The return of the cinema of Bollywood with the partial reopening of the rooms in the India As of this Thursday, it is announced as good news for a country obsessed by the big screen and deprived of it by the coronavirus, although the lack of great premieres may disappoint more than one viewer.
And it is that not all states have authorized the opening of theaters nor film companies dare to release their most expensive productions due to uncertainty, at a time when Bollywood is also harassed by the media storm unleashed after death of one of its stars.
Bollywood cinema has its own characteristics that make it unique in the world. Bollywood movies are great productions, full of color and action, whose most distinctive feature is the spectacular musical numbers.
Indian film actors are real stars and have millions of followers in their country. And although the majority of titles do not reach our cinemas, the impact of Bollywood in India is enormous, as much or more than that of Hollywood in America.
Bollywood through the years
Cinema has been the most vibrant medium through which India has told its own story, the story of its struggle for independence, its constant struggle to achieve national integration and emerge as a global presence.
How did you start this adventure full of epic stories and tragic romances? Six months after their Paris debut in 1895, the Lumiere brothers, inventors of the cinematograph, arrived at the Watson Hotel in Bombay and showed off their new invention. And the Indians learned its use backwards and forwards.
And after years of preparation they made their first feature film come true: Raja Harishchandra (1913), based on a well-known epic story.
Bollywood addresses popular and political issues in Indian society and as it changes, the stories told by its films as well.
For example, the subject of the untouchables, the marriage of widows and the deadly harassment by the dowry were addressed in between the years 1936 and 1950 in the films Achhut Kanya, Sujata, Ek Hi Rasta and Dahej.
Meanwhile, the movie Kismet and its song Door hato ai dinyawalon Hindustan hamara hai (go away, people of the world, India is ours) were a boom, due to the moment that Quit India was crossing the country, a movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and that demanded the British to leave the subcontinent, a struggle that would reach its peak five years later with independence.
In 1949, newly independent India was discovering itself and its diversity. In the film Shabnam the first multilingual film with stanzas in Bengali, Marathi and Tamil was presented. Thus he indicated to the audience that they were all part of India while laughing lightly at the stereotypes he created.
The same was reflected in films such as Teen Batti Chaar Raste, directed by V Shantaram, a prodigious filmmaker whose career spanned 65 years.
Already in the XXI century and with the arrival of globalization and cosmopolitanism, the plots were changing, a clear example is Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, who talks about a story of male friendship between three Indians, the plot takes place in Spain.
Cinemas without billboards
The only cinema in Jangpura, a neighborhood located in the south of New Delhi, appears ready to open its doors, as if it had not been closed for more than seven months due to restrictions to curb the coronavirus in India, the second largest country. affected by the pandemic with more than 7 million cases.
A fifteen-minute drive south, one of the rooms in the Nehru Place area tells a different story.
What until the arrival of the pandemic was an elegant cinema with several screens now has a desolate appearance: the door is barricaded with old cardboard, from the display cases that used to display the posters, only the plugs remain and the entrance is covered by a thick layer of dust.
But what does offer a similar image are the two restaurants of a fast food chain packed with customers located just outside both cinemas.
How many Indians eat in restaurants, go to bars or do their shopping in malls since the authorities relaxed the strict confinement imposed at the end of March?
That is the imperfect scale with which the film industry can judge for the moment who will go to theaters, Shibashish Sarkar, general director of the Reliance Entertainment group that is part of the Indian giant Reliance, explains to Efe.
“We need to know whether audiences are going to go back to theaters or not, and we won’t know for sure until a movie is released,” Sarkar acknowledges.
Planned reruns tomorrow, such as the hagiography of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are not enough.
But for the big production houses, according to Sarkar, it is the whiting that bites its tail: who dares to release a multi-million dollar film just to test the temperature of the viewers?
Reliance Entertainment has two finished films that have not yet been released, one of them the police crime “Sooryavanshi” starring the sought-after actor Akshay Kumar.
“We announced that we would premiere it on Diwali, the great Indian festival of lights that comes next month. But now it is unlikely that we will keep that date because, in the middle of October, not all the states have opened theaters and we cannot release a film without less than a month of promotion, ”he concludes.
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