(Column: B-Town) Missing: Makers with conviction and passion (IANS Sunday Special)


How does one feel when a film production house is named as Film Factory? What does it promise? Whatever it may imply, it certainly does not mean creativity, least of all passion for filmmaking.

When a corporate house assigns not one but multiple projects to a production house and sanctions a huge sum to do so, what are the criteria? Does it mean that the production house so assigned is known for its passion for films and has a creative team on its roster?

These kinds of enterprises promise no such thing as creativity or passion for filmmaking. In the first instance, it just means that you have gained the confidence of the market by giving one or two profitable films and want to turn this confidence into profit. Launch a few films simultaneously, involve the market monies and you are made. It is for those who trusted and invested in you to see these films through to their completion.

In second case, there is some big corporate house loaded with funds here to do business of cinema. With all those funds in the kitty, one can’t go in search of talent, passion or creativity. The resources need a resourceful producer who has an easy access to stars or is a star himself and capable of putting together a project.

What business sense does it make when you release funds to the tune of, say, Rs 100 crore, to a production house and ask it to deliver three films in a stipulated time. Creativity, certainly, is not in contention here! The turnover is. Besides funding, what is the contribution of these folk to a film, its story, music and other creative aspects? Nothing.

So what happens to the films? This is project financing. The films become top heavy at the very conceptual stage! If any observer of our filmmaking has observed, such films count heavily on the lead star, have little or no side actors to fill up the screen with or share the play time with the lead. No film counting only on its hero sustains at the cinema.

Your lead actor is supposed to do all what the other side characters were meant to do: comedy-buffoonery and also wear shades of the villain. Action every few minutes of playtime and it becomes monotonous, telling heavily on the film.

The examples are aplenty, but to cite a couple of them counting on a superstar: ‘Mahaan’ (Amitabh Bachchan plays a dual role stretching the narrative to a tiresome three hours) or ‘Tubelight’ (Salman Khan plays a mentally challenged lad but does not convince). And, to reaffirm what was said earlier, these are not the only examples.

To use the old but very relevant parlance, we don’t anymore work on a complete script that promises something for everybody in one film. I remember people reaching a cinema theatre much before the actual show time of a film. That was only so that they could catch up on the trailers played of the forthcoming films.

These trailers promised and included excerpts of everything about the film it promoted, such as romance, drama, emotions, action, music and comedy, and so on. The idea was to project a film as a universal entertainer with something for all. And many films, if not all, did live up to this promise.

It was not for nothing that in one single year, not one or two, but many films proved to be hits and enjoyed long runs, achieving landmarks such as Silver Jubilee, Golden Jubilee, and so on. Today, one odd film every few months is proclaimed a hit, some using the opportune periods of festivals such as Eid, Diwali, or some holiday weekend.

The recent trend is to bank on stars such as Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar or Aamir Khan to bring in the initial footfalls. It was not so when content made a film work. The industry had so many popular stars such as Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra, Manoj Kumar, Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapor, Rajendra Kumar and Shatrughan Sinha, all of whom came up with hit movies during the 70s and 80s.

Later on, a new lot of actors followed – Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor – and they all survived and continued to give hits, despite reigning a superstar – first, Rajesh Khanna, and later, Amitabh Bachchan.

What is missing in films today is that they enjoy only limited tenures and fade from memory as soon as one leaves the cinema theatre. No jubilees; success is now measured in crores.

The media laps up this crore business without understanding the economics of film business. Why don’t these 100 crore films stay in the memory of viewers? Do they make films now that people would want to watch again and again for their songs or dialogues?

Which was the last film that boasted of a dialogue that is mouthed even today: “Davarsaab, main aaj bhi phenke hue paise nahin uthata” (‘Deewaar’), or “Chinai Sheth, jinke apne ghar shishe ke ho, who doosron par paththar nahi phenka karte”. Has there been a film like ‘Sholay’, which was watched again and again every night by people just for its dialogue?

Can’t think of any.

Then there were films which were watched repeatedly by viewers just for their songs. ‘Sachchai chhup nahin sakti’ (‘Dushman’; Rajesh Khanna), ‘Khaike paan Banaras wala’ (‘Don’; Amitabh Bachchan), and so many such songs brought the audience back to the cinemas.

The fact is, filmmaking was not just another business enterprise like it has become now. A filmmaker staked his all on a film he believed in and was not bankrolled by a corporate house.

The reigning star of yore, Dilip Kumar, produced a film, ‘Gunga Jumna’, for the mainstream Hindi audience, not in Hindi but in Bhojpuri, an eastern Indian language. And the film was a golden jubilee hit all over India. And, to think that the first officially Bhojpuri film, ‘Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo’, was yet to be made!

K. Asif produced ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. The film was launched in 1940, the financer left for Pakistan during Partition and the hero passed away. With a new financer and an entirely new star cast, the film finally released in 1960.

‘Mother India’, a heroine-centric film launched two relatively new faces, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt, along with Nargis. The film was a remake of Mehboob Khan’s own 1940 film, ‘Aurat’.

Raj Kapoor nursed the idea of ‘Mera Naam Joker’ for many years. Made with much effort and resources, the film failed to meet the expectations of the viewers. His dream project all but ruined Raj Kapoor, his regular distributors lost faith in him, yet, instead of launching a commercial project with top-selling actors, he went on to launch his son Rishi Kapoor and a new girl, Dimple Kapadia, with the film ‘Bobby’.

These were the makers with conviction who believed in what they did and they did it with passion. It is not as if other filmmakers lacked in passion. It was a matter of degrees.

Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Vijay Anand, B.R. Chopra, Yash Chopra, Manoj Kumar, Sooraj Barjatya, Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Ramanand Sagar, Shakti Samanta, Dulal Guha, Nasir Hussain, Basu Chatterjee, L.V. Prasad, K. Vishwanath, Bapu, and even Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Rakesh Roshan, Shekhar Kapur dreamt and lived films.

There are just a few in the present generation who possess this quality where their films leave a mark. They include Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Raju Hirani, Shoojit Sarkar, Neeraj Pandey, Sujoy Ghosh, Sriram Raghvan, to name some.

We have very few makers/directors who are possessed by filmmaking. Sadly, they have to be content making small films for which they can’t even afford a decent promotion. Big stars won’t risk doing such films (Akshay Kumar, who did ‘Pad Man’ and ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’, being an exception).

In such circumstances, there are a few backers of such films. Anjum Riizvii is one such. He has been involved with many films and serials, but his ‘A Wednesday!’ has become memorable. Nagesh Kukunoor, who produced and directed ‘Hyderabad Blues’, came to the limelight with this film. He has directed another beautiful film, ‘Dhanak’.

‘I Am Kalam’ was one more such film, but only a few care for such films. One team which dedicates itself on backing the films of makers with conviction is Manish Mundra’s Drishyam Films. He has been the force behind ten such films so far, which include ‘Masaan’, ‘Dhanak’, ‘Newton’ and ‘Kamyaab’.

I happened to watch this movie ‘Karwaan’ on a movie channel a week back. It was what I would call a leisurely watch. The film is directed by Akarsh Khurana, son of veteran actor-writer Akash Khurana. I am sure many such ideas are still there to be turned into movies worth watching.


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