There was a Karan Johar era of romance in India when the Khans and the middle aged biggest stars still holding on to the illusion of stardom today were at the peak of their cinematic careers in India. This era can be traced from the 90’s to about 15 years later until most movies revolved either around romance or the underworld, or both. What worked for this era from the movie makers’ vantage point is the absence of perspective on the audience end – at least on a level of making any serious mass impact. It was rather easy to convince a bunch of middle class movie goers that hyperrealism is a dream that they lacked the means to achieve, which is why movies with surreal homes, costumes and gorgeous people were their sweet release.
There was hardly any access that the audience had to questioning the dramatic means that movie makers chose in every movie to convince them that movies were meant to be representations of dreams or visions that they could not reach in their supposedly ‘normal’ lives. They could never look as pretty as Preity Zinta while they were crying their eyes out or Jaya Bacchan would never wait for them at a grand door with a ‘pooja thaali’ in hand. Romanticism of even the most inappropriate things and comic representation of social evils went unquestioned as well. It all worked, a little too well, until new age film makers came into the picture in a new world of digital media that provided access to educated viewers to put their views across, pose difficult questions and reject glorification of the unattainable dream.
Hyperrealism is not anymore a preference in the new age audience because the new audience has an exponential range of access to realize how things work in the real world and understand that nothing is ever as melodramatic as Bollywood films. While digital media still continues to celebrate unreal standards of beauty and lifestyle, an increasing population of content consumers are aware and opposing of the same. For a new world that equivocally opposes hyper realism or even alteration of reality for the sake of short lived appeasement, full length movies that do the same look childish.
A notable trend arrived with the new age film makers of vernacular cinema who produce movies par excellence with minimum budget, most realistic setups and incredibly talented actors who resonate with viewers with great ease. While this realistic approach being welcomed with open arms remains on one end of the spectrum, movies with impossible plots like parallel universes and alien invasions is on the other. Anything that comes in between is accepted with a pinch of salt by the audience of today who mercilessly pose questions to half baked interpretations of reality. That is where most film makers fail to make an impact or get sidelined – because the audience has moved on from hyperrealism and is today an admirer of absolute realism or the unreal. How long this would last is hard to say, but we can be confident that the Bollywood era of romanticism is done for good.