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Same BS, different bottle

Prem Panicker | September01, 2003 14:40 IST

Right, now here's the thing – a little over four dozen of you wrote in about Ek Ruka Hua Faisla and its Hollywood inspiration, 12 Angry Men.

If I put up all those mails, I will end up with 12 thousand angry readers, so will desist.

Thanks much though to everyone who wrote in – will reply individually within the course of next week.

Now for the rest of the reader responses (and hey, what happened to that deal we had, that you guys would sign your mails with your name, and where you are writing from?):

Ajay Walawalkar: About your premise that good movies are not made these days.

I don't agree. In fact I think compared to older days, a lot of good movies are made these days. The problem is there are just a lot of movies made now a days. So we get a lot of rank bad moveis made in Hindi Film Industry (I hate too call it bollywood, like B grade hollywood). This is true even with hollywood where, yes you  have the 'Beautiful Mind' made but also have the Jean Claude Van Damm movies made too.

Of all the good hindi movies that I like, about 30% of them would be made in last 5-10 years.

Just like Sholay was an epic, we have Lagaan in the same rank. I love andaz apna apna and heraferi just as much as I like Padosan and chalti ka naam gadi. I would not rate chandani bar as any less disturbing movie than sujata.

I think the middle period around late 60s to late 80s when we had type cast actors: romantic rajesh, manly dharam and angry-young Amitabh, we had most boring and predictable movies made. Rajkapoor was a highly overrated filmmaker and extremely highly overrated actor. I find most of his films apart from aah really melodramatic and over simplified in content.

Now we have directors who are breaking away from the "formula" and thus producing really world class films.

My recent favorites would be Lagaan, dil chahata hai, chandani bar, bollywood calling, hera feri, hum hai rahi pyar ke, andaz apna apna, chachi 420, monsoon wedding, satya.

Kunal Bannerjee: It was fun and absolutely refreshing to read your views on the Indian film Industry and the way it operates....One has been used to chatting on cricket with you since 1999-2000 and reading your live commentary which has pepped up many a muggy afternoon for the likes of me in office along with regular work!

What is an entertaining film?

To me any film which could captivate general [across regions]  interest for it's entire duration is entertainment. It is impossible to find a movie entertaining when after every scene you know what is going to happen next, at times even the dialogue!

Though you would recieve scores of different E-Mails with varied answers, I am sure that most would agree that something like say "Satya", "Gol-Maal", "DDLJ","SHOLAY" & For Example: Most Raj Santoshi films are by and large entertaining as they keep you captivated. I have mentioned a few films here which have done well also across the globe, though there would be several other examples, but for me a An edge of the seat moment, a lump in my throat & laugh are all I look for in each film. Am I asking for too much?

Ravi Pai, Seattle: The above article made for interesting reading.  I have often myself wondered why the film makers keep rehashing the same old BS all the time. 

Thankfully in recent times there have been some fresh and truly different movies being presented by a small band of talented folks. I recently watched two good movies. 3 Deewarein and American Chai.

In 3 Deewarein, Nagesh Kukunoor presented a fresh story with shades of Manoj Shyamalan towards the end.  Speaking of Shyamalan, if you watch the extra features in the DVD version of his movies, you will see how he has played out the movie in his mind a 1000 times before a viewer actually goes into the theater. He not only gets under the skin of each of his characters but has taken a 3 dimensional view of every scence even before commencing shooting for the movie. This is when it hits you that this guy was born to make movies.

On the other hand if you look at the so called "top" commercial movie makers in India today you will come across names like Aditya chopra, Sooraj Barjatiya,  Karan Johar etc.  These guys are making movies because that is the family line of business and hence they feel they are meant to be. 

Who do they cast in their movies ?  More of their own league but of course. Thus we have umpteen "star" kids who think they are actors because that is what their Mom or Pop did for a living.  It is foolish to expect anything creative from this bunch, isn't it ?

Thank god though for there are a few folks who are atleast trying to be different.  Ramgopal Varma is one such guy.  His movie Satya is one of my all time favorites.  Each character in that movie is so convincing. Aamir Khan is another who comes to mind who makes a genuine effort in this regard. Laagan was so refreshingly different.

