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Fantasy Will Never Find a Home in Bollywood

Watching Koi Mil Gaya a few days back, I fell into the trap of thinking about fantasy in Bollywood. The success of the film made a case for further exploration of fantasy in the Indian film industry.

Granted Koi Mil Gaya is a rip-off, its success should have incentivized producers to fund more fantasy scripts. We did get a few fantasy duds in the following years from Bollywood, but never a spectacular project.

Before you say Koi Mil Gaya is sci-fi and not fantasy, understand we’re working from a small base of films here. For natural reasons, we will continue to pick up sci-fi movies from Bollywood as fantasy. However, we won’t consider superhero films as fantasy or sci-fi. Their popularity makes them a separate genre entirely. So, we won’t talk about Krrish, Ra One, and the best one of the lot, Bhavesh Joshi.

Back to the question of the piece – why didn’t fantasy (or sci-fi) not become more mainstream?

There are many reasons. Such broad questions usually have many reasons, all of which are largely ambiguous. In this piece, we will explore one such ambiguous reason more deeply than others. 

The first obvious reason we don’t see many fantasy movies from Bollywood is that most of them end up failing. After Koi Mil Gaya, most other attempts at real fantasy failed. Joker, a movie starring Akshay Kumar, was a huge dud even by the standard of normal duds.

Films like Oh My God and Bhootnath got moderate success, but they never tested the fantasy concept to its true potential. Only Koi Mil Gaya went all-in on the fantasy-sci-fi elements, and all its success boils down to the mega-successful film it copied, ET.

Busting Myths – There is no Fantasy in Bollywood

What does fantasy mean? Here’s the dictionary definition for reference.  

According to this definition, almost 50% Bollywood movies are actually fantasy. Just because you don’t see a wizard romancing an alien in Singham doesn’t mean it’s not fantasy. A man uprooting a lamp post and beating criminals is fantasy, there is no other way of putting it.

For years, Indian audiences are expected to leave their brains at home. Think about it. How many times have you watched a muscular Indian man beat fifty criminals? Do you question how this muscular man is doing this? Would it be accurate to say Hindi movies, more often than not, have muscular men doing fantastical things?

Indian audiences watch more fantasy than people in the rest of the world. We leave our brains out of the theatre all the time.

Yes, these movies are generally not titled ‘fantasy’ officially. Muscular Indian men acting in these movies would naturally feel infantilized if their movies are called fantasy. For once, let’s call a spade a spade. Dabangg is a fantasy cop drama, just like Singham, and other films of a similar ilk.

Our romantic films are unrealistic, our family dramas are nothing like real Indian families, and our action films are more amusement part experiences than storytelling. All this cinema is bank-rolled by Indian audiences. Suspension of belief is a reflex for regular Indian audiences.

Where’s the Need for Fantasy?

If you watch one man beating fifty other men, do you really need to watch a story about aliens, wizards, or UFOs?

After years of practiced suspension of belief, watching more fantasy is pointless. It is not entirely surprising to find Hindi fantasy movies not doing well in India.

This brings us to the title of this piece.

In its traditional form, fantasy is less likely to succeed in Bollywood. People don’t need professional fantasy epics when they get to see one in theatres every other week.

This is why fantasy can never find a home in Bollywood. The indirect suspension of belief forced down our throats over the years has essentially spoiled us for real fantasy.

Is this an obituary for fantasy as a genre in Bollywood?

No. A good story, even if it’s built on traditional fantasy lines, will still find takers.

However, given the measly number of good stories we see come to the big screen every year, writing off fantasy as a genre from Bollywood is a safe bet.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Ten Speculative Books You Should’ve Already Read

(Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia)

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