Indian Cinema…riding a change of sensibilities? (A slice from the cinema pie by Sherly Mathew, Strategic Planner, L&K Mumbai)

As young pseudo intellectuals waiting to join an advertising institute, we arrived with a certain aura around us. Living up to the stereotype – a weird dressing sense, self-created jargons, anthems of a different kind (read GMD and Sutta), gyan -  lots of gyan  and of course love for music and movies. And this is where we also took a good hard look at cinema.

Ah! but here comes the disclaimer (I know it should logically come in the beginning but then, logic main woh magic kahan)

I am no cinema expert with intelligent sounding views. I was just fortunate to be taught by a brilliant professor who asked us to explore World cinema while appreciating Indian cinema.  So what follows is my understanding/observation of what’s new and refreshing to see and be a part of in cinema (Bollywood in particular).

I have seen some brilliant films from across the world, but I am not here to talk on them.  I am still going to talk about Bollywood here. Why? I want to stand up to an oft repeated statement, “Cinema has progressed across the world but we Indians are stuck to formula entertainers, song and dance routines – the same old thing again and again!!”

I beg to differ and wish to talk about the new era that Bollywood is entering. We still have the boy meets girl rom-coms, the mindless entertainers… but then there are those one-off gems. Attempts made by a few to begin anew. Here are 3 cool transitions worth noting.

Did you see a change in Duration? Short and sweet!!

Gone are the days of 3 hours of love being lost and found between the same 2 protagonists, multiple times in the same movie. Stories are now narrated in 90 minutes flat minus the interval

Dus Kahaniyan – 10 stories, 6 directors, 24 actors

Spans love, intrigue, prejudices, joy, sorrow – all in one…


Dhobi Ghat – 4 stories of 4 different people

Linked to one another in an unusual manner. When it ends, it leaves you asking for more. Simple characters, simple stories that blow your mind away.


The time consuming song and dance routines are being either played as credits at the end of the movie or they are just allowed as a glimpse during the movie with the entire song played back separately on YouTube…

Did you see the Characters and their Relationships? Bolder themes!!

Once upon a time there was a boy – honest, good looking, an ace fighter, stylish, a great dancer, virtuous, disciplined, obedient, traditional, educated, a successful businessman and then there was the girl coy, beautiful, sexy, traditional, a great dancer, good at whatever she touched and then they met…oh did I mention they sang like nightingales…

So these were the unbelievable, larger than life characters that we grew up seeing, but ab kahani main twist hai!!

For starters, there is no longer just one hero, one heroine and a villain, the lines have blurred over time. There are simply multiple characters complete with shades of both light and dark…

The male protagonist is a spoilt brat living off his dad’s credit card and the female protagonist is one who shares a joint with her lover, arranges a private tryst with him and is unapologetic about her sexuality – Dev D

A gang of youngsters with twisted minds, from messed up families, trying to get through their existence by way of dope – Shaitan (new age protagonists?)

The best part??!! The audience is not tearing down posters and pooh poohing the impact on our culture, but instead they are lovin it !!

Did you see the nouveau style of storytelling

Stylized, stark colours, unconventional camera angles and new techniques – the new age directors are attempting new styles influenced by stalwarts like Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Boyle

-        The guerrilla style of cinematography (shot using hand held cameras) used in Dhobi Ghat

-        The still camera technique in Dev D

-        The chapter style (very Quentin Tarantino) used in quite a few movies nowadays like LSD, Dev D, etc.

-        Shaitan (who can forget this) – everything about this movie – the Khoya Khoya Chand remake – a musical montage, the car accident scene, the fast paced dark shots – giving a glimpse into the minds/moods of the characters is sheer brilliance !!

New genres are being explored and also being appreciated by the audiences. Like the noir genre or dark cinema, the hero is the anti – hero, every character has multiple shades, each one is morally ambiguous and the narrative is non – linear.

-        Johnny Gaddar starts with the last scene and then goes back and forth as the story unfolds, it uses dark colours, mostly red and the look is very Sin City.


I know I’ve just only begun. Am sure there is more to the world’s largest cinema production country. But I had a cut-off on words for this post. A sequel soon possibly!!

Also I’ve just skimmed the surface on Bollywood…am sure Kollywood is also taking great leaps and so is other regional cinema.

Would love to hear what you feel…has it really changed or is it just wishful thinking?!!

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  1. The Indian mainline cinema has matured and changed, no longer the running around trees and heavily choreographed song dance sequences.Now this should be attributed to the new group of writers and directors who have started to think out of the box.
    Loving it all!!

    • Thanks. I agree that the new blood coursing through the industry’s veins are definitely the ones who are at the forefront of this change – Anurag Kashyap being key

  2. Charles Victor |

    Nice observation! I do believe the Indian audience has evolved as well, along with the film making you’ve discussed here. I think the need to see the underbelly, the rough, the dark, has grown and directors, writers and cinematographers are delivering just that. Cinema is no longer only an escape but it’s also slowly becoming a mirror and I think the audience has played a large role in helping make that possible. I’m not sure I entirely like all the examples here but again, point well and relevantly made!

    • Thank You. Completely agree that cinema is now becoming a mirror…would love to hear the movies that you think are changing the scene…

  3. I am happy about this change. Now we have a wider range compared to the candy floss era. I don’t mean to say they were bad, but yeah the flourishing of this variety is great for Indian cinema and movie watchers.Now we can have more fantasies.

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