The Audience is Idiot !!!

3 01 2010

3 Idiots managed its spell of magic in such a short span and left most of us gasping. Well, seems magical. 2009, the year that it was, bleeding, bruised and disrobed of its rightful honour till few weeks before end, had a fabulous run in the slog overs like the Indian cricket team. Saving the best for the last. But it came with a pinch of the worst too. How?

It’s almost become such a sort of an anthem that it now even sounds clichéd to say “All is Well with Bollywood”. There couldn’t have been a better end for a year, definitely not for a bad year that it was. And the dream run has seemingly just flown into 2010. The New Year is yet to unfold with and for its big flicks. But the two small-budget films have given early signs. Two slick flicks on day one, wow! Have heard Raat Gayi Baat Gayi is intelligent. So have I also heard aboutNatrang. I’m planning to watch both, this weekend. Sadly though, most of our Indian folks would never get to hear about either of these movies. Small budget. Hard luck!!!

Yes, that is what makes us the Idiot audiences of India. Please go on. There’s more to it, in here.

In one of my older textbooks on advertising and marketing I had read – “doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. Only you know what you are doing. Nobody else does.” It cannot get truer than this for filmmakers with a shoestring budget but clear vision. Yet, they often succeed to make good films. Thankfully, we Idiotsare so humongously populated that even 0.5 percent of us makes 6 million (of us), good enough to help small but good films survive.

But, if you have good money and plenty of it, any crap with even very little substance can not just survive but actually thrive. Now, please don’t give me wrong examples like a Blue or so asking why they didn’t. You know the answer better. They only had money and nothing else to show in the movie in order to take the Idiots for granted and for a ride.

What hurts is the way poor spenders are taken for granted, if calling it “taken for ride” sounds harsh. Without any malice toward anyone, my reference here is to 3 Idiots.

Saying that Raju has made yet another fantabulous film, taking us into a different comfort zone with 3 Idiots, I won’t be doing anything new. For the third time in a row he has given us a flick which makes us believe and wonder that simple can still be so good and vice versa. Reminds me of Hrishikesh da, minus his modest props in the backdrop. There is this goodness to Raju’s craft that nobody else masters better at this moment. Vinod Chopra has been the common factor along with him in all three. For the beginners, I am referring to the earlier two Munnabhai success stories.

However, the downside of Raju’s craft has also been prominently noted this time in the shape of his tendency to easy swap and flight between the reasonable and unreasonable, as per his convenience. This time, while he has again done a genuine comedy and satire, the references to clichés are also more than ever in any of his films. 3 Idiots is different from the earlier two because it tries to accommodate almost everything under the sun in less than 3 hours and easily oscillates between simple and a little slapstick kinda stuff. Yet, nothing less than 4 stars to 3 Idiots.

The reason I have started believing of ourselves as idiots started with the first promotions of 3 Idiots. It is not that we were not or, not treated as or, did not recognize of ourselves being idiots earlier. But, this time, they called us so in the open, staring in our eyes and we gladly took pride in it. The entire marketing gimmick of 3 Idiots has been too slapstick, insensitive and insulting. Nobody took it otherwise though. My question is had we taken it with the same ease if it weren’t for the Perfectionist (read Aamir) at it again.

Mid-November I was back to Mumbai after a brief tour and what I saw at the back of hundreds of autorickshaws was humiliating. I also prefer autorickshaws or a cab better for short distances given the Mumbai traffic. However, on one such instance, having reached the destination and paid the auto driver as it went past me, the realization was humiliating. I had just been termed an Idiot. Most of the autorickshaws had stickers behind them reading “Capacity: 3 Idiots”.

Next in line was the weird and bizarre PR campaign on TV with Aamir himself acting buffoon and roaming places. Our cash-starved poor news channels indulging into all sorts of crap and slapstick PR content took it to another level with 3 Idiots. Jai Ho!

Everyday, news channels would announce that Aamir is out to some city, some land, some place in search of long lost friends and kin and, not surprisingly, in a guise. He left a clue or two and threw names of cricketing legends Sachin and Sourav, among others. The latter received and read out letters too, supposedly sent by Aamir. Only later to find out, on TV itself, that Aamir had met some unsuspecting fellows (read Idiots), talked with them, ate together, searched for his long lost family members and so on. All in disguise. On camera. And people not suspecting it was Aamir himself. I was amused to think if the media design and strategy was making Idiots out of those so-called unsuspecting fellow or, treating the entire Indian audience on TV as Idiots? If Aamir was in disguise and reaching out like a commoner for promotion, how was he never away from camera? And, if he travelled all along with camera, either the media designers were trying to prove that people on ground were fools or, those who followed his entire itinerary on TV were bigger fools. Undoubtedly, they were trying to fool all the different people at different times. With ease. With the celebrity-hungry masses, sabkuchh chalta hai (take it easy, it’s fine)!

