Bollywood has always taken its viewers on a visual journey across beautiful foreign locations. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge transported the audience to Lake Lungerer in Switzerland in the song tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana sanam. Katrina Kaif in Singh is King brought to the big screen the beautiful Pyramids of Giza. The list is endless.
However, B-town is witnessing a change with the focus shifting from dreamy locations abroad to Indian hinterlands. Indian filmmakers are looking to posit stories in Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns such as Varanasi, Lucknow, Bareilly, etc.
This, in turn, adds depth and a sense of familiarity with the script and characters helping such films to ring the cash register.
Take the recent example of Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan-starrer Sui Dhaaga- Made in India. Set in a town of Madhya Pradesh, the film revolves around themes like self-reliance and entrepreneurship. Within seven days of its release, the film has managed to earn Rs 62 crore.
But, Sui Dhaaga is not the sole instance that suggests the fact that Indian stories have the capability to drive sales. Other films like Stree, Dangal, Sultan, Newton, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Dhadak, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, among others have struck a chord with the audiences.
Dangal made moviegoers familiar with Haryana and the state’s language. Bareilly Ki Barfi told the tale of a town that did find a mention in a popular Hindi movie song but was never the premise of a mainstream Bollywood film.
The paradigm shift is gaining popularity amongst the masses due to the relatability of the characters and their issues. Even romance, Bollywood’s staple, has found haven in small towns. Instead of exotic locales with larger-than-life characters, people want to see more of rooted romantic sagas.
The audiences have become more receptive to stories of ordinary small-towners with seemingly extraordinary lives. As for superstars, they too are taking up roles of small-town simpletons — be it Salman Khan in Sultan or Aamir Khan in Dangal.
Other factors that have led to a shift in premises include an influx of new writers who want to tell stories from small towns. With big studios realising the significance of such films, independent directors are getting a shot in the arm vis-a-vis finances.
Nuances, such as dialogues in concurrence with the dialect of the locations that the story is based in, are building a stronger connection with cinephiles. For instance, Dum Laga Ke Haisha or Tanu Weds Manu Returns, where the actors have picked up the right accent in order to remain true to their character and the setting of the film.
Why ‘Make in India’ could be fruitful for the film industry?
Besides getting a green light at the box office, the Indian government too is providing a strong support to films with local settings. Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Tourism to give a fillip to the 'Incredible India' campaign.
According to the MoU, the Ministry of Tourism will provide budgetary support for identified film festivals and offer single- window clearance permission to shoot films. This is expected to create a film tourism vertical that will promote India as a filming destination for domestic and foreign film producers.
Film tourism remains a key untapped area in the Indian film sector. India can offer various benefits to filmmakers such as scenic and diverse locations, cost-efficiency benefits, skilled yet inexpensive manpower, and local talent. Further, film tourism can result in a number of benefits to the country as well, including:
- Promotion of tourism industry
- Boost to local film production
- Creation of employment
- Transfer of technology
- Inflow of foreign currency
Over the years, Bollywood has given good business to many international destinations like Ireland, USA, Canada, among others by shooting films in these countries. But, at a time when movie buffs find Indian locales more attractive, fewer filmmakers are sending their stars and crews abroad.
Stories set in local premises and Indian hinterlands are striking a chord with the audiences, and this is the time when Bollywood should give ‘Make in India’ a serious thought.