Content vs Superstars: Audience prefer original & quirky content

Content is the Key to Success Now

Content has always been important, but it is true that today, movies that deal with different themes and subjects are getting huge appreciation from an audience that is hungering for great content.

Most filmmakers & studio bosses feel that It’s an incredible time for filmmakers, artistes and studios and it is here to stay. And most think that there are three main reasons why we’re seeing this trend.

  1. Firstly, there is a consumer demand for fresh content that appeals to the youth.
  2. Secondly, it is an industry requirement. There is too much dependence on a few big stars and directors, and it’s important to invest in the future.
  3. And third, it’s a business opportunity, where you create a system where you’re launching and creating future stars.

With the filmmakers pitching in all their might and support to these films, it’s a win-win situation for both studios and the audience.

Today, the audience is much more discerning when it comes to the film’s story and content. Along with other factors, exposure to world cinema has widened their horizons, and they are ready to experiment with interesting stories and talented artistes, who might not be conventionally good looking.


The audience is rapidly evolving and seeking different content and second, our intention has always been to provide good content. If a good product is marketed and promoted with enough weight behind it, then it will prove itself at the box office.

That is why most production houses are keen to cater to this market.

Even the Superstars Acknowledge it Now

Superstar Akshay Kumar recently said that the film industry doesn’t belong to just him (Kumars) or to the Khans; in order to survive in Bollywood, everybody has to work hard.

This statement by Akshay Kumar probably hints to the fact that the superstars in Bollywood are getting stiff competition from the younger actors.

I think besides Akshay Kumar, even the other superstars have now realized that Bollywood is no longer just about the superstars. Bollywood is more about the content now, as people go to the theatres to watch a good story line, and not purely because of their favorite actors.

And the last year has been a great example of this.

We have seen the biggest of the movies (featuring megastars) not do so well at the box office. Thugs of Hindostan, Race 3, Zero, featuring the top Khans, didn’t do well at the box office.

However movie like Andhadhun (Ayushmann Khurrana), Stree (Rajkumar Rao), Raaazi (Ali Bhatt) did extremely well at the box office.

Star power today is visible only on the first couple of days (the first weekend) after which the content propels the movie forward (based on strong word of mouth).

Bollywood seems to be past that phase where a movie with a big star would have guaranteed success. However, that is no longer the case. Thugs of Hindostan, Race 3, Zero featured the top Khans but they all bombed.

On the other hand, all the hits in recent times had great content, and featured all the younger and lesser known stars. People are even accepting women-centric films if the content is good. For example Raazi, Manikarnika, Padmavat, and so on.

Even the biggest hit in recent time was a South Indian film, Baahubali, because of its great content and spectacle.

Hindi films is also facing competition from everywhere — Hollywood as well as from South Indian films and even the audience has become aware that films from these industries (south, Hollywood) are good.

So they expect the same from Hindi films as well.

And if a movie does well in the first weekend, and generates great word of mouth, you can expect it to become a blockbuster over the next few weeks. Biggest example is that of Uri: The surgical strike starring Vicky Kaushal.

Earlier it was like, lets do a Masala movie, put in a commercial angle, and we are sorted; the audience will come to watch the movies. Well, that is not going to work from here on.

Now, the content is thoroughly researched, filmmakers want to make biopics, good content films, every body is open to experimenting. Even the superstars go for workshops where they work on the various nuances that is required of the characters they play.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui says India has to make more realistic films or world cinema won’t take us seriously. Internationally, our films are known for dance, drama, music and that, they (global audiences) take lightly. How long will we keep making films where hero-heroine is dancing around trees?

“Showing Real life characters in films creates awareness among the audience. Like the way we get to know about the society of Korea, Iran and other countries through their films, people will get to know about our country. Our films are a mirror of our society,” says Nawazuddin Siddiqui about Indian films and world cinema.

Demand for Good, Fresh & Quirky Content

While established production houses have put their weight behind low-budget and often non-commercial films, many of them have started or opened sub-divisions to make films that cater to younger audiences.

  • Y-Films, a subsidiary of Yash Raj Films, makes small-budget, youth-centric films
  • Balaji Telefilms Ltd had a division called Alt Entertainment.
  • Tipping Point Films is a banner that was launched by Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, to tap the youth.

So why have these subdivisions if the parent banner already exists?

