Issues get an eight-pack
The Hindi film industry has seen a great revamp in the last three years and the quality of cinema has changed for the good. This year, too, was witness to a mixed bag of films. As a pleasant surprise, films which got critical acclaim also caught the eyeballs.
In fact, you could safely call 2009 a year of issue-based films. There was Jail and then there was Paa. The reason why Indian cinema saw this shift from big banner, traditional blockbusters to socially relevant cinema is that people asked for a change. They didn’t just want to see films with only entertainment value but also wanted some social content in their entertainers. Like I always say, big budget, big banner films may be a hit but they are not necessarily good films, while a small film may not churn out the same amount at Box Office, but it may receive kudos.
To put things into perspective, I would like to give an example of my film Jail. It was a very different film and I am proud to have made it. It is one film that was appreciated by people from all walks of life. Jail was a real film based on the Indian judicial system. It was about people reeling behind bars. Though the film could not generate the kind of response at Box Office I had expected it to, but it made up by generated a huge positive response from audiences.
LS Speaker Meira Kumar and till BJP leader LK Advani loved it and came out with tears in their eyes. Even though the film was made on a small budget, it showed the Indian jail system in its truest form. That is what today’s audiences want.
Going back to 2008, Naseeruddin Shah starer A Wednesday was an impactful movie. Simply made, it successfully tackled the concept of terrorism.
This year closes with Hirani’s 3 Idiots which I am wanting to watch. There has been a lot of buzz around it and fairly so. After all, it is an Aamir Khan film. Paa was also a pathbreaking film and I loved it for its content. So, just like 2008, this year also stands out for its stress on simple experiments, changed mindsets, technical excellence and strong, very strong content.
This was also the year as India got global acclaim through Oscars. The importance of Hollywood in Bollywood cannot be denied. Hollywood has always been the baap of Bollywood and we have always drawn inspiration from it. Indian filmmakers have picked up subjects and ideas from Hollywood. It has always been a part of us and the presence is only increasing by each passing year.
In all, 2009 has been the year of change in Hindi cinema. Films like Rock On and Fashion in 2008 have given viewers that extra something which the 150 TV channels do not give them at home. Audiences have become very ruthless today. After all, with so much entertainment happening at just a flick of a remote, they will come to the multiplex only for an extra edge to their entertainment quotient.
Indeed, Bollywood came a long way. Our films were technically stronger, so much so that they are increasingly reaching out to people in foreign lands too. They watch them for the love of our song and dance sequences, our colour schemes and our bevy of emotions.
Having said that, we are still not equipped enough to make films like Avatar in India. Even though it is two hours and 40 minutes long, the film is a 3D marvel. The imaging is superb and it just takes you to another world of fantasy. Moreover, for a film with such a huge budget ($500 million), we need to understand that Hollywood has a market across the world. English is a universal language which gives these films an edge over us. They also dub all their films in different languages like French, Russian, German etc, which generates a lot of additional revenue.
In that sense, Indian films get limited. All we have is an NRI community and a limited interested foreign crowd. In India itself, there is very less viewership in places like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh etc. Despite being Indian States, the demand for Hindi films is just not there. It’s practically impossible for India to make a film like Avatar which had been on the floor for 12 long years.
Talking about money, the Indian cinema business also saw a slump owing to recession. While 2008 was a good year, 2009 has been much below the expectations. A lot of films tanked at the Box Office, not because they weren’t good content-wise but because of the slowdown. I am positive, however, about 2010 and am keeping my fingers crossed as a lot of good films are awaiting release next year.
2009 also lost on business because of the much-publicised producer-multiplex face-off, owing to which there were no releases for three months. And when the strike was called off, a pile-up happened. There was no breathing space at the multiplexes with films being released in quick succession. For example, when Jail released, it did not open to a good audience but gained on popularity through the word of mouth. People wanted to watch it but the very next week it was out of theatres because there were other releases. Cinema halls just could not hold on to one film for a very long time. Similar was the case with Sankat City which was a great film but by the time people got to know about it, it was nowhere to be seen.
Year 2009 was also the year of young actors like Neil Nitin Mukesh, Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapur and Imran Khan. This new brigade is creating a niche for itself and has made work speak for it. Their performances have been appreciated and I am very happy for them. But that doesn’t mean that there is no place for the likes of SRK or Aamir. When Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff ruled screen space, there came a time for newer generation like Aamir, SRK and Salman, and they all co-existed. So is the case with SRK, Aamir and Ranbir, Neil and Shahid. There is a place for everyone under the sun.
– As told to Nidhi Mittal