But, how does media go on to lick its own spit every time? The same actor who thrashed, abused, neglected and even went on to rip the media apart on several occasions to the extent of getting physical is hailed by the media right before the release of each of his films. We saw him sitting on protests with Rang De Basanti and leading to controversies. He was visiting places of children’s interests with Taare Zameen ParGhazini got a barber out of him. 3 Idiots got the idiot out of him and of us. Media is not to blame for this all. Any news related to big stars sells. And, there are no permanent enemies or friends in the marketplace. Many more Raat Gayi Baat Gayi’s can come and go. How does that matter?

Move on. The latest chapter in the book of 3 Idiots is the spat between the storyteller Chetan Bhagat and the producers. The entire 3 Idiots team and Chetan are now on confrontational terms and on the first day of 2010 we saw footages of the film crew lambasting at a Press Meet. It was bit ugly. But tolerable!

The issue is the charge by Chetan that he was not given due credit in the film, appearing only at the end credit, that too in an unceremonious manner. That was bad. He deserved and must have got a place in the main credits. But, perhaps he didn’t know the business of deciding such details when entering into the contract. As for his charge of the story being abused as per filmmaker’s convenience, I would side with the Director and Producer. Chetan wrote the novel. But, the film was theirs and the writer should not expect the entire book to go into the film as it is. Film is a Director’s medium and s/he is free to cook a story for its cinematographic adaptation. If Chetan was so concerned about his story and the credit, he should have decided all the terms in advance. Given his experience in the market, I am tempted to think he must be well-conversant with all such clauses related to IPR, editing and presentation after so many of them with his publishers by now.

We can see the contrast in how Danny Boyle treated Vikas Swarup the Author even even though Slumdog Millionnairewas quite different from the book. Simon Beaufoy won the Best Adapted Screenplay and said without Swarup there would have been no movie and no awards. Swarup was credited for the novel and went up on stage at the Oscars. Vishal Bhardwaj dedicated a clear credit to Othello which actually became Omkara‘s USP. I am sure, 3 Idiots would not have been such a rage and success without a Five Point Someone.

My only apprehension is that it should not be a part of the deliberate media strategy and plan of 3 Idiots’ media designers. To create some unwarranted controversies and generate attention. If not so, why was 1st January with long weekends selected as a date for again erupting this controversy? Probably to exploit the full potential of the second week for the film which is already receiving overwhelming appreciation.

Yes, my only plea is to request the media designers to not to go overboard. The audience doesn’t remain as Idiotanymore. Had the audience been so idiot to take every crap easily, 2009 wouldn’t have seen so many flops.

A good film will succeed on its own merit. Right promotion, positioning, right-sizing and marketing will help it exploit to the fullest.

Dear filmmakers, we should be aware of these media designers who tempt us to create such unnecessary sensationalism lest we start losing credibility. Let’s stop taking the audience as pure commodities without their senses intact, high time.

When we have such a good film like 3 Idiots, let’s try to ask the audience to watch it for their intelligence and not because they are intimidated. Intelligence lasts. Good memories last. Raju’s films will everlast. Such idiotic controversies do not.

Did I sound too Idiotic?    🙂



13 12 2009

All that ends well is well. So, now that 2009 looks to be ending with the Bollwood finally having its last laugh, there is a reason to be jubilant about it. Sans for those who were preparing for its last rites. May god make them wait a little more. Maybe they end up waiting endlessly.

For, all that falters halfway is not a loser till it has actually lost it. Having heard bad – from as well as about the critics, the time seems to have taken a happy turn for the industry stakeholders.

Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani did well. De Dana Dan also performed satisfactorily to cheer up its makers. Paa rang the cashboxes as well congratulatory messages over phone for the Bachchan Senior and the Junior B. Now, the Salesman is selling well and customer satisfaction is also in its kitty. The season is all set to witness two more big releases – 3 Idiots and My Name is Khan. Both are certain to do well for their makers. So, the year that was faltering and starved for long is ending its dry-spell. At least for the while.

However, amid all this jubilation, all I was thinking was of the good old days. Not too long back though. We had those days around till a decade back. The days of Silver Jubilees, Golden Jubilee and, sometimes, even Platinum and Diamond Jubilee. Going by the definition of the word, a film with 25 weeks of successful theatrical run was termed as Silver Jubilee. Increasing the same in upwards of 25 weeks could rank it with higher nomenclature.

