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Why masala films are still in vogue?

May 5, 2010

Before I start off with what this blog is about, let me quote what some of you had to say when I stated that I liked Simha:

  1. Films like Simha take the film industry 6-10 years back.
  2. Why do they make films like these? We need better films which reflect the modern sensibilities!

Honestly, two years ago I shared the same opinion as a lot of you did. I hated the fact that Telugu film industry still churns out masala films which should have been banned by now. I hated that fact that most of the films rake in big money which in turn encourages others to make similar kind of films. I hated the fact that quite a few sensible films didn’t make big money at the box office. It took me two years and constant learning to understand how and why masala films work in Andhra Pradesh. For that, I have to thank my boss at, Mr.Shyam Prasad Reddy (Producer of films like Ankusham, Ammoru, Anji and Arundhati). He taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to film making. He says, “At the end of the day, films have to make money. Otherwise the effort you put in might not be worth it. You may have made a great film but if it doesn’t reach people then perhaps you haven’t done enough.” He had a valid point. Our conversation began when I said that one day in future I want to make an “Art” film which would win great accolades and awards. He smiled and said, “Commercial Cinema is a much more satisfying experience if you strike the right chord with people. Think about the admiration and love which millions of people are going to have for you if you make a great film which entertains and engrosses them”. He was right, again. Perhaps, that’s why it’s important to understand the importance of masala films which turn out to be money spinner despite not having a great story. If I may add, films or stories are no longer created but they are packaged like a product which would excite lot of people. However, there can be lot of exceptions.

Sometimes, I find a lot of similarities between movies and mobile handsets. Lets take your favourite phone, for example an iPhone, Blackberry and any other XYZ gadget. You know why you love it; maybe millions of people across the world know it’s a great product. Yet, not everyone owns the same product. Why doesn’t everyone buy an iPhone or a Blackberry? Then the debate boils down to what features you expect your phones to have. For a majority of us hailing from urban areas (lets restrict it to Generation X – 20 somethings) we love watching videos, listening to music, browsing internet on the phone. However, is that the same which countless others from smaller towns, rural areas expect their phones to have? Maybe yes. Yet, a majority of their handsets are used to send messages or make calls. It may only be a matter of time before the latest gadgets make inroads into the rural market which has got a lot more market and potential for great sales. Movies are like that. Exactly like that when you consider Telugu cinema. Perhaps Tamil Cinema too. We have a huge market in such smaller towns and rural areas that capturing their attention is perhaps all the more important if a movie has to rake in huge moolah.

Quite a few film makers in Telugu film industry today have grown up watching NTR’s, ANR’s films when they were really young. They would have admired films made by K.Vishwanath, Jhyandhala, Bapu and others; yet there was something about masala films which had lets say NTR, Chiranjeevi in lead roles. Crowds went berserk in cinema halls. The whistles and claps for every punch dialogue or a crazy dance step would have been deafening. This magic hasn’t changed to a large extent. Especially in smaller towns, the crowd’s admiration for their favourite heroes and directors is unimaginable. This is perhaps one of the reasons why terms like Mass, Class, Family entertainers, youthful love story sprang up in the film industry. Each film has its purpose. Each film has its target audience. Despite the harsh criticism a film might get from various quarters, it will reach its target audience and if it’s a great product then no matter what others say, it will do well in the market. And a lot of directors and producers know this. They know their market. They know what might work and what might not. It’s unfair to say that “pure luck” is an important factor, if a film goes on to become a blockbuster. Maybe yes, but it’s also a carefully packaged product which had every feature which would appeal to the target audience.

If you look at the mobile handset’s penetration, perhaps a pirated phone (popularly called China phone) might sell more than what most of the Nokias, Samsungs do. When the market is inundated with thousands of mediocre mobile handsets, an iPhone, a Blackberry or any of the high end handset creates more buzz. Probably it’s because people crave for something new. Something which would offer them a bit more that what their usual mobiles do. For every iPhone, there have to be millions of cheap handsets in circulation. We cannot wait for an iPhone all our lives because life has to go on. We have grown up watching movies all the time. It’s not a habit; it’s a way of life. Now you see why a certain Magadheera or an Arundhati or a Pokiri manage stupendous collections at the box office! Because they are the iPhones which a lot of us hadn’t seen before or they offered something totally new which excited us.

