In the last year, the biggest hits have predictably been the big budget films such as Dhoom 3, Chennai Express, Krrish 3 and Ram-Leela. But when you take a look at some of the other hit Hindi films of the last year, you realise what a great variety of cinema has been made; and been successful as well. Sample these recent films – Kai Po Chhe, Special 26, ABCD, Lootera, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Shuddh Desi Romance, Lunch Box, Dedh Ishqiya, Hasee Toh Phasee, Highway and most recently Queen – what marvelous variety we see in these movies!
Most of these films boast no big stars and many of them have been made with modest budgets. They are comedies, love stories, road films, dramas that have made observations about changing mores of our society or simply told good, solid stories. These are all non-formulaic films that have succeeded in spite of being different; perhaps because they are different.
Multiplex films have arrived in India; they have arrived in a big way and there are many reasons why this is so:
Typically when you or I go to the movies today, we go to a multiplex where several films will be running simultaneously. This multiple screen format has given filmmakers the confidence to make varied cinema. While one may not to all the way up to a single screen theatre to watch a film starring little known actors made by unknowns, there is a greater likelihood of such a film being watched in a multiplex setting. The success of movies such as Bheja Fry, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and more recently The Lunch Box, is evidence of this.
Audiences are more sophisticated
With the plethora of TV channels and the huge variety of programming available in the home at the push of a button, audiences have come to expect better cinema. They are exposed to movies from all over the world and demand quality home grown cinema as well. Audiences want technically good films, entertaining films that that say something different, films that they feel give them their money’s worth when they shell out anywhere between Rs 100 and Rs 500 for a film.
Audiences are no longer content with the same rehash of done-to-death plots, with the same few aging stars pretending to be young. To be sure audiences are still in thrall of the reigning superstars – the massive success of Chennai Express and Dhoom 3 is proof of this. But they are not willing to accept any old thing; audiences are certainly rejecting bad cinema, regardless of who is acting in it, or who has made the film. The fact that Salman Khan’s Jai Ho did not do as well as expected is proof of this.
Zanjeer (2013) was a remake of one of Hindi cinema’s most iconic films, but it flopped because it was really badly made with a terrible script. Even Akshay Kumar’s larger than life presence and the most expensive song sequence could not save Boss – we’ve seen the man do the same thing all too often, and the audiences had had enough. Ranbir Kapoor’s charisma and vast talent could not salvage the fortunes of Besharam – it was just too harum scarum a movie.
So what if the first edition was a good film – Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara was a mediocre film and the audiences gave it a thumbs down. The original Himmatwala starring Jeetendra may have been a hit movie of its time, but its remake was out of synch with present reality – the presence of the formidable Ajay Devgn could not disguise the dated, regressive film that it essentially was and audiences were less than impressed.
Similar was the fate of Yamala Pagala Deewana 2 – I would imagine that the audiences felt once was more than enough; the combined star power of the three Deols (plus a chimp) could not drag enough people to the cinemas. Even some of our finest filmmakers can make mistakes – audiences had little patience with the senseless hash that was Matru ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. So what if it was a Vishal Bhardwaj film!
In a time where content is king and when social network buzz can influence the fate of a film, audiences are demanding more and getting it!
Where earlier filmmakers played safe without experimenting too much, they now have the courage to make different types of films. In fact the line between commercial and alternative cinema is increasingly becoming blurred. Whereas earlier someone like Anurag Kashyap would have been considered an art house or at best a niche filmmaker, today he can hope to have successful runs of his films at the box office too.
So, visceral films like Gangs of Wasseypur which would earlier have made some ripples at a film festival or two and would have had the high brow chatterati gush about it briefly, can hope to actually make money now. Quite simply there are more takers today for the Anurag Kashyaps and the Imtiaz Alis of the film industry and so there are more people willing to finance such cinema.
Distributors, producers, and production houses are more confident of going out on a limb to support different types of cinema. These filmmakers may still be making so called ‘niche’ films. The difference is that this niche has grown a lot larger.
By – Reena Daruwalla