A quintessential Bollywood movie staple around 2003-2006:
* Sweeping shots of New York or London, the typical loud Punjabi, Maharashtrian or any other Indian family replete with single mothers or fathers (Kal Ho Na Ho, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna) taking care of the family business, bratty or completely obedient British/American born confused ‘desi’ kids (Namastey London, Kal Ho Na Ho yet again) played by Shah Rukh Khan and/or Katrina Kaif, their best buddies, some show of ‘Indianness’ (Hrithik Roshan dancing to Vande Mataram in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Akshay Kumar’s lecture to an Englishman in Namastey London), and the proverbial love story. *
Where did the good old ‘Kashmir ke pahaad’ and ‘kalis’ or Indian deserts and beaches go? Filmmakers simply targeted their films at the NRI audience, in a bid to earn in dollars, euros, dinars, etc. It wasn’t like these films couldn’t be enjoyed by the Indian masses (they are still enjoyed now), but they were made with the primary interest of luring in NRIs, and so for a couple of years we had the ‘ Foreign Fever’.
However, cut to present day Bollywood, and you’ll see a vast change from the NRI tearjerkers to much more meaningful cinema. Even stories that require a foreign setting bring something new to the table. Films like English Vinglish or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, despite being set abroad, cover topics that are relatable and refreshing, and therefore make people look up and smile. But the real show-stealers are in the form of content driven films like Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, Barfi, Raajneeti, No One Killed Jessica, Paa, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, etc. which not only impressed the critics but also endeared themselves with the audiences, and got the cash registers ringing. These films bring a shift in the paradigm that only mega-stars and foreign locales pull crowds, and reinitiated the era of masala + meaning movies. A change in the perceptions and demands of the viewers has helped facilitate the success of these films. These days, people may flock to theatres, once in a while, to watch films that are glossy and rely solely on skyscrapers, lush green gardens or sunsets, but in the long run this formula stands no match against a riveting story.
A problem that also must be taken into account is the sliding rupee, which makes production of films in foreign locales, even more expensive. Therefore, wouldn’t it be more feasible to shoot in India, after all the recent films coupled with the !ncrdible India (sic) beauty of our nation, can be sufficient proof that, films without foreign locales survive just as well in the market.
So in order to get to the top, concentrate more on stories and give baseless films shot abroad, the full stop.