Miss Lovely, Shahid, Udaan: Small films making a big noise in Bollywood
Looking at new-age Hindi films that are blurring the lines between commercial and art-house cinema.
Art and commerce can be friends too.
The general myth is that cinema that doesn't cater to the star system; formulas or pop culture isn't destined to do well.
But that never stopped young, bright, courageous filmmakers from crafting films that break the rules of traditional storytelling, speak an original voice and give precedence to sincere talent over cosmetic beauty.
And with production houses now realising the value in backing such genius with clever, wholehearted promotion, the reach of these “indie” films is aspiring for more than a “limited audience.”
In last week's release Miss Lovely, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Niharika Singh, which rose to prominence after competing in the Un Certain Regard section of 2012’s Cannes Film Festival, director Ashim Ahluwalia explored the inner workings of Mumbai’s murky C-grade industry.
It may have not tasted much success like other films of its ilk, most notably Shahid and The Lunchbox, but has great repeat value, a piece of work that belongs in the 'important films' category.
On that note, here’s a look at the recent spate of exciting, new cinema that has tasted critical and commercial successes.
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Image: Niharika Singh in Miss Lovely
One of the finest films of last year and this decade, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox is a poignant story of two lonely people (an extraordinary Irrfan and Nimrat Kaur) who accidentally begin to communicate over lauki and letters.
After garnering international acclaim at prestigious festival circuits, The Lunchbox with the influential support of Anurag Kashyap, UTV and Karan Johar made it to the screens in style and left audiences reeling with its breath-taking simplicity.
Image: Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox
Putting their faith in director Hansal Mehta’s uncompromising vision of recounting the real life events of lawyer/activist Shahid Azmi in the hard-hitting biopic paid rich dividends to all concerned.
Besides garnering rave reviews for its maker, leading man Rajkummar Rao, it’s success at box office and award functions underscores the might of quality filmmaking.
Image: Rajkummar Rao in Shahid
Ship of Theseus
Anand Gandhi’s brilliant, thought-provoking Ship of Theseus is an experience for the eyes and soul.
But the film languished in obscurity until director Kiran Rao decided to endorse it.
Their combined effort to draw as many people to its fine attributes inside the theatres through deft publicity, word-of-mouth and lauding reviews ensured SOT gets the audience it deserves.
Image: A scene from Ship of Theseus
On the onset, it looks like another sleazy, exploitative film.
But dig a little deeper and Ajay Bahl’s B A Pass is a grim, twisted drama that holds your attention from start to finish.
And what’s more? It made money too.
Image: Shilpa Shukla in BA Pass
Paan Singh Tomar
Like many great films that delay for the want of finance, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s sweeping biopic about an athlete turned outlaw, Paan Singh Tomar took its sweet time to see the light of the day.
Once it was out though, PST was feted with impressive ratings and (most importantly) a hall filled with satisfied filmgoers.
Image: Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar
Stanley Ka Dabba
After his demotion from director to creative director of Taare Zameen Par, Amol Gupte exercised his skills to write and direct another gem with a child protagonist, Stanley Ka Dabba featuring his son Partho in the titular role.
Low budget notwithstanding, a crucial distribution deal with Fox Star Studios ensured it wide exposure, critical acclaim and box office glory.
Image: Partho in Stanley Ka Dabba
Love Sex Aur Dhoka
Sure, Love Sex Aur Dhoka had the patronage of Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Films but Dibakar Banerjee’s wildly experimental and unorthodox Love Sex Aur Dhoka had to ultimately rely on its own calibre to click.
Shot entirely on DigiCam, the anthology with a (then) mostly unknown star cast and rocking title track earned brownie points from the critics for novelty and conception whereas the audience was only too grateful for such never-seen-before experience.
Image: A scene from Love Sex Aur Dhoka
Vikramaditya Motwane’s breakthrough film Udaan, a sensitive coming-of-age teen tale, won viewers instantly with its charm, depth and restraint.
Produced by Anurag Kashyap, Ronnie Screwvala and Sanjay Singh, like Miss Lovely, it competed in the Un Certain Regard category of Cannes in 2010.
Made at a minimal budget, the Rajat Barmecha-Ronit Roy starrer didn't struggle too much to bring profit on the table.
Image: Rajat Bharmecha in Udaan
The Aamir Khan production took a rather ingenious route to promote a project that wouldn't be perceived as commercially viable by the biggest studios in Mumbai.
The curiously shot clips poked fun at its star producer to grab attention. The ploy worked.
And Peepli Live, even otherwise an awe-inspiring satire on India’s troubled farmers, directed by Anusha Rizvi, boasting of superlative performances, writing and soundtrack more than recovered its money without any trouble.
Image: A scene from Peepli Live