Bollywood films getting shorter for impatient audiences

Mainstream Bollywood films are having shorter run times than ever before, sometimes even testing the two-hour mark. Bollywood observers explain the trend.

A decade back, it was common for almost Bollywood movie to have 5-6 songs at least, and all movies would go on for at least 3 hours. However, times have changed.

For a long time, audiences have been complaining about the ‘drag’ factor in Bollywood movies, where the filmmakers would intentionally drag the movies for close to three hours, thinking that ‘lengthier’ means value for money for the audience.

Almost every other movie review talks about the ‘length’ factor; you will hear critics saying that the first half is exciting, gripping but the second half is too slow, the movie would have been crisper had it been shorter.

Even from the audience’s perspective, the moment someone says it’s a three-hour film, you tart thinking that its going to take almost half your day, which puts off a lot of people, who would otherwise be keen to watch a film.

I guess, the makers are finally realizing this; Bollywood movies are getting shorter, although its more confined to the ‘hatke’ genre (where you wouldn’t see any of the superstars). In recent times, Bollywood films like Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz have shorter run times than ever before, sometimes even below the two-hour mark.

People are impatient today, they today don’t have the time to sit through a three-hour film. We want everything instant, travelling to eating to entertainment,” says Trade expert Atul Mohan.

Another advantage of shorter run times is that multiplexes can show more film ‘shows’ in a day. “Multiplexes contribute the most to a film’s business. More the shows, more the revenue. In the advertising world, the fewer seconds [in ads], the more the airtime slots. It’s the same case with films today.”

For some time now, Bollywood has been trying to make its films crisper, just like Hollywood films. Filmmakers now go for shorter length as it tests the patience of audience, when stretched beyond a certain point; however they still want to cater a wide variety of audience, some of whom may prefer longer movies, so not everybody is blindly following this trend.

However, more than the audience being impatient, its about the content of the movie. Would you really want a Baahubali to get over in 2 hours. Would you really want a Christopher Nolan movie too get under 2 hours?

“I don’t think it has to do with the patience of the audience. It’s only to do with the fact that this story was supposed to get over in this length. It’s not as if you made a 150-minute film and, if people didn’t like it, you’d shorten it to 100 minutes and the audience would fall in love with it! From a maker’s [point of view], it has nothing to do with the revenues,” says Aanand L. Rai, producer of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan.

And we totally agree that it should be this way – the story should decide the run time.