Masala films like Simha, Simhadri, Chirutha, Bujjigadu will continue to work at box office because they still have a huge market out there. And a lot of us have to realize that not everyone is exposed to Hollywood or European Cinema. No wonder, quite a few films never come on that ‘plagiarism’ radar! People make films believing that if it’s made well, it will do equally well in the market. I hope they stick to their formula and pull the right strings. A formula has to be mastered and should be altered from time to time. Something what Rajamouli, V V Vinayak have managed so well in their careers so far. I love their films as much as I love K.Vishwanath’s films. I guess the crazy fan in me who loves to cheer and whistle hasn’t died yet. There’s always a chance that a film might not work despite having everything which a superhit formula recommends. Why do certain masala films work and others don’t is a totally different issue which has to be seen from both onscreen and offscreen perspectives. For now, I shall conclude by saying, Masala films are still in vogue and they will continue to work as long as they are packaged well. The age of masala entertainers is not over yet!

P.S: Talking about masala films, I couldn’t help but think how the Multiplex Culture in Andhra Pradesh is changing the way we watch movies. And let me add that I am pissed off with this new wave which is slowly creeping into every major town in the state. Shall write about it soon.



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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Naresh permalink
    May 5, 2010 11:29 pm

    First of all, ppl shud understand tht itz an industry out thr n at the end of the day, the bottomline counts. In India, v dont want to spend money on wtchng reality or close to our own life cinema. V c it evryday evrywhr. V want a succor to our pain when v walk in to those dark aisles n glare at the glitter on the screen. This esp happens in rural AP, which dsnt judge mves based on reviews, which is inclined on repeat wtchng n which can spend money 2 enjoy one good song or one good fight. Urban AP, or just a part of it actually, wants realistic, arty cinema n ll never walk to halls 2 watch it. They ll judge it based on reviews, discuss n debate it n then finally wait 4 dvd 2 wtch it. No point mkng mves 4 such small section who wont shell out money. So they shud go ahead and mk masala. v hv potential 2 mk realistic cinema. V ll summon it when needed.

  2. Varma permalink
    May 5, 2010 11:47 pm

    hi hemanth. .
    i am the first one to comment on this . . .
    what my view is your point is good but it doesnt work always . . as far as generation changing the films should also change . . cinema should reflect some thing that we must think about it after watching it . . . any way nice post yar. .

  3. Subhash Jasti permalink
    May 5, 2010 11:51 pm

    Hi Hemanth,

    I am reading your blogs these days I saw much similarity in me and your thoughts.So thought of posting a thread.

    Just an introduction to myself,I completed my CA(Charted Accoutant) along with MBA(finance)and working as Sr. Financial analyst in USA but I still feel my passion is movies..I am a relative(little far) to KRR and some of the relatives worked as Ex-Producrers as well.

    I used to think in the same lines as you thought about the movie industry.Like when will these movies change, Why cant movies like PRASTHANAM,RAINCOAT(Of course Hindi),MANORAMA and Morning Raaga can be blobck busters, Why should these movies just restricted to some awards but not rewards in terms of money.

    But Mind set changed when I saw POKIRI first day first show and I realized that making a commercial flick which will rock BOX OFFICE is much much difficult to take or write script and all the departments Camera,Editing,RR should be to “T’ to make some scenes Outstanding like the twist in POKIRI,100 sumo fight in MAGADHEERA, Train Scene in NARA SIMHANAIDU etc Intially i used to think these were made normally but people received it more than expected but it cant happen many time with all these blockbusters.

    coming to my point y is it difficult to make commercial movie rock at box office…6 songs 6 fights and interval bang are the content of a any commercial flick,,but only 20-30 script though not new in the plot but conveying differently will make director job much much difficult…
    If you are making a movie according to your taste or genre then obvoiusly those scenes come up from your past experiences and no challenge exist as you are the monopoly of your own thoughts..but for comercial movie how ever your experiences are you need to adopt to that particluar format of screenplay yet need to show some variance….
    This is y excatly movies like SIMHA,MAGADHERA,STUDENt#1 and INDRA are hits.

    More imporatantly if we take care of wealth maximization to entire industry that movie will be talked for ever….simple mantra.

    To give a simily Cult movies are like your own receipe to make Birayani…but comemrcial movie is when you try to make HYDRABAD BIRYANI…hepefully I am clear…


  4. Varma permalink
    May 5, 2010 11:54 pm

    hmmm keep going

  5. Falkon permalink
    May 5, 2010 11:58 pm

    Films made by krish, chandra shekar, shekar kamulla etc are doing really well at box office, They are good hits in cities, because their budget is less when compared to commercial biggies, they can manage to get back the money invested. And I agree with the point that we have that mass fan in every one, but we have the genx thing in us who are behind good films.

    At least our directors should lift the themes from world cinema and do it here for new kinda films. Our commercial directors like Rajmouli, puri jaganath, sukumar, etc should start doing better films dealing with social issues.

