Bollywood 2016 – Will there be a change & content emerge as the winner?
After a largely not-so-happening 2015, it could well be time for Bollywood to sit back, relax, take more than just a few moments to retrospect on what really happened, and make the next move. One such move could be revival of many veteran filmmakers in the business who may well strike with vengeance.
With at least half a dozen major films failing this year (Bombay Velvet, Shaandaar, Tevar, Roy, Katti Batti, Shamitabh), the saviors have been moolah making flicks like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Baahubali, ABCD 2, Welcome Back, Baby, Singh Is Blinng, Gabbar Is Back and Piku, to name a few. While majority of them have the corporate backing of giants like Eros, Fox, UTV and Viacom, there are prominent individual producers already looking forward to an eventful 2016. Sajid Nadiadwala, Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor are the most notable names who have multiple films on floors.
One now waits to see how the blend between Bollywood producers and corporate houses would pay fruit in the New Year, what with a lot depending on the eventual fate of many biggies that are lined up.
“There has to be balance, now that’s something that cannot be ignored. Ever,” says producer Abhishek Pathak, whose Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 tripled the investment and turned out to be a surprise super hit of the year, despite an almost new starcast, “People don’t want to watch craps films and we have seen that with mega budget films bombing. Everyone needs to understand that if they want the industry to survive, then they need to slash their price.”
Talking about the influence that corporate houses have in the industry, he says, “When they first came into the industry, they gave unreal money to everyone just to start the shop. Now they are the ones who are bleeding. They want producers to get the film in budget. It’s like karma – ‘You can’t sow a bitter gourd seed and expect to get an mango tree out of it.”
There are others in the business who believe that at the end of it all, it is just about looking at the whole distribution model differently, as at the core of it all, not much has changed.
“When it comes to the point around distribution of films, it is left to me as a filmmaker. It is my call if I want to do that through 12 independent distributors or instead opt for a one window transaction through a corporate,” says veteran filmmaker Anil Sharma, “It is not a system like America where there are definite studios. The ones in India are not studios per se. At the end of the day, hamaare yahan individual producers ka hi bolbaala hai. It is just that they are funded by corporate houses. Pehle independent distributors picture release karte they, ab ek jagah se hota hai.”
However, filmmaker and actor Ananth Mahadevan has a word of caution. For someone who has been a part of the industry for three decades now, he has seen things up, close and personal.
“It does call for a lot more thought and sensibilities than genuine film makers are putting in now to bring in a renaissance of the Indian new wave,” says Mahadevan, “Corporate entities still bet on the stars and formula to deliver. They are merely reducing budgets to survive instead of enhancing the script levels.”
“As for the change, then well, it won’t happen so easily,” he says in a guarded tone, “Formula will still edge out pursuit for excellence, though we can see the first breaches appearing. For instance, in Kerala, audiences have begun rejecting en masse the mindless entertainment, even if it features a superstar. Result? The state is getting more meaningful cinema produced and the outcome is Box Office appreciation too. Veteran filmmakers and innovative minds in Hindi should take the cue and strike.”
Some have taken a cue indeed, some of the strongest examples being makers like Aanand L. Rai, Kabir Khan, Neeraj Pandey and Shoojit Sircar.
“Well, pick up films like Kahaani, A Wednesday or my own Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2; they worked because someone out there took the risk. Today which superstar actor is doing that? Perhaps just Aamir Khan, and that’s the reason why he sets benchmark with all his films,” Abhishek adds, “For so many still out there, the focus is on marketing. I accept that marketing is important but what about content? People hide behind this whole fake shield of ‘Audience needs Entertainment which doesn’t need your brain’. Sorry, that’s untrue. The time is gone when you made anything in the name of entertainment.”
No wonder, Ananth Mahadevan takes a trip down the memory lane and reminisces the good times.
“It was such a wonderful balance,” he says, “Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Bhattacharya, Basu Chatterjee, Gulzar and Shyam Benegal made a formidable foray amidst Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra and Ramesh Sippy. It would be great to revive that era for the good of Hindi cinema.”
No one is denying this fact and veteran filmmaker Sudhir Mishra has the final word. “I look forward to the times when producers and financers back strong scripts and good directors, instead of paying much heed to just the proposals. That could well be a start.”
We agree as well.