Suneel Darshan: Director’s voice often controlled by star power, corporate houses today

Veteran filmmaker Suneel Darshan, best known for films like “Jaanwar”, “Ek Rishtaa” and “Mere Jeevan Saathi” in the nineties and 2000s, feels the concept of family entertainment does not exist in Hindi cinema anymore and adds that many stars have often tried overpowering the vision of their directors

“The whole genre of family entertainment that holds moral values, conflicts and differences of ideology has changed, and we do not get to watch family entertainment in Hindi cinema anymore. In fact, those who used to make out-an-out family drama entertainers, are probably not as respected in our film industry as those who would make an action film or a thriller,” Darshan tells IANS.

He points at another problem. “On one hand, there are stars who tend to overpower the vision of a film director and on the other there are corporates and production houses, who are financially supporting the film who get in the way of creativity. We have to understand there is a difference between ‘content creation’ and ‘filmmaking’. Sure, we need to get the returns of the invested money within three days of theatrical release but what about the archival value of a film?” Darshan adds.

Recently, his 2001 family drama “Ek Rishtaa” starring Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Karisma Kapoor, was shown on television. The director say in small towns where TV is still a part of home entertainment, such films are still watched.

Despite working with stars as Big B, Akshay and Karisma, Darshan could not sustain in the changing times. He has his theory while explaining why.

“It is a complicated matter. You see, when an actor becomes a star, the corporate house will bank on the star. Therefore, they go by what the star wants. A director these days, is hired by production houses to serve them. But cinema used to be a director’s medium. It used to be a collaboration between writers and directors. Many times, I feel the very Indianness is missing from Hindi cinema, though that is not the case with Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam films. Corporatisation has happened there as well, but there the vision of the director is respected and not interfered,” he says.

He adds: “These days, in most films, all we get to see is highly Americanised stories with morbidity and negativity. Stories that are negative are served as ‘real’. Initially, corporate culture in our cinema brought a lot of money, production value and introduced new technology. But there are corporate agendas that interferes in storytelling, and since they invest money and according to them ‘stars pull the audience, many a time the original vision of the director is compromised because, as I said, a director can be ‘hired’. In the end, when a film is releasing and if it flops, it comes on the director though the world outside does not get to know who or how the vision of the director has been interfered with and controlled by others. The command has shifted from director to producer and stars. That is why film directors like Rajkumar Santoshi, including other makers of family entertainment, are not directing films anymore.”

Darshan’s last release was the romantic drama “Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha” in 2017. The film, meant to launch his son Shiv Darshan, fared below expectations at the box office.

Is he planning a new project any time soon? “I am writing scripts and working on few subjects, and once normalcy surfaces I will look for a way to turn them into films. If no one is opening the door, I will even then find a way. There was a time I made film that redefined the career of actors. As a film director, I will again come back and tell stories,” he signed off.

(Arundhuti Banerjee can be contacted at