Stree, Munjya, Kakuda, Bhediya, Hanu-Man: Decoding why folklore-inspired films are on the rise

In the last decade, Indian cinema has seen a notable rise in films and web series drawing inspiration from Indian folklore. Titles such as Bhoothnath Returns (2014), Puli (2015), Nagarahavu (2016), Pari (2018), Tumbbad (2018), Stree (2018), Bhediya, and OTT shows like Kaali (2018), Betaal (2020), and Asur (2020) have embraced these timeless tales, ushering audiences into a realm of myth, legend, and cultural heritage. Industry experts attribute this trend to several compelling factors.

HT Image
HT Image

A treasure trove of untold stories

Filmmakers are captivated by the timeless appeal and profound cultural depth of folklore, which offers a repository of untold stories, mystical characters, and moral lessons. “These stories, passed down through generations, are deeply embedded in the cultural consciousness of the country. They have a certain timeless appeal that resonates with audiences,” says filmmaker Amar Kaushik, known for hits like Stree (2018) and Bhediya (2023).

Also Read: 7 questions for Stree 2: From Shraddha Kapoor and Tamannaah Bhatia’s identity to Varun Dhawan’s cameo as Bhediya

A still from the 2018 film Tumbbad
A still from the 2018 film Tumbbad

Kaushik elaborates, “India is vast, and wherever you go, you will hear countless tales. As a creator, whenever you sit down to write a story, this is your foundation. There are countless rooted stories that still remain to be told. Every street has a story. When audiences see their own untold stories on the big screen, they feel a sense of attachment and nostalgia.”

Also Read: Kennedy, Sanaa, Stolen: Why India’s festival favorites struggle for a release in the domestic market?

Versatility in storytelling

Sohum Shah, lead actor of the acclaimed Tumbbad (2018), explains the appeal of folklore-inspired content to contemporary audiences, “Folklore can be adapted across genres, from the supernatural horror of Tumbbad to the fantastical adventure of Baahubali. This versatility allows creators to explore various cinematic styles and themes.” He adds, “During the pandemic, people explored a lot of OTT content and grew tired of the same old love stories, action flicks, and sci-fi. Audiences are now drawn to movies and shows inspired by Indian folklore because they offer something new yet rooted in our culture.”

Poster of Varun Dhawan from the film Bhediya
Poster of Varun Dhawan from the film Bhediya

Wholesome experience for families

Today, there seems to be a strong desire among audiences to reconnect with their cultural roots. Indian folklore serves as a powerful tool for exploring and reaffirming cultural identity. Director Prasanth Varma, whose film Hanu-Man became a historic success in Tollywood reflects, “Folklore offers timeless themes and characters that evoke nostalgia and cultural pride. Bringing these stories to the screen fosters a wholesome experience for families and celebrates our diverse cultural heritage.” He adds, “Folklore-based films encourage all generations to come together and enjoy these stories. Embracing our own culture has become the new cool. Even other countries are embracing Indian culture. The days of imitating Western culture are behind us.”

Also Read: Varun Dhawan doesn’t want you to miss post-credit scene of Munjya. Here’s why

Visual and aesthetic appeal

The visual and narrative richness of folklore provides filmmakers with compelling storytelling elements. Prasanth Varma elaborates, “Indian folklore often features grand, mythical settings and larger-than-life characters, translating beautifully to the screen. Elaborate costumes, intricate set designs, and cutting-edge special effects breathe life into these ancient tales, captivating audiences with vivid detail. The visual and aesthetic appeal of these stories is a significant draw for both filmmakers and the audiences.”

A poster from the film Hanu-Man
A poster from the film Hanu-Man

Demand for original and diverse narratives

The success of folklore-inspired content also reflects changing audience preferences for original and diverse narratives. Actor Aparshakti Khurana, gearing up for the release of Stree 2 based on the legend of Nale Ba, observes, “Viewers are gravitating towards folklore-based films because they offer believability and freshness. There was a lot of clutter in the market sometime ago. Hence, to try different and original things, writers picked up on folklore. It’s working touchwood and we are happy about it.”

Mona Singh, starring in Munjya based on the legend of Munja, adds, “This kind of content intrigues audiences because it explores our own culture and stories, offering something authentic and different.”

Also Read: 

The question now arises: While folklore lives through ages, will folklore-based cinema also be timeless?

Sohum Shah believes, “Change is the only constant. This is a period where the audiences are enjoying this cinema. But it will change. And while they may become less popular in the long run, but this folklore-inspired cinema will become a genre in itself.”

Source link