When it comes to movie-watching it seems the big fat Indian families have emptied their seats at plush cinema halls for canoodling couples, double-income-and-no-children pairs and nuclear households. We at PANDOLIN speak to a few industry folks to find the truth about Hindi cinema’s new target audience.

Be it fashion or films, trends set in at regular times. Some last a season and some are eternal. While masses will be the permanent consumers of movies, in India at least, every now and then a particular section of the audience catches the Hindi filmmakers’ fancy.

In the 70-80s social dramas for families – poor and rich – reigned the box-office, 90s brought along stories that were meant to connect with the pardesidesis (Non-Resident Indians), and at the start of the millennium movies were made to woo the neo rich urban crowd to the swanky multiplexes. Of which, a big chunk of audience is the young and restless.

Atul Mohan, trade analyst and film critic, agrees and supports it with figures, “Out of the 150-odd films that release every year, more than half of them are targeted towards the youth. ‘Coz it is considered to be a safe bet.”

Back in the days – around the 90s, when Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan kicked off their careers – going to the movies was a treat relished on special occasions or when your favourite superstar’s film hit the big screen. And it was an event celebrated with the entire khandaan. Circa 2010s, most patrons in movie halls are pretty-and-handsome- yuppie-things. Of course, the definition of young is subjective, with regards to films it means people between 25 and 40.

Out of the 60 Hindi films that came out this year so far, the biggest hits are Ragini MMS 2, Queen, Yaariyan, Main Tera Hero followed by Jai Ho, Gunday and Hasee Toh Phasee. Do notice most of these movies were about young India.

Milap Zaveri, scriptwriter of the recent hit comedy-riot Main Tera Hero, says, “With the advent of multiplexes coming in and internet, today youth is as big an audience as the masses. I feel the audience that has reduced now is family. I feel families don’t go so much for movies, as much as the youth and masses. Families prefer watching it at home or watch the TV shows. The youth and masses want to see movies right now.”

“The whole genre of family dramas is extinct now. Whether it is comedies or love stories, it has a youth element in it,” says Komal Nahta, trade pundit and film critic. One of the reasons he cites, “A good component of our audience is youth, and with these call centres the money available to them is much more. And they like to spend on entertainment, which is films!”

Meanwhile Mohan says, “According to statistics more than 50 per cent of the Indian population is between 20 and 40-45. Families do go to watch movies, but only after reading reviews and taking feedback. Moreover nowadays for a family of four one ends up spending Rs 1500-2000 for tickets and snacks. In today’s times it’s hard to earn and save. So only if they hear good things about a film, does the family as a whole go to watch it! Otherwise they prefer to watch it on television.”

He further adds: “Ten years ago there weren’t any multiplexes, and cinema was mostly a common man’s source of entertainment. Back then one spent something as little as Rs 200-300 rupees on movies for a family of four. Also the quality, in terms of content, of films isn’t as good as it used to be fifteen years ago.”

However one of the implications of the new target audience is that our stories have definitely moved out of the realm of boy-meets-girl and pyaar hogaya. Movies nowadays explore friendship, adolescence, coming-of-age, career complications, matrimonial madness et al on the big screen. While the burgeoning young audience is the main reason for it, has a youth-related movie become the new success formula, just like the yesteryear’s angry young man’s social dramas?

“I wouldn’t say youth-based films is a new success formula, but a lot of youth-based films have been doing well like Ragini MMS 2, Queen, Main Tera Hero. But at the same time there are other youth-based films like ShaadiKe Side-effects, purely a youth based film, bombed, Jai Ho, didn’t work as expected. And there is a film like Bhoothnath Returns with zero youth element, but it worked. So I don’t think it’s very sensible to generalise that youth-based films are doing well. In any case since youth forms a big part of the audience, it’s safer to make youth films, but it’s not a guarantee.”

Mohan echoes Nahta thought and adds, “At the end of the day the product should be good enough for the people to go in the theatres and come out and say paisa vasool.”

So will the yo-speaking yuppies say paisa vasool to the long list of youthful films that are yet to release? We’ll have to wait and watch, baby!

-By Rachana Parekh

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