BTW, one of the readers mentioned about this movie called "Ek Rukha hua Faisla".  I remember watching this movie on Doordarshan probably in 1985-86. It was an NFDC/Doordarshan production. The movie was awesome.

Hari Samrat: Glad to see you back on Rediff writing about cricket, movies et al. A Tamil movie I recently watched is 'Rythm'. Expected nothing much but was very pleasantly surprised. A very simple plot of a boy-meets-girl-have-problems-get-married. But handled incredibly well.

The director has managed the artists very well. No overboard histronics (IMHO 90% of Desi movies have that). Subtle comedy at times (kudos to Nagesh). A must see.

To the topic of what's wrong with Desi Cinema (apart from the usual rant of lack-of-imagination)

1. Huge holes in the story - the story line is never plausible.

2. Contrived situations for a song.

3. No attention to details (case in point: the hit 'Border' had the heroes running around with long hair, gimme a break)

One more movie which comes to mind is: Mr & Mrs. Iyer. very well made, could have been better.

Lakshman Subbaiah: I would say the key to success of any movie is the ability of its audience to relate themselves to the characters in a movie. These characters might be either of lead characters in a movie or might be even one of those fringe ones. That's precisely why one holds his/her regional movies close to heart, the ability to relate to characters. The characterization by a director and screenplay_s etching totally drives this phenomenon for audience's association with movies.

If you have walked in the streets of Manhattan or lived there for a few years, the lead character in the movie 'Phone Booth' would be the one whom you would passed by, a bunch of times. The character is portrayed as one of that trendy New York event manager, Italian and draped in a flashy Armani. Phone Booth is just an example of seeing some one whom you have seen or met but not just  your own self.

For all those tech junkies across North America, the movie 'Office Space' is just a self realization. The hero could just be me, brooding over the fact that he hates his work and also hates to work. The characters again could be any one of us working in an office under a constant  threat or a perceived threat of pink slip handover ceremony.  By the end of this movie, most of us, say to ourselves, 'I have not been destined to spend the rest of my life sitting in a rectangular cube and starring at a computer'. Bill Lumburgh's (The Boss in Office space) face kept starring at me when in real life, my boss asked me to start working on TPS Reports (Transaction Performance Summary).

The character of Ashok, played by Madhavan in Alaipayuthey, could just have been one of us. I am sure, most of us, who have driven around Madras in a bike or taken an electric train in Madras would be able to relate to this character.

The movie Nayakan is renowned for Mani Ratnam's technical brilliance, astuteness and kamal's acting. But what strikes me the most in this movie are its characterization.  There are lots of fringe characters in this movie, moving around Velu Bhai at various realms of his life.

According to me, it's these characters, which make Velu Bhai as one of the eternal portrayal in Indian cinema. The characterization of Hussein Bhai (Velu's foster dad), Janakaraj (Velu's Friend), Iyer played by delhi ganesh and the police officer's mentally disturbed son are a few to name from that masterpiece.

One another famed creation of Kamalahassan, which requires a worthy mention is Devar Magan. The characterization in this movie is immaculate.

Probably, the first time ever, towards the later part of his career, Shivaji Ganesan played a role, which suited him to perfection. He being a thevar, nothing else ever comes closer to him than this character. It was a highly restrained but a stellar performance. You would be in a better position to appreciate all the characters in this movie, if you are from the expanses of southern Tamil Nadu. That sums it all, movies with localized characters and story line are set to live in our memories for a longer period.

Prem: Your point about rooting films in identifiable milieus is well taken. In fact, Thevar Magan is a classic example – Priyadarshan remade it as Virasat and quite good it was too, especially technically.

Yet it didn't have the power of the original – and you've got to believe that at least in part, the reason was that unlike in the Tamil original, the milieu the Hindi version was set in was rather fuzzy.

About Nayakan, besides what you mentioned, the other interesting thing to my mind, was the fact that though obviously inspired to some extent by Godfather, it didn't stick with the original plotline; instead, it merely took the theme, of a larger than life don, found an Indian equivalent, translated the whole story into a very Indian milieu, and crafted a film that stood on its own legs.

