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Prem Panicker | August 23, 2003 05:05 IST


Shashi Sharma: I think you are right.

Those people who have not taken seriously by society and involved in low-grade entertainment was a part of history in Indian cinema. Time has progressed, but somehow like the strategic institutions of film in US and other Western countries, we are limited with NFI. The other factors may be:
1. Uncontrolled centralized finance system limited to few producers. It inhibits good idea to be materialized into film that needs money. Monopoly.
2. Shortcut -- roll it, cash it, and forget it. No theoretical and practical postmortem analysis. Sab chalta hai. The ultimate example is 'Bollywood'. What a damn copied name. Millions of people, great country, and first and excellent cinema producer country and even do not have their own name -- Quality and originality, please!
3. We make Hindi film, but when give interview, English is our language. Like Hollywood stars, I think they should copy us and speak French!!! No, we are top-class actors in the world. All follows Naseer to Amitabh. So damn shame on being a Indian.
4. I can tell you for sure that majority of people are slave in India, by birth, by mind, by language, and by their intellectual development (please mind that I am one of them). Some justify beautifully using Oxford Dictionary that they are great.
5. We justify self-esteem being Independence from Whom! Foreigner! Maybe true up to a certain extent. Independence is a state of mind and being an ancient and rich self-realized civilization each of us must have it. Unfortunately, we don't.

Therefore, may be true that we don't get quality cinema because we don't pay attention to it. Rediff is more concern where that lady (Aishwarya) is holidaying than understanding the film Industry by allowing panel of eminent professors, artistes, etc to comment on degradation of entertainment.

This is none of your and mine business, pal! Keep cool and watch the story of how Govt sucked the blood of middle class by tax and paid to Sachin Ramesh Tendulker (the greatest batsman in the world). Indeed, after this, he is.

And the list goes on, so be happy and just watch what you are getting in films.

And yes, you know who is our next President: Murthy from Infosys. I bet you write it down, next or after next. Nothing wrong and, in fact, we all will have free access to Internet like we all have free access to Agni.

Be optimistic.

From Prem: Woops, did I inadvertently touch a nerve here? While nodding at your points, I found one thing that jumped out and bit me. What's this about Rediff and Ash Rai? Don't tell me we are getting a bum rap from Bollywood 'cause Rediff did a small story (among 250 stories that went up that day) on Ash being in Pakistan (incidentally, around that time, a bunch of journalists and MPs were in Pakistan, too -- which also we reported on).

Rahul Pradhan: Read your article 'Same Difference' about the quality of Bollywood movies. I just have this to say, which I feel may be a growing trend with a lot of people in my generation. I and my wife have stopped watching any Bollywood movie whatsoever for the last couple of years as we found out that it was a complete waste of time and money.

We often ask friends and relatives for feedback on the new movies that we keep hearing and reading about. There has been only one movie in this span of time, which has got a 'Must See' review from all of them.

This trend of people losing interest is quite visible here in US as the much publicized shows performed by Bollywood artistes are turning out to be loss-making ventures for the organizers.

From Prem: What is this, the Hitchcock hour? You can't leave us in suspense, after all that buildup -- what is that one movie all your friends gave a must-see review to? And in passing -- since you are in the US, do you see a lot of Hollywood films? Or... um... if you will pardon a moment of levity, what do you do with the money you and the missus saved by not going to movies?

Rathish Balakrishnan: This is Rathish from France. Here are my answers to your questions. What is it you expect when you go to a movie theatre? What, for you, is 'entertainment'? What are the stories and themes you wish films were based on?

Frankly, there's no rule. But there are what I like "most of the time" and I would "most probably won't like". I am basically a part of the serious audience. I don't really believe in wasting time on slapslick comedies. If I have to list down what actually makes me like movies... here are some I could think of.
1. A spark of thought: If I realise that the director or the crew has put in a little thought in the execution of a scene, I am impressed. I never expect a flawless movie. But even if for a few scenes the crew could add some novelty or unpredictability to the flow, that should do. I don't know if you have seen the latest Tamil movie Saamy. That's an average potboiler, with a very mediocre plot. But there were a few scenes in the movie, which were really novel -- unexpected, when you go like "oh my god! that's something". Another example for the same would be the Saif Ali Khan episode in "Darna Mana Hai". The last shot was, for me, out of the blue and very innovative.
2. Characters: My main reason to love Mani Ratnam movies. People are never two-dimensional cause-and-effect paperworks in real life. There's no good guy or bad guy. Everyone is a shade of gray and is driven by both conscience and prejudices. And then, why are there only good guys or bad guys in movies? Excellent examples for the strong characters are Iruvar (Tamil), Dil Chahta Hai. They are so, sometimes even uncomfortably, real.
3. Freshness: There has to be fresh appeal to the movie. I guess this is covered by my points 1 and 2. I have always noticed that the first movies of many directors are very fresh because they would have nurtured every scene of the movie for years, told it to people and corrected it all the while. If you see Valee (Tamil), Sethu (Tamil), DDLJ, Dil Chahta Hai, you realise that there's a lot of thought that has gone into each scene and the directors have been inspired from characters and scenes they have seen in real life. Somehow, when you churn a hundred movies, this "touch of reality" fades and you get stereotyped.
4. Performance: I can sit and watch a movie for one guy who's doing well. I can sit through a dozen movies of Kamal Haasan like Sagar Sangamam (Telugu), Guna (Tamil), or movies like The Legend of Bhagat Singh just to see the performance of the lead stars. They have this uncanny ability to make you relate with the movie.
5. Simplicity: For one, I am not a loud guy when it comes to movies. I believe too much of noise or colour spoils the whole movie-watching experience. That's exactly why I love Malayalam movies. I love movies of Fazil because there's no extra noise or colour that blurs the actual story.

