In recent years, a Twitter trend has been accelerating – #BoycottBollywood, which aims for a complete removal of the public from the Hindi film industry. It takes many shapes and forms, often specifically tailored to a movie, an actor, or one of its latest avatars, #BoycottBollywoodCompletely.
With the recent boycott campaign against stars Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan Laal Singh Chaddha and its subsequent commercial failure, speculation arose that this trend could have a negative effect on boxed film collections.
Actor Vijay Deverakonda, who plays the film’s protagonist ligerrecently go back on trend and said, “Shouldn’t we work? We worked hard for three years to make this cinema. Shouldn’t we release our films? Should we sit in houses? »
However, is a boycott campaign on Twitter enough to diminish the commercial prospects of a film? Or is it another case of correlation that is not causation?
What is #BoycottBollywood?
As the name suggests, the trend aims to prevent audiences from consuming content created by the Hindi film industry. However, it does not stop there. Several Twitter accounts that regularly participate in this trend are also seeking to end what they call “Khan hegemony” in Bollywood, referencing Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan – actors who have benefited from a huge number of fans for more than three years. decades.
Additionally, many of these accounts call Bollywood “Urduwood”, claiming there is a disproportionate portrayal of Muslims in the industry as well as the so-called glorification of Muslims in movies. They go further by saying that this cannot be tolerated in an India “proud of its Hindu identity”.
The actors of these tendencies also want to put an end to the so-called “destruction of Hindu culture”, which refers to an apparently continuous Westernization of Hindi films. Along with this, they object to what they see as a mockery of Hindu gods and rituals in several films; a prime example of this is Rajkumar Hirani’s PK (2015), which starred Aamir Khan in the lead role. The commercially successful PK backlash continued into 2022, with the film cited as a major reason to boycott Laal Singh Chaddha.
Unlike Bollywood, many of these accounts often say that South Indian film industries are more respectful of Hindu traditions and are better at enforcing religious norms. However, there is a catch: these accounts focus almost exclusively on the Kannada and Telugu film industries, calling them the “southern industries” while ignoring Tamil and Malayalam language cinema. One reason for this seems to be a prevalence of stories borrowed from Hindu mythologies in the first two industries.
These stories also focus on the prevalence of nepotism in Bollywood. This narrative gained momentum in 2020, following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Many people have claimed that the actor took his own life because of the workings of nepotism in the industry, despite the lack of concrete evidence for this claim.
Who are the accounts behind this trend?
Although an exact analysis of all the accounts is not possible, it is easy to notice a tendency: most of these accounts, on the whole, endorse right-wing Hindu ideologies, often of a very extremist type. They comment on both Bollywood and political issues in general in aggressive tones and use derogatory language against minority communities, women, LGBTQ+ people and others.
These narratives also endorse films and film personalities that also appear to support right-wing talking points. An obvious example is actress Kangana Ranaut, who is generally seen as the “outsider” in Bollywood’s nepotistic circles by these accounts. Incidentally, his account was suspended in 2021 by Twitter for breaking its rules, after posting a tweet that allegedly incited violence against a community.
#BoycottBollywood: How influential is this trend?
There are more than 23 million Indian users on Twitter, while nearly 240 million Indians use Facebook, according to some estimates. It is clear that the reach of Twitter as a vehicle to start a widespread movement in India is quite limited compared to other social media platforms.
Other factors also come into play, including the presence of “bots” or automated accounts that perform the same functions as those operated by humans. According to a July Bloomberg report, bots are used to “engage in potentially deceptive, harmful, or annoying activities,” including spreading false news, lying, and promoting political messages.
There’s also the issue of algorithms: for most Twitter users, the ‘What’s Happening’ section on their homepage, which shows recent trends, is automatically the ‘For You’ section and not the ‘Trending’ section. ‘. This means that most platform users see the trends that the algorithm thinks they would be most interested in, instead of seeing what is actually happening on the platform.
This implies that unless someone follows Bollywood regularly, they are less likely to encounter #BoycottBollywood. Bearing all of this in mind, it would be a bit of a stretch to claim that the hashtag is responsible for the sinking of Bollywood’s fortunes, especially considering how Hindi films saw less footsteps even before the Covid-pandemic. 19.
Another aspect to consider is that although Sanjay Leela Bhansali Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) starring Alia Bhatt faced an active boycott campaign, it still managed to become one of the biggest hits of the year and was credited by many commentators with being responsible for the comeback of Hindi audiences in theatres. A few months later, Kangana Ranaut’s film Dhaakad exploded at the box office. Clearly, there is something more at play here.
What is Bollywood sick?
The quick answer is, a lot. Comparing the success of some South Indian films in the Hindi belt, with the disappointing response to Hindi films, there is said to be a disconnection among audiences with the kind of stories Bollywood chooses to tell. There is also a shortage of good mass films, masala, that other industries produce.
Critics have attributed the failure of several big-budget films this year, like Shamshera, Prithviraj Chauhan, Laal Singh Chaddha and Rakshabandhan, to lackluster writing that has nothing new to offer. Meanwhile, films that opt for direct digital releases, like Darlings and Gehraiyaan, are being applauded for trying new themes. A few movies that underperformed at the box office gained more viewership and acclaim after their release on OTT, such as Badhaai Do, Jhund and Jersey, proving to some extent that Hindi movie audiences now prefer watching movies. movies at your convenience.
The demise of single-screen theaters in many parts of the country and the rise of the much more expensive multiplex is another reason attributed to Bollywood’s underperformance, as OTT offered a cheaper alternative, becoming the norm in the pandemic. People seem to flock to theaters only for “event” movies, or movies that are considered too big to watch on the small screens of TVs, laptops and mobiles.
Incidentally, many OTT platforms have also been “boycotted” in the past, such as Amazon Prime for its “Tandav” web series in 2021. Despite these attempts, OTT platforms are fast becoming a standard feature in the lives of Indians who use the internet. frequently.