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2007: The year that was at the movies

Last updated on: December 31, 2007 18:04 IST
With 2008 just around the corner, we decided to get together an interesting bunch of people to chat about cinema in the year gone by.

Director Suparn Verma and resident film critic Raja Sen got together on December 27 to chat about 2007's movies, with Rediff's prettiest columnist Bolly Woods moderating the conversation.

It was an interesting, insightful chat with Rediff readers pitching in, and brought about some debate -- not just on best films and performances of the year, but on issues like plagiarism.

Here's the transcript from Thursday's chat, in case you missed the action:

Amol asked, Raja Sen, Your reviews cannot be digested by many viewers. There are people who have liked sawariya, aaja naachle among others. Your comments plz.
Bolly Woods answers,  Amol, while waiting for Raja, was browsing the comments and found this. Noticed also a lot of people on here who DID NOT like Saawariya -- so my question is this: In a world where you cannot get everyone, or even the majority, to agree whether Hinduism/Christianity/Islam/Sikhism/Buddhism or even atheism is the true religion, how can you expect a reviewer to write something *everyone* agrees with?

ytg asked, ye suparna kaun hai bhai
Bolly Woods answers, Here is your answer:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1242455/

Suparn Verma says, Hi everyone, been a great and exciting year ending with the superlative TZP, wonder what's in store for us next year.

Raja Sen says, Hi readers, great to see you all. And you too, Bolly. Let's talk about 2007, the year in movies!

ashish asked, i loved da movie RGV ki AAG??? did u
Raja Sen answers, :) please tell me why, Ramu would LOVE to meet you.

Leena asked, I think OSO & JWM were gudd...while OSO was entertainin, ..JWM was catchy & somewhat reality best....both of thier songs are equally gud...
Raja Sen answers, true, they were both fine fun films. completely enjoyable and pretty honest for the mainstream.

anian asked, Why do critics fail to understand the inner meanings of deeply emotional movies? No smoking was beautiful and heart-warming. But critics missed the pint and they misguided the viewers. That movie bombed only because of critics
Suparn Verma answers, No movie bombs because a critic likes it or not. Good or bad word of mouth publicity is done by the public at large and that is what drives any movies collections after the first three days

A still from Chak De! Indiawildpixie asked, Sen, Jab We Met, Johnny Gaddar and Loins of Punjab were rewarding experiences. Do these feature in your end-of year movies list?
Raja Sen answers, yes, you'll see each and every one of the three. I'm glad these films have found such widespread appreciation. which of them did you like best?

UTPAL asked, THIS YEAR AKSHAY KUMAR HAVE FOUR HITS. SO, WHY HE SHOULD NOT WON AN AWARDS OF BEST ACTOR?
Suparn Verma answers, Maybe he will:) However the awards this year will be SRK = Chak De, Kareena = Jab We Met, Best Director = Aamir Khan, Best Film = Chak De and TZP (will fluctuate with the various award ceremonies)

Bolly Woods says, Got a question for you two gents: Outside of the hits and misses, did Bollywood have any interesting trends in 2007, that could indicate the course of the future?

Ashok asked, Raja Sen, I had read your article where you rates Shilpa Shetty at no.1 and Aishwarya Rai at no.2. This was just not justified. I feel Deepika should be at no.1 and Tabu/vidya balan at no.2.
Raja Sen answers, Ashok, with due respect to your opinion, the feature was one about power and box office clout in 2007, and this was definitely a big year for Shilpa. As for Ash, her wedding itself created a media circus the likes of which we haven't seen before.

Raja Sen says, Bolly, I must say it is the year for smaller films. In the final reckoning when you look back at 2007, you'll remember not just the Chak De but films like Manorama Six Feet Under and Bheja Fry, smaller successes that made as much of an impact or got great appreciation.

