We cannot really generalise and state that the youth prefer realistic films over escapist ones or vice versa. Having said that, I think they are definitely more open to experimental cinema and likely to watch an edgy film like Ugly or Udaan, over a film which is more formula driven or escapist, say a Kick or a Happy New Year. The reason is simple—the youth are attracted towards cinema which is more real, and something which they can connect to. The times are changing now. Gone are the days when going to the movies meant a family outing.
If at one time the youth were weaned on Yash Raj Films, today it’s directors like Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Dibakar Banerjee who are making realistic films, and drawing the young to a different kind of cinema.
Over the years, the style of cinema viewing too has changed. When it comes to the youth, they use cinema as currency, which means that most of the conversations revolve around it. The youth are more receptive of a film which reflects what they feel about life, because they empathise with characters who have flaws and shortcomings in them. Also, the concept of the hero and the heroine are changing— they are no longer the larger-than-life characters that they played earlier in films; the perfect know-it-all. Today, even the lead actor has grey shades to their character. With the advent of multiplexes, the urban youth accepted films like Shaitan and Delhi Belly, something that would not have been possible 10 years ago.
Bollywood movies were derided because of their content. The youth felt that it was not stylish to watch Hindi films. But with changing content of our movies, they are very happy and proud to watch good, meaningful Hindi cinema. The gap is narrowing now, and with new age cinema, the youth is getting a chance to watch cinema that they like.
They are attracted to realistic cinema as it gives them a chance to express themselves. If I’m a person who prefers alternative cinema, then I’m not bereft of finding entertainment in India. There are films from my own country which are worth a watch. I don’t necessarily have to watch French or Swedish cinema to figure out what reality could be. They are proud of the fact that even India is capable of producing world class cinema. Bollywood has ceased to being synonymous with just the song and dance routine.
I do not agree with the perception that realistic films have a negative influence on the youth and encourage them to vices like smoking and doing drugs. It’s a fallacy to state that edgy and dark films ‘change’ mindsets. The behaviour of the protagonist might inspire or influence people, but they certainly are not catalystic to major changes in their lives. Take the no smoking disclaimers in films. I don’t see how putting them is going to discourage the youth to smoke. The thing with realistic cinema is that there is no fantasy. When everything is a portrayal of reality, it means that it’s already prevalent. Where is the scope then to ‘change’ or influence?
It doesn’t mean that escapist cinema shouldn’t be made. We are now in a happy space where cinema has become more embracing and spares a thought to youngsters who don’t want to watch masala entertainers. Scripts don’t have to be compromised anymore. It’s all because somewhere now, the system is more inclusive of youngsters who want alternative cinema. With the line between realism and popularity blurring fast, I believe this trend is definitely here to stay.
— As told to Siddhi Pathak