Media has always been a means of bringing pertinent issues to the forefront, thus influencing public sentiment. Films, in particular, have the power to capture the attention of the audience, offering them imagination as well as insight. However, while the film industry has been reckoned as India’s soft power due to its capacity to entertain and educate, it has simultaneously become a soft target for trolls as well as vicious attackers.
The Crisis of Boycotts
It has become a common practice to call for the boycott of films before they are released, frequently based on baseless arguments. Sometimes we see celebrities being harassed for their appearance, while at other times, “hurt sentiments” lead to taking offence at trivial things. A cursory glance at some of the latest Bollywood releases shows that the reasons for the boycott can range from petty to vile to downright comical.
The hashtag #BoycottBollywood is most likely related to the negative press the business has received in recent years, which peaked in the wake of claims of debauchery and nepotism in Bollywood. Examples can be seen in the form of the poor reception of movies such as ‘Laal Singh Chadha’, even as movies from down south continue to be received well.
Is Bollywood Still Somehow Relevant?
Believe it or not, it is. The Hindi film industry has impacted not only the culture but also the economy of our country. As the biggest entertainment sector in India, Bollywood has long had an impact on society and culture; many of the country’s musical, dancing, wedding, and fashion trends are derived directly from Bollywood. Undoubtedly, Bollywood is to blame for our unrealistic expectations of college life (looking at you, Karan Johar!)
On a serious note, Bollywood has proven to be a reflection of our national identity, bringing stories from various parts of the country to the big screen, no matter how untasteful the adaptation may be. And while Bollywood has generated several stereotypical portraits of our country, it has also helped to showcase India as a land beyond snake charmers and bullock carts to a global audience.
Bollywood, in its own right, is a successful Indian business contributing 40% of India’s income. Unquestionably one of India’s biggest industries, it is also magnificent and dazzling. The yearly growth rate of the industry, which ranges between 10% and 20%, is also surprisingly high. According to several analysts, Bollywood is the second most crucial sector for India’s economic growth.
The Flipside to the Power of Media
Media and means of mass communication have proven to be a double-edged sword, as these tend to influence public opinion in unprecedented ways. The internet especially gives people to break all norms of civility through the mask of anonymity.
Anyone who has ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed now has the ability to express their dissatisfaction on social media or launch a hashtag campaign. They feel more empowered to sway public opinion and advance their cause as a result. Many members of the public continue to be unaware of these tactics or consciously choose not to be. It might be difficult to distinguish trolls and bots from regular users among all the social media users.
Are Boycotts the only Problem?
Beyond boycotts and the expansion of the South Indian film industry, there are many other problems with Hindi films. The problem is that, with a few notable exceptions, Bollywood has been producing absolute garbage as mainstream movies for years, even decades. Unfortunately, the biggest Bollywood artists haven’t grasped the necessity of abandoning their glory days when toxic romances and problematic characters were wholeheartedly accepted by moviegoers.
It’s not like the average Indian cinemagoer has overnight developed a refined palate, however, due to the sheer availability of content options available through OTTs, we demand much more than melodramatic storylines, lackluster dialogues, and over-the-top action sequences.
That being said, it is important for the audience to use their intelligence and judgement faculty in order to adjudge a movie as good or bad, instead of relying on manufactured mass opinion.
K. R. Swathi is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Maria Aqdas