Bollywood, India’s gargantuan film industry, is known for its big-budget, colour-saturated musical numbers that are scattered through every movie. Dotted within each tale of star-crossed lovers, historical rivalries or family dramas is a surreal sequence where dozens of dancing extras enter the frame, characters burst spontaneously into song and locations shuttle from the Egyptian pyramids to the Swiss Alps, London streets or even space.
Yet, in recent years, this escapist function of Bollywood has been failing to capture its audience. The most expensive Bollywood film in 2018, the 19th-century action-drama Thugs of Hindostan, was made on a budget of 300 crore rupees (£32m) but took in only half that at the box office, with owners of some Indian cinemas demanding refunds.
Film-makers are increasingly turning away from spectacle and towards realist narratives, creating a burgeoning independent Indian cinema, with films such as Chaitanya Tamhane’s 2014 film Court focusing on India’s judicial system, Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan (2015), tackling the caste divide, and 2018’s Love Sonia telling the story of sex trafficking in India.
Read the feature in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 07/02/19]