A film industry can give its best, both in the creastive as well as business areas only in times when the audiences from all sections of society are patronizing movies, at the cinema hall. however its been seen that after a golden period of creative activity some amount of commercialization takes place and affects quality, but as long as the audience is well represented by all classes (yes the class-mass theory is all bullshit, the disappearnece of any section from audiences affects the quality, and if the poor, so called masses disappear it causes greatest damage at the theme level) the quality cant go below a certain standard. like 50s was the golden period of bollywood but 60s saw rapid commercialization still till late 70s the quality of bollywood movies was very high as all three sections of society continued to patrobnize cinema. it was with the invasion of home video in the 80s that 1st saw the upper class viewer enjoying movies in their home and then the middle class followed suit over next 7-8 years and the ‘worst’ decade in bollywood history stared us in our faces.
actually what happens is that the lower class, the poor and the backward patronize movies that have some amount of ‘social justice’ theme and that ensures the at the core of the films are the biggest issues of the world, namely poverty and class conflict. on the other hand the uber-rich, ensure that the films have high aesthetic qualities. they may not be much bothered about social justice but their exposure to best of art, literature and socio political awareness is reflected in the type of movies they choose. the patronization of the middle class ensures that a certain moral strength, a value system (not in the technical sense but a broadbased one) is projected by these movies. i will give you some examples, not the exact accurate thesis but a random illustration.
1. mughal e azam – the theme of democarcy vs monarchy, so subtly ingrained in what was ostensibly a love story, was the contribution of the upper class audiences. so also the 1st class aesthetics.
rebellion aginst the powers that be, the uprising of the masses was the contribution of the fact that lower classes also patronized movies in those times.
baadshah akbar’s moral dilemma over keeping a promise made to a daai (nurse) and other such scnes were a reflection of middle class moral fabric.
2. mother india – the theme of a poeverty stricken poor village woman was becoz of the lower classes.
nargis shooting her own son as he tries to kidnap a ‘daughter of the village’ was the moral strentgh of the middle class.
again the beautiful aesthetics, the patronization of the classical raga based music and folk song, the vision of a modern progressive india conducive to survival of the smallest farmer (the opening scene had a dam inauguration) was the ‘political elite’s vision.
3. sholay – the glossy high end technical virtues, the western sensibilities were aimed at the upper classes.
the theme of dacoits menace finally being controlled by lawmakers in alliance with commoners (60s to 80s villages were terrorized by ‘daakus’) was off course an aspiration of the poor.
widow remarriage, freindship and other moral themes were more or less middle class values re-asserted.
i repeat these are very random observations.
now look at the 3 biggest films of the last 2 decades,
1. hum aapke hain kaun – though the story is of a rich industrial family, the aesthetics are very gaudy (green sarre with backless blouse et al). also there is no theme of social justice, gender issues or any serious theme. the reason being by that time the poor were slowly being edged out of the theaters and middle class was taking over. however the process was not complete and that ensured that at least the ‘cultural’ agenda of the ‘hoi-polloi’ found some resonance in the film.
2. dilwaale dulhaniya le jaayenge – same lack of social causes and aesthetics as hahk, just slightly higher ‘brand positioning’ resulting in even more narrow focussed cultural ideas.
3. 3 idiots – extremely urban middle class oriented where a guy not being able to pursue wildlife photography is seen as the biggets tragedy (u are supposed to cry and ppl DID cry wen madhavan’s father gifts him a camera). kareenas pink saree and zoobi doobi song displays the lack of aesthetics.
similarly in the 80s when both the upper and the middle class had deserted cinemas both moral and aesthtic values just disappered from movies (sunny deol would smooch and slap the heroine in every film to ‘tame’ her) though the rich vs poor issue was there, its handling was sans any imagination and creativity.
but off late all the three classes seem to have begun to patronise movies again. there are very high end cinemas with ticket rates upto 1000 rs while some single screen cinemas in the interiors have tickets priced at 20 rs (yes till date). this cud result in a very ‘fragmented mandate’ for the filmamker resulting in 3 idiots/rockstar/delhi belly VS Dabangg/bodyguard/singham/agnipath kind of filmmaking. However to get the ‘volume’ of sales as well as the niche audineces filmamkers might just start making again the kind of films that cater to all three sections of the socity and that may just mean the return of golden age.
I WOULD SAY AMEN TO THAT!