Sadly, all this while, I have been thinking of whether I’ll ever be able to see any film celebrating a Silver Jubilee again. The answer is probably “no”. Not to mention Golden, Platinum or Diamond Jubilee. Till some years back, it was not an uncommon sight to see a number of films celebrating Silver Jubilee in a year. So much so that Rajendra Kumar went on to earning the nickname – Jubilee Kumar.

Coming back to the present, we are sure to not have a Jubilee film anymore, in all probability. No matter how successful or how good a film is. Even if it is a massive hit and yields 500 per cent returns on (humongous) investments. It won’t ever be able to be termed a Jubilee film.

The reasons are not negative. It is also not that the demand has receded. A good or tremendously successful film gets more viewers today than what a hit film used to get earlier. But, the reason is hidden in the kind of spread the films have got today. Sometimes for good, sometimes bad. But, the business of film-making has definitely undergone a sea change.

The number of prints that were earlier released for a big film is today less for even small films. Earlier, films were released in selected theaters and they used to have 4 shows of a film. Today, I have 7 multiplexes within one km of radius from my residence, each with 4 screens. And, any big film will be released at least on 2 of the four screens in all those theaters(multiplexes). So, the demand-supply matrix has gone for a toss today. Nobody can say with a bit of certainty about a film in view of this excess supply. Wait, add to it 4 more multiplexes that are ready for inauguration any day within this area to take the number of screen in my close vicinity to 44. Mind-boggling. The overcrowding of these multiplexes, mixed with the new technologies where a distributor can even cut down on the physical prints of films and release it digitally, is taking the business to newer heights. Both technically as well commercially.

Then it boils down to the number of films being made today, almost ten times compared to a 2-decade back figure. Add to it the number of films imported (dubbed in Hindi). Further add to it the price of tickets in multiplexes. With such commanding prices, swanky interiors and good branding deals, these multiplexes are the only rightful buyers for any big film. The complexity of the economics also presents us a paradox. Earlier, the distributors and producers earned on the volume of tickets sold over a number of weeks in theaters. Now, the volume comprises of multiplexes. Viewers in multiplexes have thinned down. But, the margins have become substantial. Often, just a great opening and the film is in profit by the week ends. So, it still is a win-win for the distributors and producers when they come with a winning film like the current run of Bollywood. They earn well. But, where does the viewer go?

They’ll wait for the film to come on their poor TV sets where they can watch it for free, well within 4-6 weeks of release. Not a bad deal. At least they don’t get to repent if they don’t like the film. Everybody is winning.

The rules of the game are being re-written. Distribution patterns and trends have changed. Early TV release also makes sense. The distributors and producers know that the film has lived its primary life over the initial weeks in theaters and delaying it any further will help the cause of Pirates. So, before the markets are flooded with pirated CDs/DVDs, the film comes on TV and you get it for free. If a viewer is in a litle hurry yet not willing to spend too much for the swanky multiplex infrastructure, they can pay a little extra on their DTH and get the movie exclusively delivered. Not a bad deal.

So, the industry is making its adjustments and re-adjustments amid the newfound realities and nobody seems to mind as long as the business objectives for the distributors and producers are fulfilled. Viewers are also happy every time they are served a good movie.

My only dilemma is, if we can redefine so many things, can’t we think of a new definition for the Jubilees. Because, as someone from among the viewers, I’d still like to call some of my favorite and good movies as a Silver, Golden or a Platinum Jubilee.

I would still like my growing up kid to know that movies too celebrate Silver Jubilee.

But, no movie will have a PLC (product life cycle) as long as those number of weeks anymore. Can we replace the number of weeks by the number of days? Or, even with the number of shows?

Any suggestions?

When Should Critics Stop Writing Official Film Reviews?

21 11 2009

Take a situation. If a judge wanted to take one of the sides in a proceeding. A Jury member had his own film nominated to be sent to Cannes. Or, the daughter of the promoters of a beauty pageant were to participate for the crown. Unthinkable. Right!

Yes, writing this post, I know I am going to attract the wrath of some friends in the industry. One of my earlier posts already referred to how and why should people exercise self-restraint when it comes to publishing reviews on larger platforms like a mainstream newspaper, magazine or a TV channel.

The question, here, is – should there be a criterion for the empanelment or appointment of film critics and reviewers with large newspapers and channels. I think, yes. But, why?

