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Why Don’t Bollywood and Noir Mix?

Why Dont Bollywood and Noir Mix

When Thanos snapped his fingers and half the people in the world disappeared, I was euphoric.

I was never a keen follower of Marvel’s Avengers Universe. I watched a few films here and there, but never religiously made any effort to keep up with the franchise. When Infinity War came out in 2018, I had no interest in going.

A few days after the film’s release, I stumbled upon a subreddit discussing spoilers. You could imagine my surprise when I learned Disney had done the unthinkable.

They had let a murdering sociopath/visionary do his job.

Remember Disney is a name synonymous with happiness and nothing remotely edgy. After reading these spoilers, I decided to book a ticket and watch the spectacle. I couldn’t miss out on a global conglomerate making a mockery out of the only American ideal that matters – winning.

My heart skipped a beat when the beautiful purple-skinned conqueror met his destiny.

Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War

My euphoria died ten minutes after the film ended when I learned Disney was making a sequel to the film.

A year later, I didn’t watch Endgame. I wasn’t surprised when I heard they had undone all the work Thanos did in Infinity War. I was unimpressed by some videos of Indian audiences cheering when the Avengers came back to life.

But then, I was not surprised either. People not used to justice in real life will naturally scream in joy when they find it in a make-believe world of superheroes.

Bollywood and Noir are Incompatible

The reversal of Thanos’ deeds was a lesson for me. Sad endings are not the currency of global money-spinners like Avengers. Disney sees no profit and has no courage to tell its audience the world will be a better place with half of them gone. It was a financial obligation (including a narrative requirement) to bring the fallen Avengers back and kill Thanos.

The Hindi mainstream film industry can be seen as a replica of the Disney model (with cheap sexuality as an add-on). Like the Avengers, Salman Khan can never lose. He cannot have sex with a transgender female like Gaitonde does in Sacred Games. Aamir Khan has to be a weird genius in 3 Idiots. He cannot be the philosophical loser in an engineering college who finishes his B. Tech in six years. There is less incentive for writers to write noir in Bollywood

The style of storytelling in Bollywood has changed. Back in the 50s and 60s, more films used to come from rural India and tell the tale of woe and pain.

Soon though, filmmakers discovered the value in selling happiness as compared to lament. Dharmendra and Amitabh became the leaders of this revolution. Instead of showing people how difficult life in India is, Bollywood decided to show how the hero could punch his way out of every situation and woo the damsel in distress in the end.

This formula has changed in the last few years, but the outline largely remains the same. The underlying philosophy of selling happiness still remains.

This is why Hindi film noir can never become mainstream in Bollywood

For years, Bollywood has been selling Disneyland to the people of the country. We feel lost when we don’t get it.

Don’t Be Fooled by Streaming Platforms

Anybody who believes streaming platforms will lead to an improvement in content quality from Bollywood is not seeing the big picture.

Just like any other platform, Netflix, Prime Video, or any other streaming platform will only put out content that impresses its audience.

Right now, Netflix users are not a representation of the general Indian population. On the other hand, the sample size of people who watch mainstream Bollywood films represent the diverse Indian population more accurately.

When streaming platforms reach a diverse set of users in India, they will make content which resonates with more people. Ten years from now when Netflix will have 300 million Indian subscribers, what will it invest money in – 50 crores for Houseful 6 or 15 crores for Sacred Games S04?

Streaming platforms will revert to the formula Bollywood has been using for years. Ultimately, Netflix, Prime Video, and all other platforms have to make money to survive.

Happiness always defeats lament. It is the ultimate bleach agent. The only industry where lament works is literature.

Just like lament cannot succeed in cinema, happiness cannot survive in literature.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Indian Fantasy Novels: The Best Fantasy Fiction From India

(Featured Image Credits: Wikipedia)

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