What do movies like Pathaan, Jawaan, Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, Gadar and Animal have in common? They were all smashing blockbuster hits in 2023. What else? They portrayed tons of hypermasculine rage, overly-dramatic narratives and intense, action-packed sequences – everything that currently sells in Bollywood—a formula for a blockbuster hit.
When The Archies, directed by Zoya Akhtar, hit Netflix this month, people were quick enough to point out the mediocre acting skills of some of the new actors in its cast, who also happen to be star kids. Amid the criticism, a sweet story of a small-town park that needed to be saved from big contractors was lost. But it also helped some re-discover the innocence of feel-good movies that have been missing from Hindi cinema for quite some time.
The Hindi film industry, while reaping commercial success from action-packed narratives, is overlooking the profound impact that simple, heartwarming stories can have on the audience. While there are still some family-based drama that get love from the audience (such as Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani), they are not without their fair share of melodramatic sequences and over-the-top dialogues.
The Dominance of Hypermasculinity
Recent Bollywood blockbusters have been marked by an overwhelming display of hypermasculinity, characterised by aggressive protagonists, intense physical confrontations, and a celebration of stoic toughness.
While these films enjoy commercial success, there is a risk of perpetuating harmful stereotypes and limiting the scope of diverse storytelling. For instance, in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal, Ranbir Kapoor’s character, Vijay, is filled with intense rage that drives his unjust actions, from murder and violence to provocative sexism.
While Animal may spark discussions, it falls short of delivering the substance necessary for a lasting impact. The film’s journey into shock value and superficiality, coupled with a meandering plot, creates a 3-and-a-half-hour spectacle that grapples with engaging the audience beyond the midway point.
The industry seems to have veered away from the subtleties of emotion and relatability that define feel-good cinema.
The Archies: A Testament to Simplicity
The Archies, a timeless animated series based on Archie Comics, serves as a poignant example of the art of simplicity. The charming narratives of Archie Andrews and his friends in the fictional town of Riverdale resonate with audiences, reminding us that complexity is not always necessary to create memorable content.
The story is simple – save Riverdale’s iconic Green Park from greedy contractors who want to build a grand hotel, threatening the beloved park that holds a special place in the residents’ hearts.
In the midst of hypermasculine narratives dominating the silver screen, Bollywood could benefit from a return to the basics of storytelling that evoke genuine emotion and connection in viewers.
The Missing Feel-Good Element in Bollywood
Remember movies like Dear Zindagi, Dil Chahta Hai, Kapoor & Sons, Queen, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Wake Up Sid, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Jab We Met? We loved them and still do. These also happen to be some widely-recommended movies to re-watch, and for good reason.
Films featuring characters that bring a smile to your face and music that prompts you to hum along have consistently held a special place in the hearts of cinephiles. Whether it’s romance, comedy, timeless classics, coming-of-age stories, or contemporary hits, the world of Hindi cinema has always offered something for everyone. And we need more of it!
The Allure of Hollywood Feel-Good Movies in India
Movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life, The Devil Wears Prada, As Good As It Gets, La La Land, Pretty Woman and Bridget Jones’s Diary, among numerous other Christmas and Holiday movies have found a special place in the hearts of Indian audiences.
These films offer a perfect blend of entertainment and meaningful storytelling, providing a refreshing departure from the intense narratives that dominate Bollywood today. The popularity of Hollywood feel-good movies in India highlights the universal appeal of stories that focus on the human experience and leave viewers with a sense of upliftment.
Balancing the Scales
While hypermasculinity and rage may continue to draw crowds to theatres, it is crucial for Bollywood to recognise the value of feel-good cinema. The industry can strike a balance by diversifying its offerings, embracing narratives celebrating the beauty of human connections and the triumph of the human spirit. Movies like Dil Chahta Hai and Lage Raho Munna Bhai have demonstrated that feel-good cinema can resonate with audiences and leave a lasting impact.
In this age of hypermasculinity and rage dominating the Bollywood landscape, there is a pressing need to rediscover the lost art of making feel-good cinema. The classics stand as testament to the enduring power of simplicity and heartwarming storytelling.
By embracing a more balanced approach, Bollywood can create a cinematic experience that caters to diverse tastes, offering audiences not only the thrill of intense action but also the joy of relatable, feel-good narratives that stand the test of time.
It’s time for the industry to recognise that a movie’s essence can be just as impactful as its action sequences, and a well-told, heartwarming story can leave an indelible mark on viewers’ hearts.