Things that according to me have a very low or nil return value:
1. Foreign locales (I don't think it makes any difference to me what visual backgrounds the songs have).
2. Songs: If I like the songs I buy the audio cassette and may be am enthused to see the movie. But that's it. Songs according to me are good publicity stunts. I've never been able to accept lip-synching by actors.
3. Item numbers
4. Grandeur (50 crores, so what? How many people noticed a 30 lakh saree of the heroine?)
5. Star combinations (makes no difference who's with whom)

Things with a high return value:
1. Dialogues (Iruvar, Devdas)
2. Background music (Ilayaraja's classics)
3. Cinematography (Iruvar again, P C Sriram and Mani Ratnam movies)

Guess it's gone a little too long and I still am left with chunks of thought

Anyways, guess I shall sign off here.

From Prem: Hey, wow! This mail's cool, at least in part because I've seen a lot of the films you are talking about (and I just got hold of a cassette of Saami). Can't quarrel with what you say, not one word -- but I do have a question; how on earth do you get to see the latest Tamil and Malayalam and Hindi films in France? Are Indian films screened there? Or are there DVD/video rental outlets where the latest stuff comes in? How does it work? And while on this, have you ever watched an Indian movie with a French guy/girl(s)? Just curious to know how they respond to what must be a totally alien brand of filmmaking -- any thoughts?

V Chowdhary Jampala: Saw your notes on Darna Mana Hai.

The film reminded me of a very old horror (mid-60s) film -- Dr Terror's House of Horrors, with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing with five horror episodes. Lee's episode with a disembodied hand of an artist pursuing an art critic (Lee) is memorable.

More, when time permits, on other stuff.

PS: I enjoy your cricket commentaries and occasional film-related articles.

Prem: Thanks, boss, I just added that film to the list of stuff to search for on Ebay/Amazon.

Anandram Kaipa: u r right... the whole talk about making films that are different is silly... i mean, how different can a hindi film be, it needs to have mandatory half a dozen songs, at least couple of fights, and not to forget few sobbing scenes, i think it needs herculean task on the part of director to put some story in this "circus"...

there are few movies that are made down south that can really be called entertaining. i don't know if you understand telugu, but it wud be worth watching a movie called "Nuvve Kavali"... it is decent story with dialogue comedy... i think what people need is logical story with some humour attached to it... i feel, if they stick to this basic plot the movie is bound to be entertaining...

Prem: I didn't see the Telugu version of this film -- if I am not mistaken, it starred Tarun, Roja Ramani's son, and the kid who acts as the son in Mani Ratnam's film Anjali? I did, though, see the Malayalam version, Niram, with Boban and Shalini and Kamal directing; and the Tamil version, Piriyaatha Varam Vendum, I remember that Shalini and Prashant starred in it. It was made in Hindi -- with the son of former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh as lead, Ritesh I think his name was, but I forget what the movie was called; I didn't see it anyways. Incidentally, in the Hindi version, the lead star was Genelia D'Souza -- who now, under the screen name Harini, is acting in Shankar's Boyz. You probably also remember seeing her in this Parker pen ad, with Amitabh.

Yeah, you are right, I enjoyed heck out of those movies -- pure time-pass masala, but good masala.

Jitendra K: I was reading your article and what you say about desi movies these days is so very true. I cannot remember the last hindi movie I saw and really liked. Probably goes way back to Satya. Most of the hindi movies I saw recently are a rehash of (old hindi/hollywood/indian regional movies) made again in hindi. That too, they couldn't copy the originals. Movies I like are the ones where script is original and is well executed. I am not asking too much, all I want is to watch a simple story well said. Check out "Aithee", a telugu movie I saw recently and liked it so much. This movie should be shown to every director in India. Very well written script, tightly executed, simple story.

Prem: Hmmm, wish I knew the language; I could probably get hold of a copy here. Tell you what though, there was this Telugu movie I watched a long time ago, then saw at least half a dozen times more, and enjoyed it each time -- Kshanakshana, with Venkatesh, Sridevi and a brilliantly comic Paresh Rawal, long before Paresh's comic skills became known in Bollywood.


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