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Madhur Bhandarkar urges Bollywood to not make remakes, reveals why declining footfalls in theatres worry him

Ahead of his latest release India Lockdown, Madhur Bhandarkar shares his two cents on why films are failing at the box office and whether OTT will take over cinemas.

madhur bhandarkarMadhur Bhandarkar's India Lockdown will stream on ZEE5.

After giving films like Chandni Bar, Page 3, Heroine and Fashion, Madhur Bhandarkar will now revisit the horrors of Covid-19 with his latest film India Lockdown. Calling it his quest to document the coronavirus-induced lockdown, the filmmaker shared that he decided to work on the film when the nation went into its first lockdown. The ZEE5 movie stars Prateik Babbar, Shweta Basu Prasad, Ahana Kumra, and Prakash Belawadi in pivotal roles. In a chat with indianexpress.com, Bhandarkar spoke about how he developed the idea for India Lockdown, and also the pandemic’s aftermath in the industry.

The filmmaker shared that while he was confined at home, he decided to work on a film around the lockdown. He called up his writers and shared the ideas he had jotted down, and started creating the storyboard. “We zeroed upon the migrant workers, that was a heart-wrenching visual that stunned us all. Then we picked a sex worker, a pilot who is asked to stay at home for the first time and of course, a father who cannot travel to meet his pregnant daughter. All these actors said yes to the film even though I was working on a shoestring budget. When we started filming, everything had opened up but we were cautious. We had a good run and then the second wave kicked in but we managed it somehow,” he shared.

While the pandemic took away lives and livelihood, for film lovers, it has changed their viewing habits. Footfalls at theatres have declined and people are more inclined towards watching content at their homes via OTT platforms. Stating that it is a temporary phase, Madhur Bhandarkar said, “The industry is slightly on the flip side but I think the time will pass. Also, I think it’s time we introspect as there haven’t been too many good movies this year. We have to come together and think as an industry.”

Bhandarkar added that people are now used to watching varied content in all languages. His friends, who are otherwise not film buffs, have also been suggesting foreign series and films . Thus, the director feels Bollywood needs to stop making remakes, as he shared, “We can already watch content in that language with subtitles, or there are dubbed versions available. A lot of people often feel that yeh film toh dekh chuke hai, wapas theatre kyu jaye. Personally, I believe we should only make original content. All these years, I have never done it. I have not even been inspired by foreign films, only by real stories and people. I think with good writers around, the content will work.”

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Bhandarkar further said that the magic of cinema will never go away, as that experience can never be matched. The director added that with time, the mediums will co-exist but never replace each other. He mentioned that the setback is not just in India but it is a global phenomenon as people have gotten comfortable watching content in their own sweet time and place. Recalling an incident when he was traveling on a flight, he was shocked to see a huge number of passengers watching films downloaded for the transit.

“I felt like a Madhur Bhandarkar festival was happening on that flight. So many people came up to me saying I am watching your films. People now watch on the go or download it specifically. All said and done, the love for cinema will always remain. This is just a slump,” the filmmaker shared.

The three-time National Award winner, however, added that worries him is now a lot of people say they want to go and watch big-budgeted films. “They want to watch a 300-400 crore film and experience a magnum opus. But tell me, how many can make such films? I am a content-driven filmmaker and work on small or midsize budgets. So yes, it is a worrying fact.”

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On a final note, Madhur Bhandarkar shared that OTT has helped him find a new audience. The director recently released Babli Bouncer on Disney Plus Hotstar, and it found takers. Talking about the same, he said, “It did so well. Also, grandparents or the elderly in homes, who were not comfortable going to the theatre are now watching films. They are my audience too, who are watching my films. So, I will reiterate what I said, ‘If you have good content, people will watch it.’”

Starting December 2, India Lockdown will stream on ZEE5.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 20:23 IST
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