Studios say that creating a separate banner helps them focus more on the film and its marketing. Further it gives them the expertise to make those kind of movies, and in more quantity (if need be).

Y-Films, a subsidiary of Yash Raj Films, has made several small-budget films. It was the brand values that YRF traditionally stands for that would have come in the way, had they decided to bring out these kind of films under the main banner.

Unlike several other film studios in the country, YRF is a brand. When you think of YRF, you think of romance, great music, great production values, beautiful locations, a beautiful heroine among other things. It may not be possible to deliver the same kind of scale or content with these smaller films. However with Y-Films, the producers can take the positive values of YRF while not carrying the baggage, and create fresh and quirkier content that’s relevant for the younger audience.

Most big studio are now willing to hear out an interesting script. It all starts with the story and the director’s vision for it. Dev D, A Wednesday, Paan Singh Tomar, Barfi!, ABCD or Kai Po Che, they all had a good and unique story to start with. Once they are convinced on all counts, they proceed to the more operational aspects of casting, budget, scheduling and to produce it under their various banners.

Besides, a movie like Shaitan cannot be marketed in the same way as Son of Sardaar, simply because they are different kinds of movies. That requires a good understanding of the target market.

Making Realistic, Low Budget Films: Does it Make More Business Sense?

You see a lot of movies nowadays minus the Khans or the Kapoors, minus the designer costumes and the exotic shooting locations.

Do such movies become successful? Does it make business sense or is it that small budget movies are in vogue currently in Bollywood?

Well, the current reality is that established production houses are ready to back you if you have an intelligent script, even if the budget isn’t sky-high.

So has Bollywood finally realized that good things sometimes do come in small packages and also that it’s not the Khans but the content that is King?

The success of small or low-budget films such as Raazi, Stree, lukka Chuppi, Kahaani, Pyar Ka Punchnama, Tere Bin Laden among others in recent times, has not just worked wonders for the film industry, it has made everyone sit up and take notice of the fact that low budgets do not have to translate into low returns as well.

And while earlier, we did have small films being made, it is the presence of established production houses and their support to these movies, that has made all the difference in the way they have been marketed and in return, received by the audience.

There is an endless list of small budget, content-driven films that have set the cash registers ringing. All these movies have been produced by various production houses.

The big production houses do have some advantages (when it comes to promoting budget movies) as the kind of infrastructure that they could provide for the distribution of the film, is something the small players could not have managed.

With several stars turning producers themselves, the choices have become limited. Production houses have to keep going, so they are balancing the big-budget films, with small films that give good return on investment. It’s actually a great trend, that makes good business sense, and it can only grow from here on.

Uncover Hidden Talent

Another great positive outcome of the success of these content-driven low budget films, is the plethora of talent that has emerged from it, that otherwise would take a lot of time to emerge or probably may not be visible at all.

New actors, directors, music composers and technicians have found their way into the industry, and actually making low cost films is an investment in the future, as the industry is always hungry for fresh talent.

And for the newcomers, it’s a dream come true, as most would otherwise spend years to get the backing of a big production house.

First of all, it’s difficult for a newcomer to get a film. And then, to get a production house like YRF to back you, is like the icing on the cake for most strugglers. It’s also a huge confidence booster if a big production house is asking you to act or direct a movie for them.

Even for the audience it’s a great time, as every Friday there is a fresh lot of actors who arrive in the industry.

When a bigger banner extends support to a small film, things like distribution, marketing and releasing the film becomes much easier, and you can be 100 percent confident that the movie will see the light of the day, and not be in the back-burner for ages.

What attracts big production houses to smaller films are the lower stakes. The money they have to recover is much less, and therefore, it is easier for them to back them. Kahaani, a film with a female lead and made at a modest budget of Rs 8 crore raked in more than Rs 82 crore at the box office, while a Kai Po Che with three newcomers and costing approximately Rs 12 crore made around Rs 52 crore. Sometimes, an intelligent script, apt casting and a modest budget is all it takes to get the cash registers ringing. No wonder then, producers are more than willing to back these projects all the way.

Currently, there’s a good demand for content that’s different and intelligent; filmmakers are making cinema they believe in. And there is a huge audience out there that is bored of the old, tired & predictable scripts.

So all these factors means, the audience can expect some movies with great content from here on, because anything mediocre is going to be trashed by the audience.