Pushpa to Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2—Covid has altered Indian entertainment buds, masala movies are back


JThe long-awaited announcement of Shah Rukh Khan’s 2023 release Jawan, directed by Atlee Kumar, adds to a growing list of ‘larger than life’ action artists who have recently started appearing on the big screen. in India as the pandemic subsides. This year’s releases, such as RRR, KGF 2, Spider-Man: No Coming Home, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and last year’s Pushpaand their box office success tell us that the era of action-filled fantasy and ‘masala’ the movies are back. The filmmakers are simply choosing the clue that audiences have left them in the post-Covid world – they want to enjoy fantastic, escapist cinema that allows them to forget about reality for a while. Serious and thematic cinema is now limited to OTT platforms.

The entertainment industry across the world went through a dark phase during Covid when movie theaters were closed and lockdown was imposed for months at a stretch. And now, when the movies are back on the big screen, audiences seem to have their priorities sorted.

Subject-rich films with a social message, like Jayeshbhai Jordaar this year, Hurdangand Anek—did not capture people’s interest. Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 approaching a 150 crore collection, while Anekan Anubhav Sinha-Ayushman film (another was Section 15 which was released in 2021), struggles to get even closer to its budget. This indicates that in the post-Covid era, only larger-than-life films have the ability to draw people into theaters.

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Big screen for “big action”

With increased reach and access to OTT platforms, great content is just a click away. In such a scenario, if one has to spend over a thousand dollars to go out to the cinema to watch a movie, one better have the entertainment quotient – that seems to be the growing awareness among moviegoers. The gloom that took over during and after Covid could also have a role to play. People are interested in watching movies that can take them away from reality for a few hours – movies that are heavily charged with a sense of victory and glory.

But that doesn’t mean content isn’t “king” anymore. Thematic and light-hearted movies and series are doing well on OTT platforms—Panchayat Season 2, Modern Love: Bombayand Gullak are a few.

Cinema was an escape from reality in India when it was commercial, masala the movies were doing well. Trends started to change when movies like Massan (2015), Piku (2015), Newton (2017) and Padman (2018) created buzz, and even the low-budget films received strong box office returns. But with the advent of multiple OTT platforms, the tide has turned again – the next few days are going to be ruled by larger than life cinema. Even top filmmakers are taking their big-budget films to OTT. Dharma Production Gehraiyaan (2022) is an example: the film Shakun Batra was released on Amazon Prime and was a hit with audiences. 83 (2022), which could not be called “commercially successful”, was later seen and enjoyed on OTT platforms. Buzz is that after the box office failure of Kangana Ranaut-starring Dhaakad (2022), the actor’s next film—Tejas—can be published on an OTT platform.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)


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