  6. Ajith permalink
    May 6, 2010 7:43 am

    Masala is the reason why i like telugu films.I haven’t seen any other industry which makes such perfect masala films.Here in kerala even commercial films try to look realistic.So the chance of watching a kickass intro song,item dance etc. is very limited.I think its the same case everywhere else (may be except tamil nadu)… keep on making masala films cause that’s what u guys are good at……..

  7. May 6, 2010 7:37 pm

    So now you finally realize we love masala films 😀

  8. Varma permalink
    May 6, 2010 11:41 pm

    Hoooo . . . . . .
    i am imagining balaya as a hero in princes of persia . .wit all masala elements lik item song, thoda kottatam, 2 page dialogs etc. . quite exiting kada. . wil hope for such movie and it wil gonna rock the industry . . ha ha ha. .

  9. Jackal permalink
    May 6, 2010 11:52 pm

    Hmm…Interesting article… One of my friends re-tweeted one of yours tweets and I landed here. In the past two years I have walked out of each and every telugu movie I have ever seen (Arundhathi is an exception)… I personally thought each and every film was utter crap(And mind you, I saw most of the “big-budget” movies).
    You are saying masala movies are good business, I completely agree, they are. But the quality has to improve. The director doesn’t concentrate on the story but rather concentrates on masturbating the hero in various angles and scenes. We don’t make masala movies, we make s*** (Pardon my french). Here is the HHG to script a Telugu movie:
    1. Hero Entrance.
    2. Fight (Don’t forget his entourage giving him support from the sidelines, CUT TO ‘SONG’).
    3. Heroine (Either completely western dress or she is in a temple, CUT TO ‘SONG”)
    4. The wooing (CUT TO ‘FIGHT’ & ‘SONG’)
    — All sort of different crap happens in the background in between each scene.
    5. Who can forget the interval ( Shockingly predictable twist)
    7. If ‘FLASHBACK’, then a second heroine is introduced.
    8.Resolve (Of course with a big fight and some killer dialogues)
    —Throw in a item song( I don’t know why they can’t call it by its real name, the-girl-who-the-director-just-slept-with song) and a fight interspersed inbetween.
    —And of course who can forget the emotional speech the hero gives (Who the fuck does this shit fool, suddenly after screwing the heroines happiness in each and every preceding scene, how exactly is the audience supposed to empathize with the hero in 1 minute).

    Anyway congratulations ladies and gentlemen, you now can make a telugu movie, just fill in the above blanks, if you are lucky, you can be the director too and sleep with the semi-naked chick mentioned above(Don’t worry, I am sure she will be naked for you).

    Anyway, my point is, this is not a movie, this is a remake of the same film over and over and over again with new talent. The industry has to change or they will perish, next year it wouldnt be 90% flops, it would probably increase to 95%. The way of thinking has to change, the little things matter, enough with wearing sun glasses indoors or in the night, enough with the BS comedy tracks which run in the side having no correlation with the story, enough with the main female lead having no correlation with the main story arc, enough with the BS songs set in the alps (India is beautiful, why waste money shooting in a location where people stare at the camera), enough with the actor-walking-towards-the-camera-in-slo-mo, enough with the stupid stubble’s which make a hero look ugly and stupid, enough with “seema”, etc.
    I still have a lot to rant but I am getting pissed off when I am thinking about all these stupid things. Anyway I probably wouldn’t come back to your site (Not that its not good but I have no interest in following telugu industry), but you have my email address, hit me back with your reply. Good to know that there are people like you keeping stupid, immature, assoles in the industry in check.

  10. May 7, 2010 12:24 pm

    a’int that funny … two years ago you are the every other guy like all of us (or most of us ) who enjoyed good cinema and had the same feeling of all on the way movies are made

    Cheers … you’r articles r Awesome !!!!

  11. Sudhir permalink
    May 28, 2010 2:20 am

    If a film has to be a hit then it should be watched by all categories of people like youth, working class, familys and mass.If you follow the same old formula I hope it wont take many years to loose more than 50% of the existing audiances to the commercial movies. Now that most of the people don’t understand English telugu industry is still surviving. In not more than 20 years people stop watching telugu movies and go for english movies. as more than 70% of the population will be educated by then.

    Movie making is an art not a business. If you show your creativity then you would get rewards.
    any way bye to telugu mass movies. I already stopped watching Gopichand,Balayya,chiranjeevi,pawan kalyan and Jr NTR movies. every mass movie from now will remove atleast 10 audiences from the list. although feels bad about the people dependent on films, I feel out film industry deserves for worst movie making.


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