Sutanu Guru, Executive Director, C Voter Research Foundation
Before the three part series on 75 years of independence talking about political, economic and civilisational freedom, the author had written two pieces on political and corporate dynasties and analysed why they were not performing very well in recent times. There was a promise of a third one on the bewildering and yet tantalising fate of Bollywood dynasties. So here it goes. While discussing political and corporate dynasties, the author had mentioned two specific things. The first was that dynasties remained successful as long as the inheritors focused on their core areas of work. The second trait of a successful dynastic inheritor was to remain grounded and stay connected with “customers”. In politics, chief minister of Tamil Nadu M. K. Stalin and to an extent deputy chief minister of Bihar Tejasvi Yadav are considered successful inheritors. Rahul Gandhi is considered to represent the other end of the spectrum. In corporate dynasties, two brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani are classic cases of success and failure.
What about Bollywood dynasties? Forget dynasties, Bollywood as a whole seems to be going through a terrible phase with big budget movies featuring dynastic as well as non-dynastic stars falling miserably at the box office. Amir Khan is one of the trio of super star Khans who have lorded it over Bollywood since 1988. Yet, he has delivered two spectacular disasters in the form of Thugs of Hindustan and Lal Singh Chaddha in recent years. The non dynastic star Akshay Kumar has failed to lure fans into move theatres with duds like Prithviraj Chauhan and Raksha Bandhanthis year. The biggest hit has been the extremely low budget The Kashmir Files that has no big stars. And of course, movies made in the south are becoming big blockbusters at the same time.
One thing is clear: many dynastic stars of Bollywood do appear totally disconnected with the likes and dislikes of ordinary Indians. They also appear arrogant and haughty. Respondents to calls of boycott made by some sections in the case of Lal Singh Chaddha, dynastic star Kareena Kapoor dared and taunted fans to not see her film. They obliged her in droves. Another dynastic star duo-whose movie Bramhaastra releases on September 9, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhat have also virtually mocked Bollywood fans who seem upset with them and peremptorily told them not to see their movie. We will know what happens to Bramhastra in a week, though it is hyped as the most expensive movie ever made in Bollywood and backed by another Bollywood dynast Karan Johar.
The other problem with Bollywood dynasts is that they are losing connect with their base of customers. Their main base of customers is Hindi speaking Indians. Yet, a large number of them now cannot even read Hindi and the movie scripts and dialogues have to be written in the Roman script for them. More importantly, as the massive shifts in the political arena have shown, the ordinary Indian citizen has changed dramatically in the 21st century, as has the ability of the elite classes to control and dominate the narrative. Take The Kashmir Files. The big critics of the film slammed it and many mocked it. And yet, it became a blockbuster. Unfortunately, not a single artiste or technical involved in such a huge success was invited to the annual Filmfare Awards ceremony that was organised recently. Just as in politics, the old feudal era where just a family surname triggered awe and admiration is gone for ever. And the ability of the elites to control the narrative though their control of mainstream media and academia too is gone forever.
That is because aspirational Indians now have access to social media. They have the “power” to now talk back to their stars via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The halo that surrounded the aura of Bollywood stars is gone. And what they speak on controversial issues is now amplified multiple times by social media. The big critics who write for mainstream media keep churning out their “ideologically suited” movie reviews. It makes no impact on the average movie going fan. One reviewer mocked the south movie Karthikeya-2 for having too many references to Lord Krishna. It has already collected far more money than the duds Lal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan. The more arrogant and disconnected the dynastic stars will appear, the more they will be rejected by the fans.
But finally, it is all about the quality of product or service you offer to your customer. In the case of Bollywood, would a middle class family spend almost Rs 2000 watching your movie in a multiplex if it can get better quality content at home through streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime? Till Bollywood finds honest answers tooth’s question, the so called dynasties will keep facing an existential crisis.
About the Author:
After his master’s degree in economics, Sutanu Guru has been a journalist for more than 30 years in media outlets like Times of India, Economic Times, Business Today, Business World, Business India & others. Currently, he focuses more on research and writing.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.