Bollywood slaps up entertainment as Hollywood bites the dust

Nevil Gibson

Nevil Gibson

Auckland, September 9, 2020

     Taapsee Pannu and Pavail Gulati in a scene from ‘Thappad’ (Photo Courtesy: Quint Entertainment)


Hollywood’s studio system has been declared dead.

It ended an era when big budget movies were released solely to paying audiences in cinemas.

Famous studios names such as MGM, Fox, Warner, Paramount, Columbia and Universal may live on in various forms but their business models do not.

The last to go were Paramount and Warner, which until last month also included HBO and CNN. These are now just cogs in AT&T, a vertically integrated broadcaster and telecommunications company. 

Similar changes have reduced the others to mere production units as the entertainment giants morph into streaming services that are directly linked to their subscribers.

Netflix, the pacemaker

Netflix set the pace as it realised the only way to survive, once it could no longer access studio-made movies, was to make its own.

The result is that cinemas are no longer the industry’s central focus – a fact underlined when Disney decided Mulan, a big budget ($US200 million) movie made in New Zealand, would go straight to its streaming service at a premium price.

Part of the reason was the closure of cinemas worldwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it also reflects the emergence of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple as movie producers.

Netflix is by far the biggest because it operates in virtually every country and offers much more than just English-language movies.

For example, it is now the largest exhibitor of movies made in India, Latin America and Asia.

Film-makers in these countries can now aim at global audiences rather than be restricted to brief festival opportunities.

A slap on Hollywood

‘Thappad’ (Amazon Prime Video) is Bollywood’s latest attempt to put Indian movies on an equal footing with their international peers.

The story seems derivative – comparisons with Netflix’s Marriage Story are inevitable – while the title (Hindi for slap) recalls Australian author Christos Tsiolkas’ 2011 eight-part TV series, which was remade in Hollywood in 2015.

The eponymous event occurs at a party where a Delhi Advertising Executive (Pavail Gulati) is celebrating his promotion to a job in London that his wife (Taapsee Pannu) has long desired.

They have no children but she is devoted to supporting her husband. This contrasts with the rival careers at the centre of Marriage Story. 

She pulls him away from an aggressive argument after he learns from a colleague the position will still make him answerable to a British boss.

He reacts violently and her response is to go into lockdown rather than accept his forgiveness.

The downward spiral in their relationship worsens when divorce lawyers are called in, reminiscent of Marriage Story and its antecedents, Intolerable Cruelty and The War of the Roses.

Indian social mores add to the complexity as the wife withstands peer pressure and copes with a legal system where saving face triumphs over spousal rights. 

Writer-director Anubhav Sinha has won Indian awards for two previous movies, Article 15 (2019) and Mulk (2018), with more likely to come as his reputation spreads abroad.

Amazon rating: All ages. 142 minutes.   

Nevil Gibson is Movie Reviewer for NZ Catholic.

The above Review has been reprinted with permission.

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