Bolly Woods says, Raja: Fair enough, but is that happenstance, or is it a pointer to what is to come, to a direction more will follow, is my question here.

serioussam asked, In a year where some bold experiments were made, and hearteningly, many of the films parading about cliches and pre-packaged pap bit the dust, why, do you think, there was a dearth of actual, honest to goodness great films? Middling to good films, sure, but no great ones. Do you think there bankruptcy shows signs of leaving the industry come 2008?
Raja Sen answers, I think there's definitely hope, Sam. It is indeed great to see the audience rejecting regression and cliche, and hopefully the financiers would notice this as well as you and me. Yes, it isn't the year of one true standout 'great' film, but they can't all be like last year, can they?

Suparn Verma says, Bolly Woods: The biggest trend which will be less towards the content of filmmaking but in the general structure of the Hindi film industry. The future is that individual producers will cease to exist one by one, the big ones will form alliances with various big studios and we are going to see a MAJOR influx of Hollywood studios, along with the 5-6 major ones here

Raja Sen says, As for trends, the money is going to go up even higher. With millions of corporate and overseas funds entering film production, Indian films are only going to get bigger-budgeted and our actors increasingly overpaid.

Bolly Woods says, Suparn: Thanks, but if that is where we are going, what do you see as its influence on the industry? Or is it the same product, different -- larger, glitzier -- label?

Raja Sen says, Bolly, I think it's definitely a sigh of things to come. Smaller films are increasingly plausible projects to finance today, and movies like Bheja Fry and Loins have proved that you don't need stars or songs to get people into theatres. It's viable to make a small-budget film and still reach an audience.

Suparn Verma says, Bolly Woods, its so cyclic. Remember the mid 90's the era of Bharat Shah, it was the same thing: top actors, music directors and technicians being paid ridiculous amounts of money. The music market overseas soared!!! then the market bubble burst with a worldwide recession. Then things settled down and its started again. Its not a new trend, only the players have changed. The money has got bigger. Honestly, there are only so many stories and genres to play with, so what we will have next after the big starcast movies will be visual extravaganzas like the ones in China among other things, and hopefully a very strong independent cinema movement

TestTime asked, Do you see films from South? Specially tamil films which i feel technically is far superior than Bollywood..
Bolly Woods answers, I do, to an extent. I would think thematically, Tamil films are throwing up the occasional interesting surprises; technically, I would suggest there was a time when Tamil was superior, distinct, but so many of the technicians work in Bollywood these days that the distinctions have blurred. Very recently, I saw and liked Veyil, Kalluri (except for its overblown climax), Evano Oruvan (despite its obvious resemblance to the Michael Douglas starrer Falling Down) and such.

Ganesh asked, Do film critics get their pockets filled by producers while writing reviews ? Raja Sen, pls reply. Does SRK pay u ? Will u ever write anything against him ?
Raja Sen answers, Ganesh, I wish you were right and I got paid to write good reviews. It does happen, so I hear, but I haven't yet been the recipient of any such favours. As for SRK, I'd suggest you look at my reviews for Don and KANK. :)

Neil Mukesh in Johnny GaddaarRaja Sen says, Suparn, do you think there's a danger of these overblown budgets affecting not just the stars but also the filmmakers? or are we in danger of excessive, wasteful wanna-blockbusters?

Sudhanshu asked, This year definately belong to Akshay Kumar, Whatever he touches it turns into gold. Whats ur take on that?
Suparn Verma answers, Awesome year for Akshay Kumar! In fact, even 2006 was a great year for him, he has been consistently performing and out performing himself at the box office

Bolly Woods says, Suparn, Raja, when you have a moment from answering questions from the readers, I have one for you: For all the sighting of new trends, new sources of money and such, the fundamental paradox of Bollywood is this: It makes between 250-300 products. Yet, in a given year, only a dozen, maybe two dozen at best, "sell". No other industry has ever managed to survive in such a paradox -- how long do you suppose Bollywood can continue in this fashion? And do either of you have any idea what can be done to rewrite the equation more favorably?

