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Horror, Rom-Coms, Masala Entertainers: A Look At The Dying Genres Of Bollywood


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Back in the mid-’90s, Shah Rukh Khan, who was a few years old in the Hindi film industry with acclaimed thrillers like Darr, Baazigar and slice of life films like Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, rose to superstardom with the romantic comedy Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. And after that, there was no looking back for him. 

Post-'00s, with the advent of multiplexes, Saif Ali Khan hopped on the rom-com bandwagon and established himself as a successful solo lead star with films like Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste etc. 

Hum Tum Movie © Yash Raj Films

A few years later, Imran Khan carried the torch further with films like Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na, I Hate Luv Storys, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu etc.  

However, in recent years, the whole genre of feel-good romantic comedies has taken a huge hit.  

Sure, there have been successful films like Bareilly Ki Barfi, Luka Chuppi but they are few and far in between.  

The same can be said about the horror genre that had become mainstream in the ‘90s with films like Ram Gopal Varma’s Raat and rocked the box office post-'00s with films like Raaz, Bhoot etc. 

But in recent years, a decent horror film, let alone a mainstream one, is difficult to come across. 

Raaz movie © Vishesh Films

I think the life of a horror film completed a full circle in Bollywood with the Raaz franchise. It was with the 2002 release Raaz, a big blockbuster at the box office, that the horror got into the mainstream and peaked with Raaz 3D (2013) that remains the highest-grossing film in the genre. 

Unfortunately, the huge failure of Raaz Reboot (2016) marked the end of Bollywood investing in a mainstream horror film. Around the same time as Raaz Reboot, there were also other big disasters in the genre like 1921 (2018), 1920 London (2016) and Amavas (2019). 

As for the mainstream horror film backed by a big banner and starring a popular actor, there was only Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship (2020). The film failed critically and commercially. So, I doubt there will be a part two. 

In recent times, there have been a few niche horror films like Bulbbul, Kaali Khuhi and Chhori. These films did receive critical acclaim but the magic that the genre once created among the audience was missing. 

Bollywood is also struggling with getting the comedy genre right in recent years. The last great and I mean an actually funny comedy film was probably Welcome in 2007 or Singh is Kinng up to an extent in 2008. 

Welcome movie © Base Industries Groups

Since then, even someone like Priyadarshan struggled and delivered underwhelming comic capers like Khatta Meetha and De Dana Dan. He made a comeback last year with Hungama 2 and what an atrocity it was in the name of a comedy film. 

As for other filmmakers who aced the genre, David Dhawan is only busy doing (terrible yet successful) remakes of his own cult hits and Anees Bazmee too hasn’t had a success in the genre in recent years. Indra Kumar recently found his footing back with the somewhat funny but forgettable Total Dhamaal. 

Amongst the recent big successes in comedies, there is the Golmaal and the Housefull franchise. While Rohit Shetty is still holding the fort with the Ajay Devgn-Arshad Warsi-led franchise, the less I say about the Housefull franchise is better. Did you see Housefull 4? Would you term it a comedy? 

Having said that, a few decent comedies in recent times include Lootcase, Good Newwz, Mubarakan etc. 

There is also the genre of adult comedies that died a brutal death with the disastrous results of noted *** comedy franchises like Masti and Kya Kool Hai Hum. The last three mainstream films in the genre were Great Grand Masti, Kya Kool Hai Hum 3 and Mastizaade. All three of them were huge flops.

Sure, Masti (2004) and Kya Kool Hai Hum (2005) were entertaining first films in their respective franchises but all we got were crudeness and vulgarity in the name of adult humour. This is one genre I don't mind not seeing anymore in Bollywood. Unless they make it like Hunterrr (2015), which is a perfect example of an adult comedy done right.

Now, coming to the genre of masala entertainers, recently, the Telugu film Pushpa: The Rise wreaked havoc in the Hindi circuits with its dubbed version. 

Pushpa movie © Mythri Movie Makers

The success of Pushpa should be turned into a case study for most of the Bollywood filmmakers who, for some reason, were of the belief that audiences have moved beyond masala entertainers and want to see realism in cinema. 

One of the reasons Pushpa worked so well with the audience is that it was targeted towards the audience of tier 2 and 3 cities. It seemed like an ode to the Hindi cinema of the ‘70s starring Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha. 

Muqaddar Ka Sikandar movie © Prakash Mehra Productions

Whereas Bollywood, in the last few years, looked down on that cinema and decided to stay away from it. The last good masala entertainer to come out of Bollywood was probably Shah Rukh Khan starrer Chennai Express or Akshay Kumar starrer Rowdy Rathore. 

Post that, there have been a few shoddy attempts at the genre like Satyameva Jayate 2, Dabangg 3 but it’s not the same. Even in the zone of masala entertainers, the industry seems to be looking towards Hollywood in terms of treatment than its own such films of yore. 

Having said that, after the success of Pushpa, there is some hope from the upcoming Akshay Kumar starrer Bachchan Pandey. If that film works, there will be a slew of such films that will cater to the tier 2 and 3 cities audience. 

Bachchan Pandey © Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment

As much as a few studios, filmmakers and even media houses would like to look down upon a horror or a masala genre, the truth is there is a huge audience for such films that the Hindi film industry stopped tapping into. That’s where a film like Pushpa or KGF came into the picture and captured that market.

I think it’s high time we move away from doing just remakes, social dramas/comedies or biopics and own the massy genres that we once aced. 

Bhoot Movie © Nitin Manmohan

Also, not everything needs to have a social message. Sometimes all one wants to watch is a feel-good, light-hearted, frivolous rom-com like Hum Tum or I Hate Luv Storys.


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