No one would quarrel with adaptation of that kind; what bugs me is the frame to frame copies you get at times. One of several dozen incidents I remember is Gumraah, the Sridevi-Sanjay Dutt starrer. I was with Mid Day then, and had gone to do an on-the-sets style feature. You didn't need Mahesh Bhatt to tell you the storyline – the set, and the day's action, immediately made you think of Bangkok Hilton.

After the day's shooting was over, I remember asking Bhatt about this – and he very heatedly told me the film had nothing to do with Bangkok Hilton; that the storyline was based on an Indian starlet who had a similar experience.

He could be right – but then, he might have wanted to sue the makers of Bangkok Hilton for robbing his story and using it before he could, is what I came away thinking.

Swadesh Katoch: I read news from almost all the Indian news site including rediff but for columns I always read rediff.com.  Rediff.com has great columnist like Varsh Bhosle, TVR Shenoy, Srinivasan, Arvind Lavakde and Prem Panicker among others.

I also want to share my thought regarding Bollywood movies. I think we are missing the point here. We are discussing two points over here. One is good movies and other one is hit movies.

There are movies which are very good but they are flop movies e.g. Teen Deewarein, Satta.....  Teen Deewarein is a very good movie but Indian audience has already rejected that movie.   On the other hand films like JISM, ANDAAZ etc. were not good movies but they are big hits in India.  And I think each director wants to make money from his movie.

These days almost every other movie is hollywood remake. In that way we can make money but we will not help the Indian Cinema or we can not make a mark in the world film industry. We should make the movies where we are good. We should make movies keeping the Indian culture in mind. I think we should make movies like HUM AAP KE HAIN KAUN, MONSOON WEDDING and DIL WALE DULHANIYA LE JAANYE GE having good music and full of Indian culture.

Balasubramaniam: Saw ur notes on the difference on why we dont we get good movies in hindi.

By good movies in India, I assume it means masala hit movies. I strongly disagree with the argument that the diversity of the hindi moviegoers has gotto do anything with the quality of the movies. Then think abt hollywood movies. Personally I feel, a director has to be a good storyteller. He has to get the audiences actively involved in the movie. I do see a lot of tamil movies.

Eventhough I feel most of them are crappy, the public seem to like that sort of masala stuff.

That's because the directors here seem to come up with good screenplays atleast. One good example, I can give is Shankar's Kaadhalan (Hum Se hai muqabla in Hindi) was a huge hit. I very much doubt whether it had a story but it had a screenplay which managed to keep audiences interested for 3 hours. But hindi directors dont even have a clue as how to keep audiences hooked...

I think these are some of the assumptions hindi makers have:

#1.Screenplay has nothing to do with a movie

#2.Any hit regional movie has a greater chance of becoming a hit.

#3.Heroine's skin exposure is directly proportional to crowd pulling power.

#4.So is star power.

#5.There cant be any movie without love as a central theme.

#6.The title of the movie should result in a abbr like KKHHDK(A K & a H is compulsory and D is optional)

#7.There shd be a song whose lyrics is tht long KKHHDKK

But as exceptions, I gotto admit that there have been some really beautiful movies recently.

1.Khamoshi - I know its old. But, I cant help myself frm adding it. I think is one of the beautiful films ever made.

2.Company - For its brilliant screenplay,dialogue n direction.Cant forget the scene when MohanLal says to Devgan "Mein bhi chandu nahin hoon". but never got its due credit,thanks to Devdas.(I simply couldnt believe ppl loved it.)

3.Dil chahtha hai - For its naturalness.

4.Bhoot - For its creativity.

5.Darna Mana Hai - Just for the difference in the theme.

6.Theen Deewarein - Just forget the climax. Rest of it is really too good.

Prem: (*grin*) Gotta love your checklist; increasingly, it's almost as if they paint by the numbers, isn't it? 

More Blogs:

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Previous blogs:
Same difference!
Why doesn't Bollywood make good films these days?

 

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