A lot is being said and written against the critics who have, of late, been receiving flak from the fans and film-makers alike. For the simple reason that the business of critique a la sensational news channels has come to harm the film business, especially post recession. Further, film critics’ business has also come to be seen as a method to methodologically killing films prematurely.

It has come to be believed by the industry insiders as if critics are confused between the process of critique and criticism. As if the two are synonymous.

But, my argument has a different locus standi. For that we should see beneath and find out who are the kind of people working as film critics with these channels and publications. Film critics are often people with good exposure to the filmdom, its people and techniques. They are given enough hospitality and respect by the industry stalwarts for obvious reasons. And, we have them in plenty now.

They are spilling worms at films the same day of the release. The love-hate relationship continues. As the ‘most hated critic in the film circle’ who has emerged is the veteran Mr. Khalid Mohamed who has attracted wrath of almost every director and producer ‘except a few’. The core of this post revolves around these “few” people who are bound to be spared from the critics’ axes. Fortunately and, as a saving grace, these “few” happen to be different film-makers for different critics. And that is how, we often hear good words from one-two corners about films, which are written off by other critics. The question, therefore, is why do critics spare some film-makers. Or, the other way round, how can every film-maker safely expect some breathing space from at least 1-2 critics when every other guy is out with death sentence? Trust me, if you try and figure out, you can observe a clear trend as to who is sparing whom.

The answer is much simpler though. Majority of these film critics happen to be part-time, wannabe or even successful film-makers themselves. At some point of time, either they themselves have had ventured into film-making or, would like to get a chance to do so.

On the Bollywood canvas, most ostensibly, Khalid has attempted it more than the rest of his clan. I liked Fiza in spite of all the criticism his films have attracted. He has written some award-winning movies and directed a few more, though most of them proved to be duds in box office terms. But, he remains at the top in that list of guys doubling up as Bollywood-Director-Critic and, generates more hate than admiration at the moment. Hope things get better for him. Next in line, we have Raja Sen, very active and highly applauded on the regional circuit and a more admired critic presently. Taran’s Bollywood adventures are yet to reach the heights compared to these counterparts but he has been a very successful producer and commands quite a following with his writing. Rajeev Masand achieved early success on television as a reporter, analyst and anchor to a level of following to the extent of starting his show after his name – ‘Masand Ki Pasand’. His Bollywood antics are yet to be seen or felt, if he is nurturing any. Let’s wait if and what kind of films he happens to make, provided he actually thinks of doing so, some day. So for Nikhat Kazmi, who probably happens to be the most widely read film critic, representing the Times Group. She has been one of the most stable critics in the last decade when we saw many of them coming, indulging into several adventures and attracting wrath. Among one of the veterans doubling up as filmmaker-critic we have Chidananda Dasgupta, a contemporary of the likes of the legendary Satyajit Ray. Among the present lot, we have others like Derek, Anupama and many more names we cannot accommodate all of whom in one place. Nor is the purpose of citing their names an effort in the direction of outlining their filmy biography. These examples are enough to present my cause.

The whole message is that the business of film critic is like that of a Jury Member in a selection process, a Judge in a proceeding or, an examiner in an examination. All of these responsibilities and roles require a total balance. That you belong to no one. Or, you belong to each side. That there is no relative, no friend, no enemy, no well-wisher and no foe. Simply, no personal or business interest.

Critics can maintain this line and have done this well till the writing business of theirs was mixed with the business of film-making. It is generally a myth that they take sides for monetary gains while trashing or favoring particular sides. But, yes, it is almost impossible to be neutral to all the films the moment one enters the business of film-making.

For the simple reason that film-making, unlike many businesses and industries is a collaborative business. Here, you need so many people in the entire value-chain of the film-making process. From a spot boy to the distributors and theater operators all are key stakeholders.

Now the paradox; the moment a critic crosses the line of being confined to writing and enters film-making business in any sense, one cannot be unpleasant to the producer who produces or is potentially going to produce his/her film. Even if you just did one film with the producer but the custom of returning favors has to be maintained. Then, maybe a critic may also double up as a producer for his film, but the distributors. Let hell break, no film-maker would ever like to displease the distributors. So can’t you alienate the theater owners.

The entire equation has quite a multiplier effect. Once a film-maker and associated with whatever producer(s), distributors(s), it is hard to trash their films unless for very obvious reasons. Once a filmmaker you remain a filmmaker. A lesser critic.

At the same time, however, in this age of sadist journalism, a writer needs to be as provocative, negative and sensationalist as Sansani (better call it horrow show) to be marketable. So, while the new demands of a critic’s role want him/her to be dipped in negativity and sadism for readership/viewership reasons, a filmmaker critic cannot be equally negative to all films with equal parameters. This creates doubts in the minds of the readers who can see the trend of judges taking sides in particular cases.

