Being a writer for over half a decade has made me realise one thing that I like to share (admittedly way too often) with an explanation that you’re allowed to call oversimplistic.
Almost anything can be sold in the market – and if making money is what drives you as an artist, there isn’t much standing between you and your dream.
I also speak here as an introvert who’d rather watch 3 movies in a day than hang out with a long-forgotten batchmate, something very close to my definition of a nightmare.
Anyway, the point being, I have been close to two art forms, and I have figured that the manner in which the entertainment business works is fascinating. When it is not appalling.
Enter B-grade movies.
That was my version of a jump cut, which the genre heavily relies upon. But moving on, one would be surprised to know (or not) the kind of popularity these movies enjoy with the masses. Which begs us to ask the question: What makes them work?
Historically, sex and horror.
As Ashim Ahluwalia, director of a movie titled Miss Lovely, puts it:
Most people find them funny because they can be accidentally quite hilarious. The target audience are the people who find Aamir Khan or Amitabh Bachchan boring and would rather see a chudail rip someone’s head off or have an erotic shower.
Ashim puts an “or” between the two activities chudails supposedly enjoy but more often than not, it isn’t an either-or situation.
The witch does both, normally in the order opposite to the one mentioned.
And there are people who choose to watch it over Aamir Khan’s portrayal of a wrestler, or Amitabh Bachchan’s on-screen attempts to save the humanity from a drug mafia who chops the upper-half of a cigar with the same proficiency as he chops people’s heads off.
That’s one similarity between him and the chudails but usually, that is all.
And while I don’t mean to suggest that logic reigns supreme in our maintream cinema, with the B-grade movies, it is taken a few knotches lower.
This rarely proves to be a roadblock.
Now, having covered what B-grade movies comprise of, we move to the why part of our quest to understand this section of movies.
Why do the makers rely so heavily on horror and sex? The answer lies in psychology.
Primarily, people enjoy horror for two reasons: The sudden rush of adrenaline and the curiosity about the unknown.
This mixture of sentiments is what the B-grade movie makers cash on.
As for sex, the answer is simple and probably something you already know: Voyeurism.
Watching two people (or 3, or 30 – who’s making the rules?) get physically intimate with each other is something that is always going to work because of our inherent, sometimes questionable, desire to know what we’re told we should not.
Throwing more light on the financal aspect of this, the pioneer of B-grade movies, though he doesn’t like that categorisation, Kanti Shah says:
When you ask me why I make films that have temptation scenes, it is because my producers who invested in me need to earn something. The distributors also need money to survive and at the end of the day, everyone in the industry has to make money. No one does any charity work.
Kanti Shah pictured here with actor Sapna.
Right. So that answers all the questions?
Anyone who has seen B-grade movies, even in bits, will want to know how do they make profit when their quality is so bad?
Fair enough. We understand that one would want to resort to certain tropes, but how does the very apparent lack of effort doesn’t bother the viewers?
Well, because they are not going inside the cinema hall to have a life-changing experience. Also, we underestimate cheap thrills.
People are not just accepting of low standards, they are enthusiastic about them.
And nothing fits that bill like a chudail twisting people’s heads after taking a shower.
It is for the same reason, that the makers of these movies come up with the most bizarre titles. For instance:
I am sure they are capable of thinking beyond these over-the-top, raunchy phrases but subtlety, as I mentioned before, doesn’t rank too high in their list of priorities.
Finally, let us look at the distribution model of the B-grade movies.
While the world seems to not take the makers of these films very seriously, they know their business and they know it well.
The producers are aware that they can’t afford to spend too much money on the filming and the easiest way to achieve that goal is to wrap things up quickly.
To give you more insight on this, here’s a quote from T.L.V Prasad who made as many as 10 B-grade movies with Mithun.
When I’m shooting for one, I’m writing the next. The script takes one month and the music sittings one week. I shoot for 40 days and post-production takes 15 days.
Now, once the movie is ready, it is released on N number of screens – just enough to make substantial profit.
And then, this process is repeated.
To end this, I’ll say that while watching these movies is not be an idea I am quite ready to entertain, it is interesting to study the money-making model they are a part of. The B in B-grade stands for ‘business’.