From 150 to 90 minutes

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 25 May 2018

Several factors are making Bollywood filmmakers rethink the length of feature films

Hollywood films are short, somewhere between 90 and 100 minutes, which kind of works in their favour. Whereas Bollywood films are known for their long duration, which is almost two or two-and-a-half hours. But not many know that when movie making started in India, our films weren’t this long. The filmmakers maintained the Hollywood standard of 90-100 minute films with good story lines and crisp editing. 

But gradually, films here started getting longer because of the common belief that the Indian audience likes to spend money on movies which are more than two hours,  or else why would they go to a theatre? But lately, filmmakers and production houses have started realising that the length of a film matters and several filmmakers are now taking the Hollywood route. We are seeing more and more 90-minute films at the box office and the audience too isn’t complaining. All that they want is an entertaining and engrossing story. 

Films like Sudip Bandyopadhyay’s Hope Aur Hum tells a story of three generations learning to deal with change in their own way in exactly 90 minutes. Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor starrer 102 Not Out is 107-minute long. Hansal Mehta directed Omerta, based on the life of terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was 96-minute long. Rahul Shankalya’s Meri Nimmo is all of 90 minutes and is screening on Eros Now. Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi, was around 110 minutes. Shanker Raman’s Gurgaon, starring Pankaj Tripathi, Ragini Khanna and Akshay Oberoi, was 107 minutes. Amit Masurkar’s Newton had a run time of 106 minutes. Rajkummar Rao starrer Trapped, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, was 105 minutes. Sumeet Vyas and Kalki Koechlin starrer Ribbon was 109 minutes and so on. 

The need comes from the fact that the audience today no longer has the patience to sit through a two or two-and-a-half hour movie, believes industry and business experts. 

“The general trend that I have observed over the years is that the length of films have shortened. Unless it’s a Salman, Shah Rukh or Aamir Khan film where the audience wants to watch more of them on screen, the audience does not have the patience to sit through lengthy feature films. If the film has superstars, then song and dance, which increase the length, are value for money,” says Neerav Panchamia, VP, Operations, E-Square.

Trade analyst Amod Mehra says that the fewer number of songs in films has reduced the length. “Earlier, we used to have six to eight songs per film. Now that’s come down to three or four, so films have become shorter by 40 -45 minutes. That said, the audience does not mind sitting through adventure films like Avengers or similar genres for two hours or more,” he says. 

Most filmmakers believe that the content decides the length of the film. If the story demands, the length can be three hours, like in the case of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion which was two-hours-eighty-five minutes. 

Hope Aur Hum director Sudip Bandyopadhyay says that it’s not about Hollywood or Bollywood. “It’s all about the story you want to tell. Some Hollywood films like Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and many others are longer than 90 minutes. My story Hope Aur Hum was well told in 90 minutes,” he says.

Gurgaon director Shanker Raman says that there are certain mandates when people expect a certain length movie. “If you have a song and dance film or have certain stars involved, then longer films will work. Or if you are making a film like Batman, people will want to watch it for a longer time. I believe any content which is not star driven needs to be that much higher in quality so that you get people’s attention,” he says adding that shorter duration works best to tell a compact story. “In independent films, we do not have song and dance, so the length is less anyway. We cannot make a Masaan or Gurgaon into a two-hour film unless we add songs but then it won’t be the story we want to tell.”   

Shorter films make a lot of sense business-wise not just for producers and directors but exhibitors too. “If we have shorter films, we can fit in more shows which means more business for us. We get an additional show timing where we can easily add another one-and-a-half hour film,” says Neerav. To which Amod adds, “Earlier, we used to have 9-12, 12-3, 3-6, 6-9 shows but we cannot follow the same pattern anymore because the number of films have gone up. We need more screenings because theatres and multiplexes have to accommodate not just Hindi but regional and Hollywood films as well.” 

Shanker says that from the filmmaker’s perspective shorter films mean less budget. “As the length of your film increases, the scale goes up and so does the budget.”

The trend of shorter films may get popular and the content is also getting better, so it’s a win-win for the audience.

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