Has Today’s Cinema Killed the Art of Storytelling?

— Sohail Ashraf

“Once upon a time there lived……………” we may have heard these words many times, words which had a magical effect of drawing our attention where we left everything else and were ever ready to listen what follows.

This is the magic of story telling that has been around since ages. Story telling along with music and sport has been the source of entertainment across different regions across different ages of the history of man. While for Music and Sport one needs a certain skill level and/or training, the magic of story telling lies in its simplicity, meaning anybody can tell a story and this makes stories endearing to all, as it does not need the story teller or his/her audience to have some understanding of it like in case of music or sport.


Like music and sport, story telling has evolved over the ages, from simple gathering of people where one person told a story to others around him to pictorial drawing on caves to books to theatre to cinema, story telling has evolved like no other art form. However the sad part is that the medium which was considered to be best for story telling has now resulted in its very decline and that medium i am referring to is cinema.


When cinema came about, the audience was in awe as it gave the stories a visual appeal. What we imagined in our minds when we listened to a story was being shown to us right in front of our eyes. In the good old days, the hero of a movie was the story and everything else such the actors, the sets, the costumes, background music etc revolved around it trying to the tell the story in the best possible way, and a result, we had many classics which we still talk about today.


Sadly today, we are witness to movies where the story is a junior artist or in most cases, non existent. Filmmakers these days are more concerned about the star cast, the lavish sets, the exotic locations, the jazzy music etc but story….? no one seems to care about telling a good story. Take for instance the blockbuster, “The Avengers: Infinity War”, while many may argue that to follow the story one needs to watch all the marvel movies before it but I frankly did not see much of a story. It’s just the same old bad guy wanting to destroy the world versus the good guys and this kind of story no longer intrigues. It’s there just for the heck of it. The Marvel movies in general and the latest avengers movie in particular, are more about the unique powers of the super hero, elaborate action sequences, the massive sets and the cutting edge CGI and less about telling a story which we can reminisce for generations to come.


Like these, we have countless examples of movies of today where the selling point is the hero or the lead pair or the songs or the sex scenes or cheap sentiments but not the story. Also in the so called “good cinema” we see these days, which get 4 or 5 stars, what I see is less of story but more of sensationalism such as a violence, gore, drugs, sex etc which the filmmakers package these days and sell as “realistic movie”.


What I need to see in my movies today is not glitz or some big star, what I want is good story, one that intrigues me, one that make me talk about it for years to come. What i want is something like an “Inception” or an “Interstellar” which had the best actors, the best sets, the best CGI available but the talking point of these movies, the real star was the story of these movies which made us say “kya movie banaya re baap”. I wish we have more of “Inceptions” especially in Indian cinema but until that happens. let’s just continue to lap up the latest “blockbusters” like those addicts who are happy with any kind of substance they get their hands on.