Bollywood Out 2010 In 2011
If one looks back at the Bollywood balance sheet in the first decade of the new millennium, the figures of the end results would be the same. There has not been a single year when the hit and flop ratio has exceeded 10 per cent. But what has drastically changed in the last two years, there has hardly been a film which could be called a moderate hit which also used to be a balancing factor. So in a certain sense there is nothing unusual. Life goes on as before. Some shed tears, others break into boisterous laughter. The mark sheet continues to be the same when it comes to final results through box office collections. 2010 was no different. 130 releases, 12 hits, many of them surprising even the industry pundits as they had been declared non-starters.
What is it that has drastically changed in the past decade, or in the past two years in particular? One straight answer would be the ‘death’ of a commodity called ‘producer’, the man who toiled with his sweat and blood to put together, at last ostensibly and on paper, is sellable ‘set-up’. Summarily, it would mean in the selection of a ‘subject’ (read story), and a writer who would develop the concept into a proper screenplay, however implausible might the situations be, and then proceed to sign the saleable cast, and competent crew. Alternatively, he would assemble a cast, sign up the lead players and then develop a story and screenplay to suit them. Once this is accomplished, the most assessable lyricist and music director would be brought on board. Hindi cinema had always thrived on hummable music, and lip sink lyrics.
All that changed drastically with the entry of corporate houses with trunk loads of money. And everything else went out of the window. Now the deciding and determining factor, was the young corporate heads who had a ‘head’ for money, but not for cinema and aesthetics. These young guys would approve the script, decide on the stars, and how and where the film will be shot. They became the super bosses and vibed well with a whole lot of young ambitious directors. Nothing wrong. The new has give way to the old. What followed, notwithstanding honourable exceptions, the closer of almost all major production houses. Poetry and music were the next casualties, apart from star power. There had been a time when lyricists were made to rework their words, and star music directors change tunes, along with who would be the right singer. The singer also became inconsequential.
Senior journalist, Raju Bharatan has summed it up correctly: “Today songs vanish as swiftly as do their singers. A number is here today, gone tomorrow, landing in the dung heap of instant history. Television as a medium has composers, singers and song-writers indulging in nothing less than dogfights. Do they realise how diminished, in barking stature, they emerge, from such mock shows, in the public eye?”
The same is true of writers and scriptwriters. Even an otherwise episodic out-and-out Manmohan Desai film had a narrative progression. Now there is almost none. Earlier the heroes and the heroines indulged in songs and dances, now they are jumping up and down as if plucking mangoes from tall trees, and rhythm-less aerobics. Some years ago when the young Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra arrived on the scene, they seemed to be bridging the generational gap, successfully. Mohhabbatein and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham rewrote box office history with good content, performances and music. But it wasn’t long before they too lost the way….
The Yash Raj banner gave three duds in a row in 2011: Pyaar Impossible, Badmaash Company and Lafangey Parinday, though a small year-end compensation came in the form of a non-starrer again, Band Baaja Baaraat made by the debutant Manish Sharma, and rightly hailed for its fresh content that holds the viewer all the way. Karan Johar’s Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol starrer, My Name is Khan might have raked in money globally but it was turtle back home. His next We are Family vied with Mani Ratnam’s Raavan and Rakesh Roshan’s Kites for the big disasters together with Sanjay Leela Bansali’s much touted Guzaarish and Anil Kapoor’s star-studded No Problem. Other notable failures of 2010 were Khatta Meetha, Knockout, Anjaana Anjaani, Aakrosh, Break ke Baad and Ram Gopal Verma’s yet more blood and gore, Rakhta Charitra with Vivek Oberoi in the lead. KJo’s Shah Rukh Khan-starrer, My Name is Khan supposedly made money overseas though it just about covered its cost in India.
These failures once again pronounce the bankruptcy of good stories and scripts, and although almost everyone cries hoarse from rooftops about the absence of good scriptwriters, not many aspirants succeed in making it to the marquee. The problem is further aggravated by the new and younger directors being also the writers themselves. Not that these directors are lacking in talent, the problem is over-confidence in their half-baked scripts. They often have brilliant ideas, like for instance in Anjaana Anjaani, Break ke Baad, Milenge Milenge, I Hate Love Stories, Crook—all intended fresh breezy romances—but they lacked in the long breath required for a Bollywood film. The lack of sufficient ingredients often results in introducing gags that turn out to be stumbling blocks rather than tunnels to carry the baggage forward. Rahul Dholakia’s Lamha though intended to take a look at the whole Kashmir situation ultimately became a laughing stock for the viewing public.
In comparison, some non-star cast films, made on modest budgets, found a receptive audience with Peepli Live leading all the way, followed by Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhokha, Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya, Abhishek Sharma’s Tere Bin Laden, Subhash Kapoor’s Phas Gaye Re Obama, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan. The success of these once again proved the million-rupee point that though the stars help initially ultimately it is the content which is the king and, therefore, rules the box-office. Take for instance the examples also of Lahore and Road to Sangam that proved winners both at the box office and the international festival circuits. None of them boasted of even a known star cast. These films succeeded purely on content and compactness. On the other extreme, which had raked its dirty head first in the 1970s, is lifting the content of foreign films, lock, stock and barrel—officially or unofficially—that seldom work. The tragedy is that even the big banners flip for the distant mirage, and came croppers.
Considered dark horse for a while now after the initial blitz, Ajay Devgun hit the box office jackpot with four back-to-back hits—Atithi Tum Kab Jaaoge, Rajneeti, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, and the year-end Golmaal 3. And despite the disastrous run of Raavan, Action Replay and Guzaarish, it was a terrific run for Aishwarya Rai. With her intense performances in all three, she reasserted her invincible position as the top Bollywood diva, the last one being a class act. It is doubtful if any other heroine could have equaled her in the challenging role. Akshay Kumar continues to rule the roost despite most of his starrers tanking at the theatres. Two of the four Khans: Aamir and Saif came out with a ‘No Show’ while the maverick Salman Khan hit the jackpot with home production, Dabangg.
Abhishek Bachchan continued to unsuccessfully chase lady luck again with 2010—three box office duds, so also Shahid Kapoor. No one recalls when a Sanjay Dutt starrer came and went. Amongst the heroines Deepika Padukone occupied media space more for her off-screen performances, whether in the august company of Siddharth Malaya, or for making provocative statements in television chat shows. All her three starrers, Break ke Baad, I Hate Love Stories, Kheley Hum Ji Jaan Sey turned turkey at the cash collection centres. Kareena Kapoor failed to generate any vibrancy in either the much-delayed Milenge Milenge or We are Family. Debutant Sonakshi Sinha displayed her assets to good advantage in Dabangg and will surely give the other young heroines a run for their money. Priyanka Chopra, Sushmita Sen (what the hell was this talented lady doing in a film like No Problem?) had nothing to offer while Katrina Kaif went a notch up with an unexpected performance in Rajneeti.
The show does not seem too bright in the first few 2011 months either. Aamir Khan has generally tried where others fear to tread. For three consecutive years he gave successive blockbusters with a Christmas release. But this time round, though the industry pundits and big producers avoid the January to March period because of schools and examinations, Aamir defying superstition decided to launch wife Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat—the story of which, kept a closely-guarded secret, is set in Mumbai’s famous washermen colonies with Prateek Babbar playing a washer boy to Aamir’s painter. In the very first month of the year preceded by Deol home production Yamala Pagala Deewana the fate of which will determine the future of the Dharmendra and sons, and Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji, a sequel of a sort to Emraan Hashmi-hit Murder, this time teaming up with Jacqueline Fernanndez is a dare-bare role, and a hot-hot bedroom sequence.
February will see Nikhil Advani’s Akshay Kumar-Anuksha Sharma starrer Patiala House which deals with cross-cultural conflict, about cricket, and generational differences in an Indian family living in London. Akshay plays a Sikh yet again with Rishi Kapoor playing his father. Then there will be Vishal Bharadwaj’s Priyanka Chopra-starrer, Saat Khoon Mauf, a black comedy-cum-thriller based on Ruskin Bond’s ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’ with Naseerudin Shah, John Abraham and Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irfaan Khan among her victims, and Rajkumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica starring based on the infamous Jessica Lal murder case with Vidya Balan in the title and Rani Mukherjee, a firebrand journalist. All supposed bold experiments based on some real life incidents.
Amongst the March-April probables are Abhinay Deo-directed Aamir Khan Productions, Delhi Belly, an ensemble flick in which the superstar does a cameo alongside nephew Imran Khan, and newcomer Poorna Jagannathan playing an actor from LA. The original cast consisted of Ranbir Kapoor and Chitrangada Singh. Rohan Sippy’s already raking in controversy because of a remix of the title song, dum maro dum, an intended thriller largely set in the lanes and by lanes of Goa with Abhishek Bachchan playing a touch cop is an intended dramatic thriller co-starring the dusky Bipasha Basu and newcomer Rana Daggubati, and Prateek Babbar. Also vying for box office votes will be Anees Bazmee’s intended breezy romantic, Thank You comprising Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Irfaan Khan, Celina Jaitley, Sunil Shetty and Vidya Balan. Sonam’s character is supposedly loosely based on tennis star Sania Mirza.
The second half of 2011 till it is time to ring out the old and ring in the new. June will be a month every other actor and director would avoid clashing with Shah Rukh Khan’s superhero sci-fi, Ra. One—meaning Random Access —Version 1.0 co-starring Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal and directed by Anubhav Sinha. Kareena will also be seen with current live-in Saif Ali Khan in his home production, Agent Vinod, an Indian version of a James Bond flick. Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2 shot extensively in Berlin with Shah Rukh Khan, and Imitaz Ali’s Rockstar with the casting coup of Ranbir and granduncle Shammi Kapoor pitted together which also has, going by the current trend, also been shot extensively in Delhi. Also in the running for raking in mullah will be Abbas Mastan’s Players reportedly based on Hollywood hit Italian Job with Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor in the lead. So also Vashu Bhagnani’s Faltu shot extensively on locations in Mauritius with son Jackky. The film will also see the return of Akbar Khan as an actor.
Also in the reckoning will be Pankaj Kapoor’s maiden directorial venture Mausam with son Shahid Kapoor in the lead as a fighter pilot alongside Sonam Kapoor, shot extensively in Scotland and elsewhere.
Early 2011 will also see the launch of two major Hrithik Roshan starrers, home production Krissh 2 co-starring Priyanka Chopra, and Karan Johar’s remake-up-dated version of 1990 Amitabh Bachchan-Rajinikanth-Govinda starrer, Agneepath with Sanjay Dutt essaying the bad man role that Danny Denzongapa did in the late Mukul Anand-directed flick. Priyanka Chopra will again play his love interest. Mounting the sets beginning of the year will also be Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Ferrari ki Sawaari directed by Rajkumar Hirani’s erstwhile assistant, Rajesh Mapuskar; Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Siddhwani’s yet untitled suspense thriller Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee starrer directed by Reema Kagti. And many more. How many of these will get completed and released within the year, time and stars alone will tell. Prakash Jha is also launching his next, Aarakshan dealing with the reservation issue with Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and others in January to be released around the next Independence Day. Reportedly his favourite hero, Ajay Devgan has declined to be a part of it, hence the choice befell the young nawab.
The unchanged scenario will also continue in the year and years to come. So also will be Bollywood’s fallible track record. Star prices will continue to mount, and more and more of them will join in the run for co-productions to rake in greater booty. Production costs will also scale greater burdens, though as has been the situation down South all along, more and more films will be completed, but not necessarily released, in a shorter, specific time span. Hits or flops the major players will continue to dominate but so will economically made smaller starless films with strong story content find greater patronage with even the small town audiences.
A more pronounced writing on the blinded Bollywood horizon in 2011 will be a shifting of the scene. While Mumbai will continue to be the base, production houses, scriptwriters and directors will be scouting around to unearth fresh locales for filming within the country, though the capital will become a major hub in the days to come. Stories will have to be not set not in the studio floors but in realistic settings, and Delhi with its multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic ethos will/has become an ideal choice. As many as ten films were wholly or partially shot in the national capital, and 2011 will see a greater Bollywood star parade on its streets.
By Suresh Kohli