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Prem Panicker | August 23, 2003 05:03 IST

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Sunil Laxman, University of Washington School of Medicine: Nice to see an article with undiluted ranting against the crap largely being churned out (and I see almost all the crap!).

What I think is entertainment, and what I would really PAY for:
1) Storytelling skills of Akira Kurosawa. Telling the same story thrice, differently (Rashomon), or building a story around just one person (Yojimbo, Sanjuro), or an epic (Ran)... Nagesh Kukunoor's "teen deevaare" has lots of promise in storytelling...
2) Cinematography that makes you gasp in awe. Scorcese's "Gangs of New York" had much missing... but you looked at it in awe.
3) Keep the flow of the story tight, when the plot is confusing. "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" work, but "Kaante" doesn't, thanks to unnecessarily long action sequences or a random song.
4) Comedy. Simple undiluted comedy. Flashes from the past..."Gol Mal", "Chupke Chupke", "Naram Garam". All it needs is a good script and good timing... one good director can bring it out.
5) If it's mindless and a spoof, it better be that. "Andaaz Apna Apna" worked.

Get directors to make what they believe in. And force them all to watch Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukerjee once a week, so that they remember what can be.

I rarely ever respond or write in to any article... but this time I couldn't resist after reading yours.

From Prem: Hey, Sunil, tell me this, though: You know it is crap, but you see it anyways, so what is it that draws you to the theatre?

I can't quarrel with your checklist -- they are mine, too. I have a couple of thoughts about what you said, towards the end, of making directors watch past greats, and getting them to make what they really believe in -- I'll keep those for my next rant, coming soonest.

Krishna Moorthy:  Great article and the questions you have raised could probably be discussed till the cows come home, or till Bollywood enrols for Film 101.

I think people everywhere enjoy the same stories -- heroes and villains, conflict, love, sex, death (but comedy is unique to each culture. I know a Bollywood movie can never bring us that giddy, goofy, surreal humour of "Duck Soup" or "Bananas").

There is a sense of having discovered something new from a good movie -- be it the over-the-top adventure-thriller like Raiders of the Lost Ark, a strangely creepy movie like Picnic At Hanging Rock, a shockingly bizarre movie like Blue Velvet or a realistic masterpiece like Pather Panchali.

That is the aspect of movies I enjoy the best. I get to enter a new world hitherto unknown to me, for eight dollars and the price of popcorn. Great cinema, like great music, exposes you to a new approach to thinking, a new experience. Remember the initial rush and mind-bend that The Matrix brought us? That, in my opinion, is the reason why I continue to go to the movies. Of course, I also remember too well the crushing sense of boredom and disappointment its sequel heaped upon me.

But you are right -- Ram Gopal Varma is probably the only Indian director/producer who deserves to be applauded for having the courage to stay off the beaten path, in spite of his "mainstream" successes.

I am both curious and hopeful about the next 10 years for Indian cinema, though. Indian audiences have a greater access to international cinema (a friend of mine gets to watch Monty Python shows on DVD in Bangalore. If that isn't amazing, what is?). The Internet is influencing tastes faster than ever before, affluence is on the rise, cross-border travel is up, and all these elements can only lead to a happy ending.

Just like the 1960s saw massive changes in Hollywood's star system, Indian cinema too is at the edge of that same precipice. I am eagerly waiting for the fall.

Prem: Theoretically flawless, Krishna -- but is it going to happen? I have some reservations. For instance, you hear Bollywood directors talk of how their latest films 'look' like Hollywood movies; or how it 'feels' like a Hollywood movie, or how the stunts rival those in The Matrix, stuff like that. They don't seem to figure that the story comes paramount. What is happening, at least to my mind, is a bit like an artist going hey, check out the brush strokes, the techniques, on my latest canvas -- but not bothering whether his painting as a whole connects with me or no. Look and feel is fine enough in its way, but if at the end of it all there is no story to tell, then I am, like, duh!

Also, another thing I noticed, and I don't know what you guys think about it, is what to me is a cynical form of money-making that goes: Okay, Indian audiences are not coming to theatres like they used to, so to hell with them, I am going to make films for US audiences and earn in dollars.