wildpixie asked, Well, to answer your query, I'd have to say Johnny Gaddar, and not just coz it was bathed in red,almost making the colour come alive, but because it was a slick film, without unnecessary dance or drama. the rest come a close second. kareena was surprisingly good in JWM and Loins was insanely funny. What Indian movie you think deserves to be sent to the Oscars? why?
Raja Sen answers, well, I don't necessarily think the Oscars are the best indicator.. That said, I didn't see any one film this year -- and that's tragic -- that I'd rate as Oscar-calibre. I think Eklavya is a fine choice, simply because it visually blows you away and I think Academy members will be stunned at such visual sophistication coming from India.

gaurav asked, Did u c Jhonny gaddar????its 5/5 .
Raja Sen answers, yeah, I think it totally rocked :)

Suparn Verma says, Raja, this is how economics work, small budget movies are as dangerous as the big budget ones. When making a small budget movie the producer is most at risk as he may or maynot be able to sell the film, and at times it takes years, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Johnny Gaddar, Bollywood Calling, all these films were almost ready projects for sometime before being taken out off hibernation by corporates. Secondly many of them under perform at the box office which translates into little but still 'losses for the producers/distributors. The thing about big budget films is this u get a big starcast, your film from day one is secured a great market value as far as selling it to distributors go. Its a safe bet in todays times for distributors as 1000-1200 prints ensure the recovery is complete within the first week WHATEVER the reviews. After that its just a matter of how much profit. A smaller film with a 200 theater release doesn't even have that margin.

Raja Sen says, Bolly, I think Bollywood lives and thrives on dreaming about the impossible. Everyone wants to be the next big thing -- equally, we all want to also see the next big thing. And so it is that movies come and go and aren't even noticed, but each of them has hopes of making at least a small impact. Now, however, the scene is changing with the packaged 'product' films calculated and analysed to the extent that it's nearly impossible to lose money, despite the film being a dud. For example, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal made its money back through various revenue streams even before it hit -- and devastated -- theatres.

Raja Sen says, Suparn, my question was less about money and more about the aesthetic. When a filmmaker used to even a 35 crore budget is given 100 crores to play with, can he handle it or are we likely to be bombarded by lots of spectacular nothingness?

Suparn Verma says, Bolly Woods if u study the finances closely you will realise what u are talking about is two dozen favourably critics approved films. On the other hand as far as business goes its much more than that. In today's market it is VERY tough to actually lose money. You have theatrical rights, music rights, tv and video rights, caller tunes etc that the revenue comes in for even the worst of films however things are not so sunny as it sounds but not as bad as they used to be.

boni asked, Raja sen...honest answer..do u give unbiased reviews..Nope..u knw that..then why we hear ur verbal diahrea...u r paid ..but that doesnt mean u Torture CM ( common man)
Bolly Woods answers, Geez, is this all this chat is about anyways? I have some questions for you, too -- if you know, as you claim to, that a particular reviewer is biased, why read him? Why not be as selective about the critics you read as you hopefully are about the movies you watch?

yes asked, What is your reaction to movies like No Smoking and RGV ki Aag?
Raja Sen answers, I think they prove that a filmmaker today can make a film only for themselves, as a one-man audience. It would help if they were good films, of course, which they certainly aren't.

Suparn Verma says, Raja, that would depend from filmmaker to filmmaker and his film to film. You may say SLB wasted money in Saawaariya, but the same SLB can also astonish u in his next film. So the question is too generic.

Bolly Woods says, One question for both of you: You've mentioned movies you liked, and where you think Bollywood is headed. Did 2007 disappoint you in any major way -- I am not thinking of individual movies, so much as about trends, things that happened or did not happen?

Awais asked, Raja Sen ...According to you who is the Best Actor ....choose only one and justify...
Raja Sen answers, Awais, this is always such a difficult kind of question. We have a lot of very fine actors in India today, but I know you want to hear ONE name, so here goes : for me the gold standard is still Pankaj Kapoor, his work in Blue Umbrella just showing he's still as magical a performer as ever.

