Middle Class Melodies, released on Amazon Prime Video in 2020, received critical acclaim and was widely appreciated by audiences.
Other regional shows that have gained popularity include Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors on Disney+ Hotstar, Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story on SonyLIV, and Paava Kadhaigal on Netflix. These shows have not only been successful in India but have also gained a global audience, putting Indian regional cinema on the map.
The success of these shows and movies has also highlighted the changing preferences of Indian audiences. Unlike the traditional Bollywood formula of masala movies with song-and-dance sequences, Indian audiences are now seeking out more nuanced and realistic content
Bollywood: Stuck in Old Ways
In contrast, Bollywood seems to be stuck in its old ways, relying on remixes and nepotism. Creativity and talent take a back seat while connections and remakes rule the roost. Every other song is a remix of some old classic, and music videos are just a bunch of good-looking people shaking their hips to a beat that’s been recycled a million times.
Time for a Makeover
Bollywood needs a makeover. It needs to get back to its roots and focus on creating original and meaningful content. It needs to give talented newcomers a fair chance instead of relying on the same old star kids. Otherwise, it may find itself left behind as regional cinema and OTT platforms continue to evolve and dominate the industry.
However, there is still hope for Bollywood. As regional cinema gains popularity and recognition, films like Bahubali and Sairat have shown that audiences are hungry for fresh and innovative content. It’s time for Bollywood to take a cue from regional cinema and start producing movies that are not only entertaining but also thought-provoking.
It’s time for Bollywood to wake up and smell the coffee. The industry needs to shed its old ways and embrace new and innovative ideas. It needs to give a fair chance to newcomers and promote original content. And most importantly, it needs to stop relying on remixes and start creating new and meaningful music. Only then can Bollywood reclaim its place as the land of dreams, where creativity and talent reign supreme.