It is high time, those critics who don, have donned or plan to don the filmmaker’s hat, should also plan their exit from the business of film review and critique on mainstream media. Gracefully.

Blogs and microsites spared.

Don’t you agree?

Sell anything in Bollywood. But don’t try to hard-sell the same thing more than twice.

9 11 2009

In management, we read a term PLC or Product Life Cycle. It meant that every product or product category has a defined life after which its public acceptance will start drooping down, diminishing. There are so many factors behind that which range from technology to public awareness, consumers’ want for more, competition,  consumer intelligence and, most importantly, fatigue.

While competition is an external factor, I’d like to count consumer intelligence or want for more as an internal factor in the product itself. Meaning that the product will, over a period of time, start losing its relevance or importance to the consumer. That the consumer will start feeling bored or tired of using the same product, same experience day after day. That his requirements and expectations will increase.

We have many examples. Starting from a poor landline phone which was hard to dial, to sleek business phones and blackberry, we’ve seen the transformation in little over a decade. Our poor PC that operated on Windows with basic functions has now taken various shapes, size, range and accommodates thousand times higher capacities than what it used to be ten years back. These are all results of fast changing consumer preferences with increasing usages.

Consumers develop a fatigue if they have to experience the same or a very similar product experience over a sustained period of time. The K-serials with Saas Bahu jhamela got over us to the hilt before Star had to take it off-air. Several other new formulas are going to meet the same fate on telly – be it reality shows with much of theatrical melodrama or, the so-called serials with social messages of child marriage, female foeticide and so on.

Remember, we had enough of “kutte main tera khoon pee jaungaa” in the eighties and they had to make way for refreshing romantic flicks. We had too much of one bad guy-in-a-happy-family-spoiling everything kind typical cinema in the name of family entertainment, very much like fatigued K-serials. They made way for better family drama like Waqt, Baghbaan and so on. With their new USPs they worked. We had too much of David Dhawan-Govinda kind cinema ruling the Bollywood for a long time. They worked when Bollywood was not producing enough of good humour. So, whatever vulgarity or flimsy content it came with, it sold with a particular category of audiences for a long time. Initially all those films had a Shakti Kapoor, Laxmikant Berde or so trying to poke with the same funny acts which failed to make you laugh after some time and looked idiotic. Qadar Khan’s double-meaning dialogues also faded out gradually. Soon, a new formula was devised by Dhawan sahib around infidelity where the hero would have two wives or multiple relations and his entire life went into saving both of his marriages. The initial bit probably amused some. But, he and some more film-makers went overboard by giving us so many films that I can count at least 8-9 films made on the same plot, with good star-cast. Later ones failed big time. Interestingly, I remember at least 2-3 films each starring Govinda as well Salman, on the same plot. Then came more of infidelity a la No Entry style. Do Knot Disturb sealed the fate for many, with the same lesson.

When Priyadarshan gave us Hera Pheri, we thought a new saviour had arrived. Gadually, all his films started resembling with each other so much so that now you can predict the entire plot after hearing the first line of the story. All the climaxes resembled each other to the extent that you can take one climax and fit into almost all of his movies without affecting their result. I think, he would do better by shooting one climax with all the artistes (and crowd) showing their back while running the race. It can be safely used in all of his next films, in case he intends to continue his trend and have different artistes in different movies. Just hope that he has thought of some changes for the climax of DeDana Dan which gives a déjà vu of Hera Pheri. Priyadarshan ji, if you haven’t and you can still manage it, my humble request, please do it now.

Then Madhur Bhandarkar type of films come replete with pessimism and sadism where the director takes pleasure in watching you cry and act like a whistleblower. Man, it is good to be in the whistleblower’s shoes but, it is worse to believe that the world can only be seen in either black or white. There are shades of gray in everything. His plot is always conceptualized, designed and developed by painting things in black and white. Man, grow up. Nothing in this world comes in either only black or white. Selling pessimism for a very long time like those sundry Hindi News channels who always can be seen predicting the end of the universe on a particular date & time for umpteenth time cannot help. World would believe once, twice, thrice but, not always. Sell anything. But please do not try to hardsell anything more than twice in Bollywood anymore. That simply doesn’t work. Every profession, everything in life has a good side to it too. Had it not been so, forget other things, Bollywood would also have just been a scam, a fiasco called casting couch. But it is not. It is into serious business of making films. There are aberrations everywhere.

