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Shorter is hotter: Bollywood cuts length for a better grip on viewer attention

Mainstream Bollywood films, such as the new releases Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, have shorter run times than ever before, sometimes even below the two-hour mark. Bollywood observers explain the trend.

bollywood Updated: Sep 05, 2017 17:06 IST
Rishabh Suri
Mainstream Bollywood films, such as Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, now have a shorter run time compared to the three-hour ‘sagas’ made earlier.
Mainstream Bollywood films, such as Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, now have a shorter run time compared to the three-hour ‘sagas’ made earlier.

Mainstream Bollywood films now have shorter run times than ever before, unlike the sagas of the past decades that easily crossed three hours. The recent release Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar, runs for 1 hour 45 minutes; and Qaidi Band, which launched newcomers Aadar Jain and Anya Singh, had a run time of 1 hour 59 minutes. Bareilly Ki Barfi, again featuring Ayushmann, with Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s film Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, both barely breached the two-hour mark.

Qaidi Band, featuring newcomers Aadar Jain and Anya Singh, runs for 1 hour 59 minutes.

Impatient audience, more shows

Trade expert Atul Mohan explains that this has to do with the impatient audiences today. “People today don’t have the time to sit through a three-hour film. We want everything instant, travelling to eating to entertainment.” He adds that the shorter run times actually help films to get more shows at multiplexes. “Multiplexes contribute the most to a film’s business. In this case, if a film is a good three hours long, then the show timings would be very odd.”

While short run times are associated with Hollywood films, which are usually around two hours long, Mohan adds that Bollywood has also been trying to make its films crisper. “Earlier, there used to be so many songs in Hindi films, but it has gradually lessened. Filmmakers now go for shorter length. If you drag something beyond a certain point, it tests the patience of audience.”

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Bidita Bag in Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, which has a run time of 2 hours 2 minutes.

Kushan Nandy, director of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, has the same thought. He says, “I feel that the audience’s attention span has become shorter. Today, if you go for a two-hour film, then you’re actually keeping two hours and 15-30 minutes in mind for the whole thing. But the moment someone says it’s a three-hour film, I know that four hours of my life are gone in a day — so attention span is definitely an issue.”

Content decides the run time

Bareilly Ki Barfi, starring Kriti Sanon, Rajkummar Rao, and Ayushmann Khurrana, was sweet and short at a whisker above 2 hours.

However, Aanand L. Rai, producer of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, feels differently. “I don’t think it has to do with the patience of the audience. It’s only to do with the fact that this story was supposed to get over in this length,” he says. “It’s not as if you made a 150-minute film and, if people didn’t like it, you’d shorten it to 100 minutes and the audience would fall in love with it! From a maker’s [point of view], it has nothing to do with the revenues.”

A good story is what Bareilly Ki Barfi director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari believes in. She says, “According to me, the story should decide the run time. Whatever is necessary should be kept.” She compares the increase in multiplex shows due to shortened length to TV commercials, saying, “In the advertising world, the fewer seconds [in ads], the more the airtime slots. It’s the same case with films today.”

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