The covid-19 pandemic showed us what we would have never imagined otherwise. People were confined to their homes for years.
Future plans took a hit due to the tragic loss of lives. And it almost happened all of a sudden. It was like you woke up one morning and found the traffic was gone. The air was fresher. The outside ambiance became drastically quiet.
We witnessed the fear unfold from our homes. But not everybody was in their houses back then. Specifically, the migrant laborers, who had traveled to the cities for better work opportunities.
They waited for the crisis to wane. When it didn’t, they had no option other than heading to their ‘homes’ in the villages.
Also Read: Bheed Movie Review
But with transport facilities frozen, thanks to the lockdown, how were they supposed to do it?
The workers decided to ‘walk’ back home. As superficial as it might sound, it is the truth. They strolled along the railway tracks when roads were shut, and found ways to manage a trip, without water, food, and other essentials.
Bheed is a film by Anubhav Sinha, based on the horrendous migrant exodus. It was released on 24th March 2023.
Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Pankaj Kapur, Ashutosh Rana, Aditya Srivastava, and Dia Mirza are some of the names that star in Bheed.
A social film, Bheed got everything right, from content to critical praise. Still, it couldn’t earn moolah.
Going by the box office collections and footfalls, people didn’t show up in theaters. There can be many reasons for this.
Here’s what I think.
Not A Commercial Film
Bheed wasn’t a commercial movie. So, the PR strategy was quite restricted. You didn’t see banner ads or chartbuster music wooing audiences.
The cast of the film was high on content-oriented stardom. Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar, Pankaj Kapur, and Ashutosh Rana, among others, are performers who are mostly associated with rooted movies.
The names above are the unpopular lot that doesn’t have PR machinery having their backs.
The Narrative by Influencers
Bheed was conceived as a political movie than a social one. This has to do with the influencer mindset these days.
The minute a trailer is released, a plethora of social media influencers are ready with their blabber to impact our opinion.
They think of themselves as superior to us. They are dramatic, assertive, and persuasive. It also has to do with our habit of consuming.
We are more into such stuff. The market for simple but truthful media has shrunk. Unless someone is screaming their pants off, we won’t even spare a minute to listen.
So, the narrative around Bheed was that it was a political critique of the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the migrant crisis.
And that was twisted by these influencers to flame the feelings of blindfolded government supporters. With a strong online presence, it was never difficult for them to instill doubts.
Motivated Campaign Against Bheed
Ever since Bheed’s trailer came out, social media was abuzz. Why? Because ‘some’ people were offended.
They thought Bheed was a critique of India and not that of the Indian government’s handling of the migrant crisis in the aftermath of Covid-19.
Have a look at these screenshots. Aren’t they deriding? These so-called influencers reek of hatred:
These days, calling a spade a spade has also become a matter of convenience. Unless it suits our narrative, we are not ready to believe it.
First, Bheed was never a political film. Second, even if it criticizes the government, what is wrong with it? The government, regardless of its ideological affiliation, is meant to be criticized fiercely.
That’s among the basic tenets of a democracy. Unless we ask tough questions, how will we ensure accountability?
Bheed only aims to depict what happened. It doesn’t force anything. It was always the government’s responsibility to arrange for the movement of migrants. It failed to do so.
It was the administration’s job to ensure food security during those testing times. Unfortunately, it largely failed. There can be reasons but how can you justify innocent citizens dying while sleeping on the railway tracks?
You might argue to support your political inclination. Can you deny the fact that the lowest strata of society deserved much more from our government back then?
If showing the truth is a soft crime, we deserve cringey remakes and not mindful original stories.
The OTT mindset
Remember the time when films with zero promotions would find their audience through the word of mouth? It doesn’t happen anymore.
The advent of OTT platforms in India, combined with affordable internet, has changed our mindset.
Now, most of us keep small-budget films at bay when it comes to going to the cinema hall. We know it would stream online within a month or two.
It is a logical idea, to be honest. But, frankly speaking, never can the experience of watching a movie in the theater come even close to that of streaming it at home.
Content-oriented, original films no longer have it easy at the box office. They struggle to pull the audience because people don’t find them attractive enough for the big screen.
The same happened with Bheed.
Imagine, you are an entrepreneur and, after months of pitching to prospective investors, you finally get one to finance your innovative mobile application.
However, just on the release event of its prototype, the investor backs off.
What signal would it send to the community? That something must be wrong with your app.
It actually happened with Bheed. As soon as its trailer was released on YouTube and the movie received hatred from a section of people on Twitter, for figuratively comparing the migrant crisis to the partition of India, T Series, the film’s producer, decided to back off.
They must have already put money into the making of Bheed. Still, they were ready to pull out of the project. Why? Because the movie had a lot more to lose than T-Series. They’d earn from other films but Bheed was standalone.
Now, when the producers backed out, the message among the masses, propelled into their sight through intimidating news articles, was loud and clear.
Lack of disposable income
Trust me or not, the general public is potentially going through a cash crunch. The money saved for films is now used to buy OTT subscriptions, food deliveries, and travel.
People have started traveling a lot ever since the pandemic because they have realized there’s no tomorrow. Add to it the Instagram posts giving major FOMO with their aesthetic appeal.
A specific amount needs to be sanctioned for cinema viewing, with ticket prices hovering around the Rs.250 mark on average, plus taxes.
This point is linked to the OTT mindset that I mentioned above. The middle class can either afford multiple OTT subscriptions or a movie in the theater.
I think it’s an easy choice unless a big star is waiting to allure us.
The Public Not Yet Ready
People were not yet ready to witness the horrendous visuals of Covid-19. Sometimes, after a sad event, we vow to never revisit it, for the kind of memories it would bring back.
It is natural to feel like this. I couldn’t watch the movie ‘Sarabjit’ because it had a disturbingly true plot. To date, my guts fail me whenever I think of streaming it.
So, there are people who are yet to come out of the havoc created by the pandemic. I still remember how the team of ‘New Amsterdam’ decided to postpone their Covid special season after realizing they had hit it out of the park.
It was done to empathize with the audience as the makers thought throwing at them realistic visuals would not be morally right.
Bheed might have suffered the same, but very minutely, which is why I have put this point at the end.
Sadly, Anubhav Sinha had the spine to showcase a chunk of hard realities in Bheed, it was we, the audience, that didn’t. Many of us even failed to appreciate his efforts.
You may not agree with me or my reasoning above. But pause and think for a while. The movie had a stellar cast, a sturdy plot, a transformative storyline, and, to top it all, Bheed received rave reviews from most of the critics.
Why didn’t it work at the box office then?
Sometimes, we are shown a certain narrative on social media and we start believing it left, right, and center. It shouldn’t be like that.
Simply because I disliked a movie and gave it a negative review, it doesn’t mean you will hate it, too.
And, I always emphasize that my review is just an opinion. Never consider it the final nail in the coffin.
Use your agility, apply your mind, and check out other sources before finalizing a perception in your mind based on what ‘influencers’ say on social media.
Most of them get paid for their tweets and posts. And the cost of it is the impact on your opinion.