And so they make films where the logic seems to be, these people in the US, they have everything except 'family values', so let's load our film with that kind of stuff, mummies crying buckets and daddies being stern and forbidding and kids being rebellious till the climax when they realise their Bharatiya values are what is everlasting. I've seen a few of those 'made for phoren' films, and each time, in the back of my head, there is this voice going, hey, did you the filmmaker ever bother to spend time with this audience you are trying to appeal to, do you know what they are all about? What makes you think the phoren audience has the collective IQ of a shrivelled peanut?

Himanshu Soni: Friends tell me your articles are worth way more than time spent reading them. I am not a habitual reader,
but when I read your article about daringly different Indian movies, I knew right away that my friend was right.

I liked Darna Mana Hai, as it was a director's movie. So was Bhoot although in the end some extra-supernatural effects spoiled the fun.

I was very young and may not remember the name of the movie or the plot to the penny, but long time ago there was this Hindi art movie about a bunch of jurors sitting in a room deciding on the fate of a man suspected of murder. I think the name of the movie was "Ek Ruka Hua Faisla". I am not sure if it was a remake of a Hollywood movie but man, it was awesome.

Movies like these make you think. Unpredictable movies are what I think the viewers want. If they want to pick from Hollywood, then "A Few Good Men" would be something that can be well adapted in Bollywood.

Prem: Thanks, Himanshu, I didn't know there was a movie by that name; have to try and dig it out. Anyone out there know anything about this film? Please to write in.

While on films that could so easily be adapted, consider this one: Green Card, starring Gerard Depardieu and Andie McDowell. French guy wants a green card, enters into marriage of convenience with an American girl who wants something else; they are forced to live together and along the way, their relationship of convenience changes -- neat, no frills, and full of aw-gee moments.

Saw that recently on DVD and I was like, hullo, this is something Indians both in India and in the US would so easily relate to, how come we don't make films on such themes, that can touch us where we live?

Naveen Bakshi: The movies, since are made by different people, for different audiences, with different actors and technicians and so on and so forth, cannot be generalized.

There is no set formula for a good or a hit movie. For any movie to appeal to public, it must have one thing in it: "MADE WITH CONVICTION". And needless to say, this conviction should reflect on the screen.

For us human beings, what things matter in life? Food, Clothes, Emotions, Society, Science, Art, Music, etc. People do not want to see a documentary, they want to be intrigued, they want to experience something which they don't experience in normal day life. It needn't be larger than life as is the case in most Indian movies. But it needs to be "believable" and "touching".

I can come up with tons of ideas which are unique and films could be made on them, for example:
1. Life through the eyes of an orphan child.
2. Life of a man who is mediocre in terms of his looks, brain power, and everything, but with extremely high ambitions (THIS IS THE CASE WITH MOST PEOPLE, SO IT WILL APPEAL TO ALL) and his struggle in life to achieve that.
3. Story of the relationship between a father and son, who can't stand each other, but how they both complement each other in life. Blah blah blah...

And there are as usual normal stories:
1. Love between rich girl and poor boy.
2. Rivarly between two gangs.
3. Rise of an ordinary man to an underworld don.
4. Any story about the underworld don.

As is obvious, films could be made about anything and anyone. But what is important is that the story must be made with conviction. Film should not be just an effort to fill the reels with songs and fights.

Some examples that come to my mind, about ordinary themes, but made with conviction:
1. Ek Duje Ke Liye
2. Prem Rog
3. Sholay
4. Mother India.

One noticeable thing in these movies. There was no suspense. The plot was very obvious from the theme, but the audience wanted to see how was the treatment.

An example of films with extraordinary themes and great success:
1. Mr.India
2. Gadar
3. Muqaddar Ka Sikander.

The film could be anything. But whatever it is, it should have a sincere screenplay, no needless songs, no useless fight scenes, and no extra attention of clothes and sets. Just a film about an ordinary theme with sincere treatment (such as Prem Rog) becomes an extraordinary movie.

From Prem: Naveen, hey, where are you from? Guys, when writing in, you want to tell me who you are and what you do, as well?

Look at it this way -- this is not a journalistic exercise so much as it is a dialogue; so would you not want to know who it is you are engaging in conversation with? Besides, this is not a one-to-one conversation -- as you can see, many people are joining in.

Come on, help us put a 'face' to your names, huh?

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