(Column: B-Town) Missing: Creators of conviction and passion
By Vinod Mirani
What does it feel like when a film production company is called Film Factory? What does he promise? Whatever that may imply, it certainly doesn’t mean creativity, let alone a passion for cinema.
When a business house awards not one but several projects to a production house and sanctions a huge sum for doing so, what are the criteria? Does that mean that the named production house is known for its passion for movies and has a creative team on its roster?
These types of businesses don’t promise anything like creativity or a passion for filmmaking. As a first step, it just means that you have gained the confidence of the market by offering one or two profitable movies and you want to turn that confidence into a profit. Launch a few films simultaneously, bring in the money from the market and you’re good to go. It is up to those who have trusted you and who have invested in you to bring these films to fruition.
In the second case, there is a large corporate house that is loaded with funds here to do movie business. With all these funds in the pot, we cannot go in search of talent, passion or creativity. Resources need a resourceful producer who has easy access to stars or who is a star himself and able to put together a project.
What commercial sense does it make to release funds to the tune of, say, 100 crore rupees, to a production house and ask them to deliver three films within a specified time frame. Creativity, of course, is not in contention here! The turnover is. Besides funding, what is the contribution of these people to a film, its history, music and other creative aspects? Nothing.
So what happens to the movies? This is project funding. The films get top heavy at the very conceptual stage! If any observer of our cinema has observed it, these films rely heavily on the main star, have little or no secondary actors to fill the screen with, or share the playtime with the star. No film relying only on its hero supports the cinema.
Your main actor is supposed to do everything the other supporting characters were supposed to do: buffoonery comedy and also wear villain undertones. Action every few minutes of playtime and it gets monotonous, strongly telling the movie.
Examples are plentiful, but to cite a few counting on a superstar: “Mahaan” (Amitabh Bachchan plays a dual role stretching the tale to tedious three o’clock) or “Tubelight” (Salman Khan plays a mentally handicapped boy but not to convince). And, to reaffirm what was said above, these are not the only examples.
To use old but very relevant jargon, we’re no longer working on a full storyline that promises something for everyone in one movie. I remember people reaching a movie theater long before the actual time for a movie. It was only so that they could catch up on the airing trailers of upcoming films.
These trailers promised and included snippets of everything about the movie he was promoting like romance, drama, emotions, action, music and comedy, and more. The idea was to project a film as a universal artist with something for everyone. And many, if not all, films have kept that promise.
It’s not for nothing that in just one year, not one or two, but there are plenty of films that have proven to be hits and have had long runs, hitting benchmarks like Silver Jubilee, Golden Jubilee, and more. Today, a weird movie every few months is proclaimed a hit, with some taking advantage of the opportune times of festivals such as Eid, Diwali, or a holiday weekend.
The recent trend is to bet on stars like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar or Aamir Khan to take the first steps. This was not the case when the content made a movie work. The industry had so many popular stars such as Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra, Manoj Kumar, Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapor, Rajendra Kumar and Shatrughan Sinha, all of them have invented blockbuster movies in the 70s and 80s.
Later a new batch of actors followed – Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor – and they all survived and continued to give hits, despite the reign of a superstar – first, Rajesh Khanna, and later, Amitabh Bachchan.
What films lack today is that they only have a limited duration and are erased from memory as soon as you leave the cinema. No jubilees; success is now measured in crores.
The media exploit this crore business without understanding the economics of cinema. Why don’t these 100 crore movies stay in viewers’ memories? Are they now making movies that people would want to watch over and over again for their songs or their dialogue?
What was the last movie that boasted of a dialogue that is still spoken today: “Davarsaab, main aaj bhi phenke hue paise nahin uthata” (“Deewaar”), or “Chinai Sheth, jinke apne ghar shishe ke ho, who doosron by paththar nahi phenka karte “. Was there a movie like ‘Sholay’ that was watched over and over again every night by people just for its dialogue?
I can’t think of any.
Then there were movies that were repeatedly watched by viewers just for their songs. “Sachchai chhup nahin sakti” (“Dushman”; Rajesh Khanna), “Khaike paan Banaras wala” (“Don”; Amitabh Bachchan), and so many of these songs have brought audiences back to the movies.
The point is that the cinema was not just another business enterprise as it is today. A filmmaker bet everything on a film he believed in and was not funded by a corporate house.
The former reigning star, Dilip Kumar, has produced a film, “Gunga Jumna”, for mainstream Hindi audiences, not in Hindi but in Bhojpuri, a language in eastern India. And the film was a golden jubilee all over India. And, to think that the first officially Bhojpuri film, ‘Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo’, was yet to be made!
K. Asif produced ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. The film was released in 1940, the financier left for Pakistan during the partition, and the hero died. With a new backer and a whole new cast of stars, the film was finally released in 1960.
“Mother India”, a heroine-centric film, launched two relatively new faces, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt, as well as Nargis. The film was a remake of Mehboob Khan’s own 1940 film, ‘Aurat’.
Raj Kapoor has nurtured the idea of “Mera Naam Joker” for many years. Made with a lot of effort and resources, the film fell short of viewers’ expectations. His dream project almost ruined Raj Kapoor, his regular distributors lost confidence in him, but instead of starting a business venture with top selling actors, he launched his son Rishi Kapoor and a new daughter, Dimple Kapadia, with the movie ‘Bobby’.
They are creators with conviction who believed in what they were doing and they did it with passion. It’s not like other filmmakers lack passion. It was a matter of degrees.
Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Vijay Anand, BR Chopra, Yash Chopra, Manoj Kumar, Sooraj Barjatya, Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Ramanand Sagar, Shakti Samanta, Dulal Guha, Nasir Hussain, Basu Chatterjadee, KLV Prath Prathjee, Bapu, and even Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Rakesh Roshan, Shekhar Kapur dreamed and lived films.
There are only a few in the current generation who have that quality where their films leave a mark. They include Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Raju Hirani, Shoojit Sarkar, Neeraj Pandey, Sujoy Ghosh, Sriram Raghvan, to name a few.
We have very few directors / directors who are movie-owned. Sadly, they have to make do with making small movies that they can’t even afford a decent promotion for. Big stars will not take the risk of making such films (Akshay Kumar, who made ‘Pad Man’ and ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’, being an exception).
Under such circumstances, there are some supporters of such films. Anjum Riizvii is one of them. He has been involved in many movies and series, but his “See you Wednesday!” became memorable. Nagesh Kukunoor, who produced and directed ‘Hyderabad Blues’, rose to prominence with this film. He made another beautiful film, ‘Dhanak’.
‘I Am Kalam’ was another such movie, but only a few care about these movies. One team dedicated to supporting director films with conviction is Manish Mundra’s Drishyam Films. He has been the force behind ten such films so far, including “Masaan”, “Dhanak”, “Newton” and “Kamyaab”.
I happened to watch this movie ‘Karwaan’ on a cinema channel a week ago. It was what I would call a quiet watch. The film is directed by Akarsh Khurana, son of veteran actor and writer Akash Khurana. I’m sure a lot of those ideas are still here to be turned into movies to watch.