Saturday, 13 August 2011

A different approach to film making

United Six, Patiala House, Masti Express, Game, Faltu, ThankYou, Love U Mr. