From flops to classics – The making of ‘cult’ cinema
[dropcap]A[/dropcap] flop film is one that has been highly unsuccessful or unprofitable during its theatrical run. While a cult movie is a film that has acquired a highly devoted following amongst audiences who swear by it. One would wonder what these two categories could possibly have in common? The answer is a little unexpected and almost surprising because several box office flops have eventually gone on to become classic movies. Over the years, Hindi cinema has witnessed films which did not get cash registers ringing but have grown to acquire a massive fan following, thus attaining the status of a classic.
Almost every decade bears testimony to atleast one such film which did not work when released but as times changed, their real stature has been recognized and cherished in the history of Indian cinema. As we celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema, Pandolin pays tribute to some of the timeless films that traced the journey from flops to memorable classics.
Kaagaz Ke Phool- A masterpiece by the celebrated actor–director Guru Dutt, Kaagaz Ke Phool narrates the rise and fall of a famous film director. Set against the backdrop of the film world, the movie was believed to be a semi-autobiography of the revered Guru Dutt himself. The film was a commercial failure as it was considered too complex for the audiences who were used to simpler story plots. It could also have been unacceptable to many owing to the story line that shows a married man falling in love with another lady. The failure of the film hugely affected Guru Dutt who did not helm any films post this. But Kaagaz Ke Phool went on to acquire a cult status and is referred to as a world cinema classic internationally. It is definitely one of Guru Dutt’s memorable works which continues to influence Indian cinema even today.
Mera Naam Joker – The legendary Raj Kapoor invested a lot of his time and fortune in this magnum opus. Mera Naam Joker was a heartwarming film that revolved around the predicament of a circus clown who has to make his audience laugh ignoring his own sorrows. The film also marked the debut of Rishi Kapoor. But the film which is now considered one of Raj Kapoor’s finest works had then failed at the box office. Its failure could be attributed to the length of the film and the huge budgets involved. In those days, majority of the films could recover their costs unless the budget was too high and the film then failed which lead to losses. Today Mera Naam Joker is considered to be an epitome of brilliant cinema.
Pakeezah: This 1972 film was the last of the beautiful Meena Kumari’s works. Popularly referred to as the tragedy queen, Meena Kumari played a double role in Pakeezah. The film which was jointly helmed by Kamal Amrohi who was then married to Meena Kumari took 14 years to complete. The story revolves around the life of a courtesan, her dreams towards a better life and the sorrow and rejection she faced. Pakeezah was declared a flop at the box office but soon after Meena Kumari’s death it picked up steam and is now remembered as a classic. One of the reasons the film failed when released could be the long duration it took for completion. A film loses its value when in the new for long as people eventually forget about it. Other reasons could be the length and the over-the-top plot, but its magic could not be kept away for long and is hence a cult film today.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro- This is one of those films that can be enjoyed over and over again. Kundan Shah’s entertaining satire on the political, bureaucratic and media scenario was not a success when it released. Made on a shoestring budget, the film lacked funds for publicity which could be one of the reasons why it never reached the intended audience. Another reason could be the bold demonstration of corruption across sectors which was not so upfront then and viewing it through a comic lens may have not gone down well with everyone. But the plot around two out-of-work photographers and their hilarious journey coupled with amusing mishaps went from a quiet commercial show to the most definitive satirical comedies in Hindi cinema. Even after 30 years, the film retains its cherished status and is a must watch for all. The proof of which is the overwhelming response it received when re-released in the digitally improved version in 2012.
Agneepath – Agneepath is an iconic film that brings to mind images of the angry young man, Amitabh Bachchan and his booming voice. Big B won a National Award for his incredible performance in the film. But Agneepath was a disaster commercially and critically. Mukul Anand’s film centered round the rise and fall of a mafia goon played by Mr. Bachchan but was panned owing to its absurd dialogues, melodrama and also the actor’s experimentation with his voice – remember the famous ‘haaain?’ Masses and critics felt that it was way ahead of its time, had a slow narrative and the portrayal of Mumbai’s underbelly was too violent. Who would have then thought that a few years down the line, the same dialogs, exciting storyline and Amitabh Bachchan’s characteristic voice would go down the history of Hindi film cinema. All the elements that were once criticized have become famous today and elevated the film to an epic status. So much so that the film inspired and gave birth to a remake of the same name in 2012.
Lamhe – Yash Chopra explored an unconventional and non–traditional plot with Lamhe. Sridevi falling in love with an older man (Anil Kapoor), who is the one responsible for raising her and who had once loved Sridevi’s mother (Sridevi played a double role in the film). Though the film was accepted by metropolitan audiences and was a huge hit in the UK it bombed in the Indian mass market. It received critical acclaim and won accolades too but the bold story did not go down well with the larger audience. The theme was compared to incest and considered audacious by the traditional audiences then. However several runs on television and the evolving outlook of viewers have made Lamhe an impressive piece of cinema. It was regarded as one of Yash Chopra’s personal favorites and also finds a place in the Times Movie Guide’s Top 100 Indian films.
Andaz Apna Apna – Remember Crime Master Gogo and Teja? They are the unforgettable characters from Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Andaz Apna Apna. The comic timing and dialogs of the film are etched in the memories of viewers and it still draws up a good TRP when aired on television. But the film did not receive the overwhelming response at the box office as one would have expected. One of the reasons that could have led to the film’s commercial debacle could be the time it was released in. During the 90’s, comedies were not in vogue. The film was hence considered ahead of its times and not appreciated by the masses. In today’s times when we crave for good comedies, the gags and hilarious antics of Andaz Apna Apna prove to be an archetype of exemplary comedy. Television screenings and home video had gone on to make this film one of the best comedy films ever made in Bollywood.