Hindi-Hindie: The Emergence of Independent Films

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For years there have been big budget commercial Bollywood blockbusters that have garnered attention and praise from moviegoers and critics alike, yet in the past few years, there seems to be a steady shift toward what was once considered against the grain. Lately the Indian film industry has seen the emergence of the ‘Hindie’ film, a term that has been created by the Toronto International Film Festival director Mr. Cameron Bailey, using it to describe Hindi films that are low on budget, low on stars.

Box office collections from projects from some of the biggest production houses and names in Bollywood cinema have proven that gloss and glamour are sometimes not enough to get the cash registers ringing. In fact, the silver lining for Bollywood has been a new crop of independently produced films, directed by new names with casts consisting of fresh faces. Perhaps the Bollywood audiences are getting tired of the same dolled-up faces we have been seeing for years? There is something to be said for this new wave of films as they have garnered a lot of money, attention and praise and allowed Bollywood cinema to explore new avenues in terms of narrative devices and story telling. Kaminey had big names attached to it, yet it explored a topic with a very rustic and complicated
story telling method. Unlike past Bollywood films that feed the audience a linear tale of love, Kaminey was an example of how a Bollywood film could deliver its narrative to an audience using a different method, by engaging the viewer and making them think, work hard to make the connections and take from it what they would. Not many filmmakers have the confidence to make a film like Kaminey today, afraid that the aam junta would not adhere to complex and rare forms of storytelling. Yet Kaminey worked and many other films like it have as well.

Dhobi Ghat, the most recent film considered a Hindi-Hindie film, looks into the city life of Mumbai with minimal glamour and maximum content. Although the film has big names associated with it, such as Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, the film embarks on a new path, one set by predecessors nonetheless, but one that carves a new niche for films of its kind. Bollywood lovers are accustomed to illogical and quirky narratives, which are relayed in over the top and colorful Bollywood fashion, yet Dhobi Ghat just becomes the most recent example of a complex narrative with simple characters and simple intentions.

Dhobi Ghat is an up close and intimate look into the different layers of the city of Mumbai and the interaction between various members of society, all from different walks of life, different castes. The film was shot in “guerilla style” with location in some of the busiest and high traffic areas of Mumbai in an effort to capture the deep and realistic elements of everyday life.

Along with Dhobi Ghat are films like Love, Sex aur Dhokha, Phaas Gaya Re Obama, Jaane Kyun and Udaan all of which have received tremendous popular and critical acclaim. Udaan was probably the most successful Hindie film we have seen recently as it swept away many popular awards during the award season. But what is it about these films that make them so successful when at first, considering their low budgets and lack of celebrity, the odds are against them? Perhaps it is the realistic approach on life that is appealing. After all, the realistic approach of these films and the many other Hindie films emerging is to comment on and pull apart daily life, something every moviegoer can relate to. While lavish dance sequences and fantastical moments are a pleasure to the eyes, Hindie films aim to please the soul, where dark, and unfortunate realities are explored in order to provoke thoughts, actions and ideas while still providing viewers with an experience worthy of their dollar.

Let’s get more specific; if mainstream Bollywood cinema is beginning to explore more realistic aspects of life, then what is the line that divides mainstream Bollywood cinema and Hindie (once termed art house) films? As the years go on, it seems there no longer is a divide as it blurs into non-existence, however, the Bollywood film fraternity is always keen on labels and categorization, so the two still exist as polar opposites, on one side we have mainstream Bollywood cinema and on the other we have Hindie films, what is dividing them you ask? In my opinion, what divides them is their budget and I feel that this is an acknowledged reality within the Indian film industry.

Budgets seem to be the most important aspect of films these days, sometimes I even wonder if filmmakers write scripts and consider them based on their budgets alone. Money is such an important issue and with stars demanding crores and film sets getting more lavish by the second, the budgets seems to be the main priority. I believe this is what makes a Hindie film a Hindie film when looking at things technically. Films are films, art is art, but with commercial cinema taking leaps with script writing and content, films such as Kaminey and Saat Khoon Maaf as well as Raajneeti can be termed Hindie films with commercial budgets. The dividing line seems to only exist when dicussing financial matters and as filmmakers and script writers continue to explore the depths of filmmaking, the content of films to come will only evolve and continue to get better.

Of course this debate will continue to exist, but when looking at the way films are made today, art seems to be appreciated in all forms, especially with a high price tag attached to it!

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