August 28, 2013

Winds of Change?

February 2011: Filmfare Awards declare "Dabangg" the Best Film of the year and Karan Johar the Best Director for "My Name is Khan".

Two years later...

February 2013: None of the top grossers of the year - "Ek Tha Tiger", "Bol Bachchan", "Houseful 2", "Jab Tak Hai Jaan", "Rowdy Rathore", "Agneepath" and "Dabangg 2" could bag even a nomination in the Best Film category. "Barfi" won the award. And the runners-up were "Kahaani", "Vicky Donor", "English Vinglish" and the Wasseypur films - all fairly successful films but none to match the insane commercial triumph of the big ones.

May 2013: An "anthology film" - "Bombay Talkies" gets remarkably wide release and good publicity. The stars of the film, for a change, are directors, two of them being the most well-known auteurs of Hindi cinema today. (Remember it is easier to sell the name of a "genre" director like Rohit Shetty. The case was not the same here.)

July 2013: 'Ship of Theseus' gets a limited release in five cities. Almost all shows go house-full all week in Mumbai. Some of my friends, not from the film industry, watch and love it and do not feel it was too slow! Next week, the number of shows increase, a rare achievement for any film in today's times, and the movie reaches new cities. The trend continues, with the film travelling to cities like Patna, Lucknow, and Bhopal. In Mumbai, the film runs for five weeks. Although, big names were attached to it and we can not hope the same results with other films, the fact that the release model worked is such a good sign. Imagine, if the film had failed in its opening week, forcing the exhibitors to bring it out of theatres after the first week! Perhaps the success is only slightly positive a sign. But the failure would definitely mean doom for more such efforts.

August 2013: Another indie film "BA Pass" is fairly successful. OK. Sex always sells, right? NO. "Nasha", that released only a week ago could not gross half the numbers of "BA Pass".

And soon after, "Madras Cafe" is released. I love it thoroughly despite being slightly underwhelmed with its technical finesse. My brother says - "This is good enough for India!" I agree. We are going in the right direction, after all. Such a film is getting made, and getting successful. Good news. The very next day, I go to watch the Bengali film "Taasher Desh". The most pleasant surprise is not the film, but the fact that the Censor Board passed it without an Adult certificate. The film is U/A. The content is definitely bolder than that, with several intimate love making and homo-erotic scenes. Hope it is not an exceptional case and the CBFC maintains the same standards when it comes to Hindi films.

September 2013: Two big production houses have joined hands to release another small gem "The Lunchbox" that will be released in September. Fingers corssed!

The change will come only if it is holistic in nature. Otherwise one-off exceptions to the rigid rules of the market have always raised their heads and eventually got lost into oblivion. It has to start from the making - content driven, deftly executed films, on varied topics, including some conventionally controversial ones. The release and marketing is more vital than the production. It has to be done smartly and successfully. The critics should do their job - I loved Jeeturaj screaming on Radio Mirchi, urging the audience to go and watch "Ship of Theseus". The audience should respond well, and the word of mouth should be strong. The exhibitors should have continued confidence in such content - and I so admire PVR for actually releasing rare films. And eventually, the popular awards like Filmfare should acknowledge these films when the year ends. I won't go so far to say that the change has begun - the latest mega success of "Chennai Express" is nothing short of a disappointment (as we speak the film is making its way to the throne of the highest grossing Hindi film of all time). But I would like to hope that there are some welcome signs and that one day good cinema will finally dawn upon Hindi films. I will keep hoping this until February 2014 when, in most probability, Filmfare will award "Chennai Express" the Best Film if the year. I dread that day. Hope it never comes.


  1. Hello sir,
    I was actually going to write to you asking if we are luck to be witnessing a probable start of a revolution in the Indian Cinema which shall very strongly influence in improvement of other art forms as well.
    Two things I very strongly feel about is Dance and Cinema respectively and somehow the whole below average standard of Dance education and understanding in India is influenced a lot by Bollywood but with 'Good Cinema' being appreciated I think we very well are a part of some kind of a revolution and hopefully we shall see Art in any form being accepted and appreciated even by a die hard Salman fan.

  2. So there are films that are purely entertaining. Maybe something like Chennai Express. And then there are films that are informative and entertaining.Ship of Theseus.
    I guess we need a good mix of all sorts of genres to provide a hybrid platform to filmmakers with varying interests, and varied selection options to audiences. Not everyone likes Tea! Similarly, not everyone can like Chennai Express! And not everyone can like Ship of Theseus! A variety is needed in a booming market. (Hence we got 'iced tea' and 'tea which is actually boiled water with plucked leaves' :P)

  3. Hi Satyanshu,

    Loved your blog and your views on cinema. Got inspired by you and started my own blog to share my view on movies i loved. Will love to get feedback frm you. Plz go through it, it'll hardly take 10 mins :-

  4. @ Harshit: To be honest, when I was your age, I was extremely optimistic about this eagerly-awaited "revolution". But slowly I came to terms with the fact that we might never get to see a revolution as effective and historical as the French New Wave or the likes. However, we can not give up the hope that cinema and its tastes will improve with time in our industry. Also, your correlation of cinema with other art forms, esp. dance, is also very interesting. But unless there is a major change, I don't see this happening. Cinema in Hindi film industry has to learn a lot before it can start contributing to other art forms.

    @Decent Stalker: I am not against entertaining films. I love them. But it saddens me to see that our market considers films like "Chennai Express" as the "most" entertaining films. I do not wish that such films should not be made or succeed. But I strongly feel the need for more films that entertain in different ways. You call "Ship of Theseus" an entertaining film. I so agree with you. It is really very entertaining. Sadly, our market and most of our audience disagree. The "variety" that you are talking about is strongly discouraged by the ruthless market conditions.

    @Ankit: Thanks for your kind words. Feels great to know that this blog could inspire you to come up with your own. Read the two articles you have posted there. Good stuff. Please keep writing.

  5. The Revolution has already started...All we need to do is to contribute our bit.

    But a spiritual revolution can only be gradual, not a drastic change overnight !

    It calls for a higher level of consciousness..At an individual level..

    And cinema is indeed "the most powerful art form created by man".