Why do some Indians not watch Bollywood films

Bollywood - Indian cinema

Escape from everyday life

Many Indians are enthusiastic moviegoers. Around ten million people flock to the cinemas every day, even though prices often correspond to the daily wage of a normal worker. For this money, people expect one thing above all from film: it should entertain them for as long as possible and take them off into a more beautiful world.

The fact that some cinemas are still air-conditioned and that you can relax from the scorching heat in many parts of India is certainly a pleasant side effect for many.

The three-hour all-round free package

For generations, filmmakers have seen through the needs of Indian audiences and tried to meet them. A film culture has emerged that is very different from the western one.

The Indian audience has high expectations of the respective film: They want to see emotional scenes, action, drama, love scenes and tragedy and much of them also implemented in dance scenes.

These should make up at least 60 minutes of the entire film, which, by the way, should not be less than three hours long. The artistic parameters in which Indian directors work are tightly set.

Danced boredom?

At first glance, Indian films seem strange to western cinema-goers. You often experience the films as a disjointed potpourri of music and images. The length of the films is particularly striking. The epics of at least three hours turn into what feels like six hours for most untrained viewers.

The reason for this: the dramaturgy of the films does not reveal itself to the western viewer. He sees the film with expectations shaped by American mainstream films that are almost invitably disappointed.

The route is the goal

Western films work according to a clearly structured dramaturgy: the plot progresses continuously, comes to a head, the individual levels of action depend on their sequence or arise from one another. Particularly important for western film: the stringency of the plot. The viewer should constantly ask himself: "What happens next? What could result from what has just been seen?"

The Indians who tend to believe in fate watch their films in a much less targeted manner. In Indian cinema, the journey is the goal. Here the tension dramaturgy can briefly cease when the hero and heroine of the film sing and dance. The dance interludes should not necessarily advance the plot of the film, but stand as an attraction in themselves.

If, for example, an Indian producer finds that an action scene is still missing in his film, it is placed in a subplot that does not necessarily advance the main story or even has to do with it.

The difference between Indian and Western cinema culture becomes particularly clear in the dance scenes: Western film freaks proudly run countless websites with continuity errors that they have found in films.

One speaks of a continuity error, for example, when an actor leaves the living room with blue underpants and enters the bathroom with red ones in the next scene. Tracking down such inattentions on the part of the filmmakers has become a kind of popular sport for many film fans.

If one looks at Indian dance scenes against this background, it is noticeable that the Indian filmmakers do not place any value on a stringent visual logic. In the first scene the couple dances in green robes on the top of Mount Everest, a few seconds later they can be seen in blue dresses dancing around a tree in the Black Forest.

The Indian directors know: Indian viewers are not interested in continuity, they want to be enchanted. Many exclusive locations and beautiful disguises are more important to him than the logic of the scenes in the sequence.

Commercial cinema

Despite all the differences, American and Indian cinema have one thing in common: Each wants to appeal to as many potential moviegoers as possible in its own way in order to earn as much money as possible. And Indian producers can do that just as well as their American colleagues. Indian films are very successful in many parts of the world, for example in Asia, Africa or South America.

The domestic market has only been fully developed since the beginning of the 1990s. Since then, the large-scale mainstream films have been dubbed into many of India's 18 official languages. Until then, the films were only released in the Hindi version and only had a potential audience of around 400 million Hindi-speaking Indians.

The film music also plays a major role in the exploitation of the films. In the case of the big films, the soundtrack is released months in advance to promote the film. As soon as the film starts, the exploitation chain runs in the opposite direction: Now people buy the soundtrack because they saw the film.

If the title song of a blockbuster makes it to number one in the German charts in Germany or the USA, the Indian music market is dominated by soundtracks. The Indian top ten consist almost entirely of film music.

Author's cinema

Calcutta is considered to be the seat of Indian auteur cinema. The main difference between auteur cinema and mainstream Indian film is that it dispenses with epic dance performances and thus with a large audience and commercial success. The actions in auteur films remain, as in auteur cinema worldwide, closer to the daily life and problems of the Indians.

It is not uncommon for the strict Indian censorship to prohibit a film that is critical of the government. This cannot stop the triumphant advance of Indian auteur cinema: Whereas films without dance and music were considered unmarketable in India 20 years ago, the number of auteur films is increasing today, and they are also widely recognized at festivals in Western countries.