December 04, 2010

Once Upon a Time in India

This is a true story.

In the year 2001, a seventeen-year old boy discovered cinema. He started understanding the difference between the crap that had dominated the popular cinema of his consciousness, the cream of the crap that had resulted in some blockbusters, and the rare cinema rooted in aesthetics of the craft. One important lesson was to understand how 'sound' matters in a movie, among many other big and small mantras he picked up from that textbook of a movie. The final and the most essential lesson was how passion, in fact lunacy, was essential for making a truly immortal film.

The movie that taught the young boy this, went on to win the hearts of people all over the globe. Today, it is considered as one of the landmark films of Hindi cinema. This boy, struck by the achievement and short-sighted by faith, had exclaimed among his movie-crazy friends: "In the next ten years, we are going to have at least five Academy nominations, and two wins!" More than nine years have passed. The boy is now 26. He is waiting no more. He has lost all hope. He has lost his faith.

'Satya' was the film that planted in me the seeds of film-making passion. But I started learning the art with 'Lagaan'. The first foreign-language films I watched were 'No Man's Land' and 'Amelie', because they were in competition with 'Lagaan', and thus I discovered world cinema. I used to follow every word that Gowariker said those days, and thus, following his inspiration, I discovered Guru Dutt, V. Shantaram, and Bimal Roy. The film was followed by a documentary on its making, titled 'Chale Chalo: The Lunacy of Film Making'. I went to watch that in a theatre, covering a long distance by bus, alone.

'Lagaan' had the tagline: Once Upon a Time in India. I never knew it meant something like this can only happen once!

To be fair to Ashutosh Gowariker, I do not expect him to re-create something as wonderful as 'Lagaan', or even 'Swades' for that matter. I accepted the flaws of 'Jodha Akbar' and the flaw called 'What's Your Rashi?' with a smile, understanding, as he says, why he made these movies. But this time, I am left disappointed, and angry. You taught me Sir, the importance of correct sound in cinema. Why then, is the sound (including the background score) of this latest film of yours so terribly done? Why have your characters lost themselves to stars, or incompetence of the cast, or your complacence? I remember you had promised this film would be shorter. By your standards, 2 hours 45 minutes is short. But when are you going to realize that each film should be completed within the time that best suits its purpose? I refuse to believe that your passion and your 'lunacy of film-making' remains the same. And that, Sir, is a crime, especially for you than anyone else.

This is a true story. Ashutosh Gowariker is no more among my favourite film-makers. Unfortunately, he has managed to instill an insecurity and fear in me. I am no more worried about my success in this industry. I am afraid of being destroyed post that success, by my own complacency and errors of judgment, and by the loss of the purity and passion I earned through cinema.