Bollywood is plot-bankrupt, while stories rot in bookstores

For the past few years, my daughter and I have been going for movies almost every  weekend. Apart from popcorn, pepsi and pizza, it is also our own little bonding time. We would intentionally choose a theatre reasonably far from home. The drive back home, the fight over the silly millennial songs vs Hindi music,  late night coffee (if we made it to a Starbucks before closing time) was all part of the fun. We would watch all kinds of movies…. the good, the bad, the horrible… all of them. The fun of the outing, kind of overshadowed the movie. Even though we would normally pick Bollywood over Hollywood, the movie in itself never mattered much. Well for better part of the last few years this was the way it was.

Of late, things have changed. The movies have started taking the ‘fun’ out of our outings.

A few months back we watched Dear Zindagi. Then Raees.  And then came Naam Shabana. Then Phillauri…Then TubeLight…just to name a few.  And in the last one week – Mubarakan, Dunkirk and Jab Harry Met Sejal.

I haven’t walked out on a movie in a long long time. When I watched Phillauri, I wanted to, but I controlled the urge and stayed back till the end. But Tubelight…. Well I couldn’t take it. I walked out of the  movie hall just after the interval.  You can ask me why I walked out after the interval and not during the interval. Would have been a logical break. Well the reason was simple. We ordered pizza during the interval. And the pizza took time in coming. So we sat there, enjoyed our pizza and then exited the theatre. Salman Khans histrionics (or lack of it) got to us.

Last night, the familiar feeling was back. Well into the second half of Jab Harry Met Sejal, SRK asks Anushka…”Tired?” At that moment, I almost felt like standing up and responding … “YES. Very!” Something kind of gave me the feeling that all the people in the audience felt the same.

When I sit back and try to analyse what’s going wrong, two words stare at me – STORY and RESEARCH.

In recent times, most movies coming out of bollywood have either been a rehash of the age old plots or they don’t have a plot. Weak characterisation clinging on to a wafer thin plot cannot make entertaining cinema irrespective of who the lead is. Or is it that if you have a SRK or Salman in a movie, the plot does not matter? Audience tastes are changing. People prefer to watch taut plots, made in a slick fashion. Two hour thirty minute movies are passe. Just because you have SRK in a Jab Harry Met Sejal, you can’t pass off a 90 minute documentary as a 150 minute full length feature. As far as Tubelight is concerned, Well. Come on! I don’t even want to waste  a minute of my time writing about it.

And research. Well they have a word for lack of research these days. It is called creative licence. Well creative license is fine, as long as you don’t show a 30 year old woman, going to a cafe in a god forsaken country to hunt for a ring she lost, god only knows when. Not once in the movie did they feel it necessary to call the places they went to and check if the ring was found there. Not only that, they even show the lead protagonists visiting cafe after cafe, going down on their knees and hunting for the ring. As if it would be lying there waiting for SRK and Anushka to come and pick it up.  Isn’t that an insult to the audience’s intelligence.  They also have a crazy interlude with a villain called GAS (how creative?) in Portugal. And why did they need him in the movie? Just because Imtiaz Ali needed an excuse for Sejal to empty her bag and find the ring in it. Well couldn’t you have found a nicer and better way to do that. And you have the entire SRK – GAS interaction that supposedly happens in Portugal, shot not in Portugal but in the Taj Tea House (St John Baptist Marg) in Bandra, Mumbai. Come one guys! don’t take the audience for a ride. Yes SRK looks great, the dimples adorable, the heroine is a terrific actress… but then no story, no research and no chemistry. You might still get to a 200 crore topline, but that does not say anything about the movie which was complete trash – remember even Dhoom3 grossed over 300 crores.

Well, it is not like I have never watched mindless films. I used to be a big fan of Govinda movies. And I loved them because when I went to watch them, I went prepared. I left all the logic back in my car, before I walked into the theatre.  But when movies pretend they are intelligent and end up being crappy, it hurts. Makes you angry.

Why can’t Bollywood innovate? While Amir Khan has done duds too, his movies largely stand out compared to the others because of the plots and impeccable research.

Our film industry seriously seems to have gone bankrupt as far as plots are concerned. If story/plot is really where the buck stops, then why don’t our film makers look at books. When we have so many authors in this country writing brilliant books, plot fabulous stories – some which sell some which don’t – why can’t film makers pick up those books and turn them into movies. You will definitely end up making films which look, sound and feel better than the ones I named above. It is ironical that there is an ocean of wealth available, but the filmmakers won’t adapt them, but make idiotic films instead.

Films truly need a reboot.  Let me ask you a simple question – how long back was the last original Bollywood thriller that you watched. I am sure it will be difficult for you to answer. If anyone of you says “Drishyam”…. well Drishyam was a remake of a Malayalam film by the same name, which was inspired (loosely though) by Devotion of Suspect X ( A book by Keigo Higashino). A good number of Hollywood movies these days are adaptation of books. Why not in Bollywood? Time to introspect.

In India we have so many stories / authors ( across multiple languages), that it can feed generations of film makers and movie goers. But its a bit like the wealth hidden in the underground vaults of the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The wealth there is in excess of USD 20 Billion dollars, but it has no developmental use unless the government figures out a way to use it. Similarly all our stories and story telling capabilities built over generations are useless, if no one wants to bring them out and give them a wider canvas.

If film makers continue to remain agnostic to book adaptations, films like Jab Harry Met Sejal and Tubelight will continue to be made while what could have been excellent film scripts, will continue to gather dust on some remote shelf in the bookstores.


Note : While things are changing on this front… the pace needs to be frantic compared to the current pace of adaptations. There are truckloads of stories waiting in the wings.

Read my latest thriller : IN THE NAME OF GOD … click to order 



2 replies »

  1. Really, I too wonder many times when there are so many wonderful and thrilling stories written by such wonderful Indian writers, why don’t Indian filmmakers adapt those stories and make movies. Why to copy from foreign movies? And it seems that for Bollywood it is only Chetan Bhagat when it comes to making movies from books. All your thrillers along with Ashwin Sanghi’s books and some other books I have read can turn into awesome movies.


  2. So true , Ravi. You have a point. I am a bollywoodaddict myself and enjoy watching movies almost every weekend. Tubelight was horrible. Jab Harry Met Sejal had no plot or story.
    I am eagerly waiting for movie based on your Novel – The Bestseller she wrote. I enjoyed reading your book so much . Alas, that magic is missing from big screen. Other movie which is based on Chetan Bhagat book , i enjoyed watching was 2 States. Though never read his books, but movie and music both was good 🙂
    Why dont you make more friends in bollywood 🙂 so that your stories reach to wider audience and we will get to see some good Cinema.


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