Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Way Ahead...

Post my foray into the world cinema and understanding of it, what I realized is that our tendency of comparing the level of our cinema with any other part of world is always one-dimensional. We always have got few yardsticks to measure and draw conclusions. For us, a Titanic is better mainly because of the size of the ship or the way it sank. A Fast & Furious is great because the car-chase sequences were pretty neat and breathtaking. We need to blame our distributors for this as well. As we traditionally bring in movies of action or horror genre. Distributors complained of lukewarm response to any other genres. Yet, today I do not find J. Edgar releasing in three of the biggest multiplex chains near to my home in New Bombay. But there are three versions of Underworld (English 3D, Hindi 3D and Hindi) releasing all over. Now, I am not complaining against any specific genre but till when we will continue to treat the audience with genres that has almost got nothing else to offer apart from bringing the world to end in almost every second movie. Also, we can not undermine the intelligence of the audience as well. They are the same public who also liked Aamir, A Wednesday, Bheja Fry or for that matter Khosla ka Ghosla.

Now those who have seen Scarface or A Few Good Men or Cast Away, all of which depict different genres of drama, must have appreciated the movie. But at the same time, these movies must have made them feel that how far you can push the envelope as far as film-making is concerned. Now, our producers back home are still cashing on stereotyped masala being served to the audience time and again. Surprisingly, we have got audience for that too. Else, movies with less-than-zero-content like Ready or Singham would not have done such massive business. Film-making has become more of a marketing tactic than turning an idea into reality. The makers today are putting money in a project looking at the star cast, how much money the movie can make (based on the no. of item songs, tried and tested formula) and counting on just the opening weekend. The majority of the movies have been reduced to just the first-weekend-collection game. So for them, it’s all about selling the movie with a great hype created by different mediums of media for the first three days. And in between all these, the content is given the least priority.

A large section of these producers (who actually are marketers and does not understand anything in film-making) validate their position by saying movies are only meant for entertainment and people do not want to put their mind seriously into any movie. If this would have been the mantra for our film industry, we would never have created works like Pyaasa, Mother India, Anand, Abhimaan, Koshish, Chupke Chupke (the list is pretty exhaustive) and so on. Now in this age of multiplexes, we still are heading backwards with movies are regressive in nature. Though we have got space for all sorts of movies, but I feel perplexed so much investment in such movies. We, in 2012, still do not have takers for new directors (but the producers are ready to produce Sajid Khan, Shirish Kunder, Farha Khan, Sameer Karnik again and again), new musicians (but makers are still putting money for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who are not able to give decent music for last 2 years now, even though they have many good work to their credit in past), new actors (but we still see Zayed Khan, Tushar Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi etc. working in colorful big projects), new stories (but we spent crores in making Thank You, Players, RaOne, Ready etc.), new singers (but we easily repeat Tulsi Kumar). I mean this list can be so long that I might write a full-fledged thesis on it.

Today, someone of the stature like Om Puri is not getting work (which he openly admits) and the list is quite long. Our producers do not have faith in the skills of Govind Nihlani as a director or a Shyam Benegal as a film-maker! We still do not have trust to give work to so many talented people around, for the simple reason – they do not have star power. They can not pull the crowds into the theatre. Then how come so many small movies worked without the big stars. And how come few big stars made small movies like Dhobi Ghat, Rocket Singh, Do Dooni Char and made it work. People liked it, it may have not garnered the producers’ huge business but again they did not suffer loss. But these movies pushed the level of cinema by some distance and set a new benchmark. Now instead of taking it further, we have a bunch of people who still believe in just the commercial value not the content.

The leading names in the industry should play a vital role in taking the level of the cinemas up by collaborating to create better work in all the aspect. We see actors like Brad Pitt or George Clooney still evolving with each new movie they do. You find the amount hard work being put for each character they play. And you still see veterans like Al Pacino or Tom Hanks still coming out with heart-wrenching performances with their new projects. Now, they earn both critical acclaim as well as public appreciation. This does not mean that they never play commercial roles. For example, a Will Smith does 3 fantasy movies and then comes with The Pursuit of Happiness and takes your breath away. But back here, we see the big names, apart from a handful few, playing it safe. We do not see a SRK doing a Swadesh or Chak De anymore, but resorting to Om Shanti Om to generate revenue. We see a quite capable actor Akshay Kumar doing run-of-the-mill comedies for ages now with an excuse that comedies are the order of the day. But we do not see our film-makers turning to some of the finest actors we have in the industry and doing movies that will move us. But they very generously fund movies like Chatur Singh Two Star (how on earth one can even think of making something like this in the year 2011!). Those who dared to go in the path less travelled are either wiped out thanks to zero-support from their own fraternity. Today, only those having a sound financial background are going beyond just the obvious. So the bottom-line is, if you simply know acting, you can’t be an actor. If you simply know the craft of film-making, you will not make it big in the film industry. What you need is, a lot of PR, hiring a consultant, creating a network and end of the day beg for work. If you survive these tests for some infinite period, then one fine day something ‘might’ happen. Else, you need to satisfy yourself by watching Ranveer Singh dancing to the tunes of Salim-Suleiman thanks to his father who could crack it for him in Yash Raj studios. We need to give 'content' more value one day than 'commercial-value'.

Though this entire piece may sound negative, yet we still have hope with few of the younger guys trying to take more risks. At the same time for every Aamir there is a SRK, for every Hrithik there is an Abhishek and for every Ranbir there is an Imran. You take it or leave it.