Suparn Verma says, Bolly Woods the only time I have been disappointed as a viewer was in the 80's, when we had some really crappy Hindi films. Today, with so much choice available, its tough to get disappointed as there is something for everyone.

Raja Sen says, Well Bolly, I think the remakes were a bit of a pain. Sholay, White Nights were both turned into really bad films, while the remake bandwagon seems to carry on because of successes like Bheja Fry which almost legitimises the film being a remake. Why can't we just make more original films? Suparn, this question to you, why can't we just buy rights from writers and studios instead of rip off scripts? Is that completely unfeasible, given the money coming in and the increasing international media attention given to our films?

A still from Bheja Fryboni asked, bollywoods..i dnt value his reviews but that doesn stop me..saying wat i feel....at the end of the day...Reviewer should be Trithfula nd Honest to his work....that is all....it snot me being selective....it is him being thorough pro. Got it
Bolly Woods answers, Got it. When you say he or any reviewer is not honest, that is your rating/appraisal, which need not have a modicum of truth in it. That would be tantamount to my saying that whenever Rediff or any site gives any film a bad review and dozens of guys slag the reviewer, that is because some interested party, film production house, whoever, has paid you guys off to blow away the review/reviewer. No truth in that, right? Same difference, when you guys impute motives without a shred of evidence. To quote you, pal -- "got it"?

Manav asked, why people can't aplaud the other children movies like "makdi" and "blue umbrella" why so much chaos abt "taare zamin par". only bcoz people here in india cant see other then wat they are forced to see?
Suparn Verma answers, But everyone did applaud Makdi and Blue Umbrella!!! The only reason they were not as talked about as TZP is because they didn't have Aamir Khan. It's like Chak De without SRK or Lagaan without Aamir, make the same film but would they be talked about as much? In fact, would u even enjoy them as much? There is a reason why they are superstars.

Manav asked, why people can't aplaud the other children movies like "makdi" and "blue umbrella" why so much chaos abt "taare zamin par". only bcoz people here in india cant see other then wat they are forced to see?
Raja Sen answers, well I think films like Makdee and Blue Umbrella will always be appreciated but the fact sadly remains that hype in our country only accompanies a product with A-list stars attached to it.

bingo asked, I got an opportunity to watch both Chak De and Goal. While I was impressed with the former, I was quite disappointed with the latter. The pace was not consistent, the narration was not up to the mark, and the movie failed to evoke any emotion. Is it just me, or do you think Goal sucked as well?
Raja Sen answers, It's not just you ;)

Bolly Woods says, Suparn: Um, granted you are increasingly spoilt for choice, and there is something on the marquee for almost everyone. My question actually had to do with more general themes -- like for instance, whether you were disappointed in/with the industry for doing, or not doing, something in particular. Like for instance, Raja pointing out that the one overriding disappointment was remake-fever.

yes asked, On RGV Ki Aag: Do you think Amitabh has deliberately casted himself as a comical villain to allow Akshay come out of his shadows?
Raja Sen answers, I doubt that very much, but your guess is as good as mine ;)

apple asked, Raja Sen, Why indian producers/directors are not making good animation movies? Is it the lack of techncial capability?
Raja Sen answers, I think it's only a matter of time. We aren't used to the medium yet, but I'm quite sure we'll get there. I'm quite curious to see what a director like Anurag Kashyap does with Return To Hanuman, actually.

kunaliam asked, Raja Sen..why do you always give crap reviews ?? Is rediff fool to hire a crap like u, who always give nonsense reviews only ??
Bolly Woods answers, Kunalim: Is this your question? How is Raja Sen supposed to answer why Rediff hired him? That is best asked of the personnel manager of Rediff, no?

Raja Sen says, Disappointments aside, Bolly, I think it has been a tremendous year for the Hindi film soundtrack. Not item-numbers but the OSTs as a whole have achieved some maturity in tone and a complete overall cohesiveness, a total theme that really works. Johnny Gaddaar, Taare Zameen Par and Khoya Khoya Chand are phenomenally aided by their soundtracks.