Surprisingly, we notice, most of the directors who started with the promise of making something different for us ended up being so different that all their respective projects started looking look-alikes. A direct lift from another earlier successful film. Sad.

To this context, I’d likes to say kudos for traditional film-makers like the Yashraj or Karan Johar’s banners which do not pompously make any promise to serve us “different” cinema but whatever they serve is generally not such a big lift from the older flick.

The recent fiasco of so many films has proved that you can sell any damn thing at least once in Bollywood with a good success, if it comes in a good and complete package. A repeat is also allowable. For that matter people may even watch the same film multiple times, if it is watchable. But, showing them the same film with another name won’t work. Similarly, re-packaging the same formula and content in the new incarnation like old wine in a new bottle won’t work anymore.

I think, I’ve got at least one of the many concrete answers for the question I asked in my previous blog“who-is-to-blame”-introspections-by-a-young-movie-maker/

Must thank my readers for their contributions.

Aladin’t or Euthanasia?

1 11 2009

This post takes a lead from my last write-up. However, should have taken a while to write, had it not been for a “different” kind of discussion with one of the popular film-makers.

It was Friday late afternoon and, it so happened that one of the creative film-makers with quite a hitlist in his kitty (in varied capacities), posted a comment on one such public forum about the latest release – Aladin.

The one-word title of his post was quite amusing, intriguing and self-explanatory. Strange, we film-makers think we’ve already exhausted smaller titles for our films. Before his post, I had read and watched quite some reviews of the film (Aladin). It had already given me shockers and I was finding it hard to believe if Sujoy had once again underperformed with his much-hyped and much-awaited film. Yet, I wanted to watch it myself before actually believing in those reviews till I read his post.

The title of the post, very strangely, was ALADIN’T. Man, it was just Friday afternoon. The film had just released in theaters. The dear friend had probably watched it on the eve of the release itself and waited for the film to release to post his stuff publicly.

The reviews and everything had already given feelers that Aladin was not a film to look forward to. That the film had blundered and faltered on several junctures. That neither Bachchan could create the magic, nor did poor Riteish. Sanjay’s character was portrayed by many as a spoof. That the film, in all probability, would fail. We all knew from our direct experiences or through friends that the film may not perform well at box office.

But, I found the title ALADIN’T a bit too harsh for a film that was merely one show old. That it was being unkind to write off the film which was yet to be through with its first matinee show for the public in theaters. And that it was unfair to take this message to few thousands of followers on a forum that communicates faster than the speed of light.

My contention was critics are alright to write about any film on the very first, second or any nth day in its life. Good or bad. Whatever! If we feel happy or go on to thank them for writing good about films, they have all the rights to write if and why a film would not work. For that matter, they have always existed in their space and are the most respected of the species, other than Censor Board. At times, equally hated. But, you love it or hate it; they have a job and, mostly, are doing their job quite well. They have done more good to good films than bad to bad films. Good films with a good word-of-mouth are boosted like nothing else. A bad film is anyway destined to die early. A bad word-of-mouth only accelerates its death.

Taking a leaf from my last post and comments thereon, a good film will work against odds. It may falter for external factors. But, what is intrinsically designed to work, works. Similarly, a weak film will fail. Sometimes, positive external factors may help prolong its death, to the relief of people behind it. These days, however, most of the external factors generally go on to kill and hammer as many nails in its coffin as possible to make sure it is buried well. Forever.

We have so many of news channels – who are obsessed with sadism and would make animations, dramatized versions and cooked-up stories to sensationalize a non-story like a cat getting caught up on a terrace for hours. Any day, there are channels promoting exclusive stories like the road to heaven, commissioner’s dog going missing, a cat caught on a terrace, a man walking on water and so on. The same channels will dig as many scoops related to a film and its cast/crew to get the eyeballs. But, the moment it is believed to have failed, they’ll do their last bit to kill it. If the channel hasn’t earned a pie from the media budget of the film. It is like the treatment meted out with Indian Cricket team. One good match, they are heroes. Past one bad show, they are termed ‘paper tigers’ and glam-gods good for nothing. What they actually thrive on is the short public memory in a country of billion.

The news spreads like a wildfire in this age of Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, Blogs, SMSes and so much of social networking. The medium communicates at the speed of thought. And when somebody with thousands of following across such social media communicates negatively about a film so early, he may not be held wrong or unethical in any way. He is not at all wrong.

But, my plea was when we have found something good in a film to endorse it or spread a positive word-of-mouth, let’s go ahead any day. But, if we must speak out against a poor film, let’s at least take a little time. Let’s keep ourselves silent for a little while. Let the film be at least one weekend-old before we actually voice an opinion against it. Alright that the film is going to die. But, give it a breather if, when we cannot and should not speak “good” about it.

