If the obsession of Indians is to be defined one will have to talk of three things, both all of them answer to the sobriquet of entertainment, entertainment, entertainment then cinema, and it is cinema, cricket and politics. And, interestingly, they seldom clashed with one another until a handsome young man called Lalit Modi (now in a literal exile) decided to experiment with the idea of wholesome entertainment—bringing the three rivals for an unheard of extravaganza in the form of Indian Premier League Cricket. Introducing the bidding and buying auction format to knit together teams from all test playing countries into specific units; incorporated politicians into game’s administration and; lured film stars for the fatal attraction, especially when backed by big business houses they went on to become owners of specific franchise, little realizing they might be cutting the very branch on which they had been firmly perched. But the same public can pull the pulls the rugs off if the fare becomes repetitive. It rejects films, hates and despises politicians and booing cricketers when they do not perform successfully.
The very first instalment of IPL gave a big body blow and knocked the very wind out of Bollywood, as well as the Parliament. Political scandals were set aside and even major star cast films ran to empty houses because the entertainment hungry audience was glued to the television screens. That was the magic of T20: entertainment extravaganza. But when the disastrous confrontation repeated itself in 2008, it was time to take stock and third year onwards Bollywood bigwigs started to shy away from releasing their ambitious ventures during this holiday season which otherwise used to be considered one of the three or four best period for new releases. But now realizing the new toy has lost its shine, and people were wary of the same thing again despite the usual star parade, the craze around Indian Premier League cricket seems to have melted down completely. With multiplexes and single screens again registering a good footfall, smiles are back. So the question everyone seems to asking one another, who is afraid of IPL?
But the IPL drill was also an introspection time for the film makers, at least. The dominance of corporate houses that had steadily been invading individual producer’s breathing space to the extent of their virtual elimination, except fresh finance for small budget entertainers that had earlier become nearly extinct also resulted in a drastic and dramatic change in the very concept of film making in Mumbai. Costs of production became irrelevant, and the race to book sellable male stars also sent their prices skyrocketing and beyond the reach of individual producers, the more enterprising amongst them meekly surrendering to the dictat of corporate managers. The emphasis on the same set of stars, in the system suffering from herd mentality, brought back the 1980s scenario with, of course, the major difference that despite taking on multiple assignments, the stars preferred to dole out bulk dates so that if not the whole, at least most of the narrative could be lensed.
With the sheen on IPL rubbed off a fearless Bollywood brigade has lined up the entertainment circus with a variety of themes, daring untouched subjects and storylines, a substantial dose of sex and sensation and, interestingly, without big stars with the exception of an Ajay Devgun, a fading Anil Kapoor, a forgotten John Abraham, and a rising Emraan Hashmi—and no major heroine in the line-up of actors. Take a look at immediate line-up of releases in a crowded calendar, it is a feast on offer during the summer heat that in any case sends one for a cool cover, and what better place than an air-conditioned theatre inside a mall.
It began with Sajid Khan’s star-studded comic caper Houseful 2 reportedly collecting Rs 45 crores during the first weekend with oldies hogging the show and former dreaded villain Ranjeet stealing the show, and then ten more opened with mixed response in April alone: – Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein, a social satire that has Sachin Khandekar and Anupam Kher as star attractions, if they can be called so and the story borrowed from Hollywood flick, Bill Murphy’s Groundhog Day directed by newcomer Pramod Joshi; Tension Mat Le Yaar directed by composer-director Asgar Khan, a comic caper that draws substantially on the rising woman power in areas of crime with Om Puri and assorted newcomers; Vikram Bhatt’s in news for its bold posters with newcomers Gulshan Devaiya and Paoli Dam, Hate Story, rom-com Vicky Donor director by Shoojit Sarkar with John Abraham; Life Ki Toh Lag Gayi with Ranbir Shorey, Kay Kay Menon, Misti Mukherjee tells the story of four characters, each on a dangerous mission in the city of Mumbai;, The Coal Mafiaa another newcomer studded one by Ajay Kashyap; director Priyadarshan’s ambitious action thriller with Ajay Devgan, Anil Kapoor, Mohanlal, Kangana Raunat, Sameera Reddy Tezz; Viddhu Vinod Chopra’s with a sizzling item number by the current chart topper, Vidya Balan with Sharman Joshi in the lead Ferrari Ki Sawaari; and an unprecedented one of a kind Mumbai Cutting (originally premiered in 2008 Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles, but never commercially released, which has eleven different directors: Jahnu Barua, Revathy, Rituparna Ghosh, Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Kashyap, Kundan Shah, Rahul Dholakia, Shashanka Ghosh, Ruchi Narain, Ayush Raina—having a take of their own on life in Mumbai.
Then there another six are on their way in May, beginning with Bhatt Film Factory’s Jannat 2, the sequel to the earlier hit with a rejuvenated Emraan Hashmi; two horror flicks Faisal Sheikh’s 5 Ghantey Mien 5 Crore and, Vikram Bhatt’s fourth outing with Dangerous Ishq that will see the return of Karishma Kapoor; 3 Bachelors, the corresponding stories of 2 single girls and a man with Sharman Joshi again heading the starcast with Raima and Riya Sen directed by Ajai Sinha; Ram Gopal Varma’s Department with Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Rana Dugbatti leading the cast in the cop-and-gangster trademark flick, and Yashraj Films’ Ishaqzaade co-starring producer Boney Kapoor’s son, Arjun and Priyanka Chopra’s bubby cousin Parineeti Chopra who was only bright spot in the company’s flop Ladies versus Ricky Behl.
There will be more on offer once the fare on display is tasted as bigger releases are also round the corner, all star-studded shows, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Ajay Devgun, Akshay Kumar joining the race for box office supremacy.
By Suresh Kohli