Suparn Verma says, Raja this is the thing, when more Hollywood studios come into India our laws will change accordingly and rights will be bought and sold. Till then you need to think as a producer, not a critic, a journalist or a common man. Think as a producer a businessman, end of the day A BUSINESSMAN who will only see the bottomline, if he can get something for Rs 5 and sell it for Rs 10 then pray tell me WHY would he spend Rs 6 on it??? Not unless he was forced to or he couldn't get away with it. So bottomline it comes down to money. Third World countries have the maximum emission of CO2 something banned abroad, but we do it knowing its wrong because we can get away with it. We spit in India but not in Singapore? Because we can get away with it!!! Its human tendency which gets more pronounced when you are a business man then its only the bottomline. As for originality. We have enough original scripts provided actors and producers and directors WANT them, its a question of the actor and producer agreeing to an 'unseen' 'untested' idea!!!

Popa asked, Raja Sen tried his best to criticise TZP but could not convince the audience. Com on man clear your views on this.
Raja Sen answers, Convince the audience of what? :) I liked TZP quite a bit, and was impressed by Aamir's work as a first-time director. I'm nothing but glad that the film has gotten a positive response -- it'll mean more people will make sensitive rather than senseless cinema.

yes asked, To Raja Sen: "Raja Sen says, I think Bollywood lives and thrives on dreaming about the impossible." Dreaming about the impossible gives a connotation for synesthesia, i.e., mixing of senses. But with inadequate animation and thematic balance do you think it is justifiable to adapt stories like "Quitter's Inc (Stephen King)" in Bollywood?
Raja Sen answers, Well I think Quitter's Inc could be adapted very well in Bollywood, and would even work in an Indian context.. we shouldn't write off a story like that just because one adaptation didn't work. I'm sure someone could have made a bad Othello adaptation but that wouldn't make Omkara impossible.

Bolly Woods says, Suparn, Bush will be one happy chappie to hear you suggest we top in CO2 emissions, but never mind that -- you are a writer, surely if I plagiarized your work you wouldn't shrug and say it is like spitting in India but not in Singapore -- just human nature? Surely as creative people, you guys more than anyone else need to honour IPR?

harishkashyap asked, Don't you think the quality of movies has went down in this decade, when compared to the 90s? We had so many good movies and good actors giving good movies. But sadly, there are hardly any qualities movies this decade, save Lagaan, DCH, Chak De, Munnabhai, etc. Do you feel the younger generation don't have enough talent or do you think the audience has matured?
Raja Sen answers, but when you discount these great films, remember they've all come in the last few years.. we have great filmmakers and a bunch of talented young directors .. and each of them is capable of stunning us, on a routine basis.

Manav asked, do u think our films r getin mature these days? isnt it the right time to cut the budget of the movies so that to make way for more meaningful movies.
Suparn Verma answers, What do you mean getting mature? What kinda of cinema were Gulzar Asit Sen Hrishikesh Mukherjee B R Chopra Yash Chopra Bimal Roy and hundreds of other legends making? Childrens film? And how would butting budgets make meaningful cinema? Scond I have to ask you HOW MANY MEANINGFUL FILMS can u watch in a week???? 1? 2? 3? 4? After that you would want to be enteratined by hardcore entertainers, so stop asking questions filled with Utopian psuedo crap

Suparn Verma says, Bolly Woods, I would honour IPR if using an idea if I was the producer!!! Unfortunately I'm not.

Raja Sen says, And on remakes: I loved Manorama Six Feet Under, which almost completely remained true to Chinatown. And while this wasn't an official remake (ie: rights weren't bought), the remake status was acknowledged in the film and by the director. can't we at least 'fess up to what we're doing instead of pretending the paying public doesn't have membership at a DVD library?
 
Part II of the chat: Kareena will sweep awards for Jab We Met'