Should we kill a weak film – mind it, which is not slapstick and vulgar – just because it is limping? Should we say “death” because it is finding it difficult to survive?

I think, I am not going to watch this in a theater anymore. Is it because I got so much of gyan about this film so fast? Or, was I destined to not watch this anyway?

“WHO IS TO BLAME?” Introspections by a young movie-maker.

25 10 2009

Back to my blog after a while, this was a rather unlikely topic to write on. But, as one starts writing, one has to be true to his/her conscience. Two, also true to the ground realities. The reality is that Bollywood’s rough patch continues and it looks highly vulnerable at the moment. The purpose of this piece is as much an attempt at self-introspection before landing in Bollywood as a young producer; as much it is an effort to bring one of the core issues scaring Indian Cinema to its guts today.

Before proceeding on the exact theme, however, a bit of chit-chat…

Venturing in Bollywood as a young and suave Director is in. In vogue. In fashion. And, a sort of statement by a new brigade – “I’ve arrived.”.

On the other hand, taking a look at the producers, this brigade is conspicuously obscure there. Though we have a multitude of new kinds and species of producers venturing in, we are yet to see the arrival of young and professionally skilled producers. The older lot of producers with money amassed or mobilized continues to hold its ground. Good for Indian cinema. We’ll always be grateful to them for allowing the creative brigades over decades to bring to us all sorts of cinema. The recent fad is the corporatization of the production process and producers with the entry of big companies, with or without entertainment & media credentials.

We liked it when corporate houses backed the young and suave directors who were able to make cinema within small budgets and also earned critical acclaim, over and above profitability.  One example was followed by many and soon became a trend. We, today have so many bright directors who we can count on as chic and talented guys with at least one hit in their kitty. Who would otherwise had to be content with serving as an Associate of veteran directors. At any moment, we can easily count fifty such names.  And, this new wave has not only helped such young directors but, has also made second life possible for many veterans who were sort of written off. Surprisingly and suddenly, we saw many of the old directors with art or typically commercial cinema background hitting us with good films that made sense, amused us, entertained and, recovered revenues.

Back to the core theme of this piece of mine, I am worried about why is it that all of a sudden all the permutations and combinations have started to fail. That nothing really seems to be working for Bollywood!

That in spite of the sound of “all the best” and rituals of “rashee”, no film seems to be “wanted” by the viewers. Why is every film made to appear “blue” in the very first week?

We movie-buffs and movie-makers both had a bad time in the face of the multiplex-ceinemakers tiff that lasted 2 months. But, while the apparent impact was expected to be over within a month or two after the strike in the new circumstances, the lateral impact refuses to go. The entire fraternity will agree that they are yet to be able to figure out what exactly is the reason for continued despair at the Box Office. But, I strongly believe, one of the key reasons is hidden somewhere in what I have written till now.

I would like to deliberate upon some of the possible reasons with some amount of reasoning.

As said earlier, the industry is today full of young directors with at least one film that performed well at the box office as well with the critiques. The corporate production houses backed them and their second or subsequent offerings mostly failed to rekindle the magic. One reason may be that while we have so many bright kids on the block today each with credible debut record,  we must not forget that their first flick was a result of their passion-filled persistence of few years, and a dream project. Quick recognition got them offers they couldn’t say “no” to. Maybe the subsequent films lacked the depth and amount of work they gave to their earlier venture.

Another reason, many of my friends in the Bollywood do not very much like the corporate production houses for reasons best known to them. Is there some mismatch which, while ensures the film completes with all its ingredients, works against the interests of the film? Does it shun the film of its spark and magic in its desperate bid to monetize? The next apprehension of mine is if the erstwhile legendary producers are yet to come to terms with the new realities and they also find a mismatch in working with the new directors. I strongly believe, there must be something in the director-producer relationship which is helping this mess.

Then, comes the question of not-so-young directors. The ones on whom Bollywood always counts on. Unfortunately, in spite of their efforts to keep to their reputation, some failed to hit the bull’s eye. Some, on the other hand, even lost sight of what they wanted to make. Vishal Bhardwaj claimed before the release of ‘Kaminey’ that the audiences will see a new Vishal in this film. He was right. The film failed to receive whole-hearted appreciation of audiences as well critics that Vishal Bhardwaj is now used to. However, he did not let down his producers and investors. It performed satisfactorily at the Box Office. Similarly, Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Love Aajkal’ was found to be nowhere close to ‘Jab We Met’. Yet, he recovered the investments well. Good for him. Good for Saif. Now, coming to Ajay Devgn-Rohit Shetty combo, it has worked again with ‘All The Best’. ‘Wanted’ performed too, to help Salman and the producers. But, these are just the films that we can count.

The longer list has in the first row ‘What’s Your Rashee’ that kept everyone pondering about what exactly such a reputed director wanted to make. At least this was not expected of Ashutosh Gowarikar in these bad times. On the top of it, we have the much-awaited Diwali releases – Bollywood’s annual rituals. ‘Blue’ is doing miserably as per trade information at the moment. So is doing ‘Main Aur Mrs Khanna’. ‘Do Knot Disturb’ upset the likes of David Dhawan which is highly unusual. Follows them a long list of illustrious as well un-illustrious flicks like ‘Wake Up Sid’, ‘Kambakkht Ishq’, ‘Luck’ and so on. There is another category of movies which we suddenly start hearing about couple of weeks before their release. And nobody tends to remember them two weeks after their release. Surprisingly, these films also have some USP. But, what fails to amaze is that if producers are putting in big money on the first category of big films, directors are putting in their best of efforts, what is it that is to blame. Who is at fault? Everyone is doing the best to ensure it performs well.

Is it sudden outburst of these small-time films that seem to be releasing in bulk every week, meant to be forgotten by the week ends? Is there any formula behind such films, best known to the makers?

Is it a problem of too many? Is it that whole lot of cinemas that were blocked from getting released due to the multiplex-cinemakers tiff and are now releasing without a space for the moviegoers?

Is it that directors are trying to eat much more than they can chew and taking up too many films, too fast, only to disappoint the viewers?

Is it that producers are in too hurry to produce too many films, assuming that even if one out of five does well, they’ll be in profitability? But, if this is the case, isn’t it like putting the directors’ careers and viewers’ loyalty at stake?

Is it a problem of over-exposure with the TV intruding into films too much, eroding its charisma with too many previews, uncut versions, making, and promotional stints through reality shows? Are we guys now tired of the cinematic overdose on Idiot Box and developing a dislike for films that try to ‘penetrate’ too much and, beyond the forbidden limits? Is it something comparable to the ‘India Shining’ campaign that is held to have caused disaster for the advertisers in 2004 General Elections?

Is it that the Indian audience has come of age and started discarding ‘bad’ cinema? For that matter, if we try to slot together all the films that did well on one side and, the others on the other, we cannot name specific categories and genres with certainty that they’ll succeed or fail. We can’t still say that “all the hit films resemble each other” while it is true that “all the failed ones failed for reasons of their own”.

I have so many more questions while trying to introspect what is it that should work and what ensures the failure of a project in Bollywood today. There must some concrete reasons, beyond good cinema and bad cinema. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have so many of our best of Bollywood (directors, producers, actors all) engaged in bad cinema. Any help in breaking this code? Can anyone?

Or, simply, am I reacting too much?

“Same-Same is No More Shame-Shame?” Sexuality vs Nationality, what evokes more passion and attention?

4 07 2009

The passion and attention the issue of gay, lesbian and same sex has attracted is path-breaking. Heart-breaking too. Not just because I’m opposed to the very idea of this sexual pedagogy. Also not because of the reason that theology or the tradition condemns this.

For some, it may be an issue of identity of self as an individual who may have strong belief in alternate sexual behaviour and identity. But, the question I would like to ask is whether it is this identity of someone as an individual (with overt sexual expression) that holds more importance or is it the nation and national issues that evoke more passion.

24 hours since I shared this question on some forums and my mail has been flooded with mixed responses, reactions, reasoning and perspectives – all full with passion.

The question goes – Sexuality or Nationality? What unearths more passion? For, I didn’t see this kind of coverage for any issue related to nationality and national development in the past decade as the issue of gay and same sex has attracted. Even if this is because it is a historical judgement, there have been bigger instances of national significance when we felt, it deserved bigger and better public and media attention.

The responses I am receiving are good enough to exhort, exhilirate as well shock a common Indian. That the media has forgotten its responsibility and role is something few would disagree with. It is all about TRP and market-driven content generation where everything that sells makes sense. From an item number to an item girl, rape to pedophilia and, unreal reality to rotten jokes everything sells better than a story or copy on a relevant subject.

Because it is much easier to cash-in on what is already in demand, the marketers know they should not tamper the status quo when the going is good. So, no need to alter what already sells.

I am leaving this blogpost incomplete as I await some more responses to bring you the full story.

Looking forward and, awaiting your mails.