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We Are Family

Hindi cinema is in the throes of change but does that mean massy family entertainers are going out of fashion?

Indian culture revolves around family and family values. And since Hindi cinema has always mirrored Indian society, the classic, massy family entertainer has always been a massive draw. The more colourful and gigantic the movie, the bigger the hit. We’ve all laughed and cried with those elaborate song-and-dance sequences, the typical family get-together, the larger-than-life sets, and shed buckets when the hero broke his mother’s heart.

The ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were replete with family dramas. But it was director Sooraj Barjataya’s blockbusters in the ’90s – Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! and Hum Saath-Saath Hain – that added the glamour quotient to these films. Ravi Chopra’s Baghban too was a successful example of this much-loved genre. Also can we forget Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which is still running at Mumbai’s famous cinema hall Maratha Mandir even after so many years? And years later there was Karan Johar’s multi-starrer Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… that also set the cash registers ringing.

But there came a point when family dramas began to fade from the big screen even as family-based content took over television. And sure enough, television milked it to the hilt.

Now, new-age cinema has caught the audience’ attention, further relegating those massy, family films. Since the new breed of filmmakers are experimenting with fresh concept, youngsters today are giving family dramas a miss.

We haven’t altogether forsaken ‘our family’. It’s just that the packaging has changed, albeit drastically. Many filmmakers, while not making family dramas per se, are retaining the essential family element. So for instance, if Taare Zameen Par was about a dyslexic boy and his problem with academics, it also stressed the child’s attachment to his mother, Amitabh Bachchan-John Abraham’s Viruddh too is an example of a film based on family ties.

So what happened to the classic family saga that was once a sure-shot winner with the Indian audience? Is this genre fading? Are filmmakers simply finding it difficult to get an ensemble cast on board? Or are budget constraints and the risks involved with investing in such films keeping filmmakers away from this genre? This week, we asked filmmakers and industry professionals for their opinion on the great big family drama.

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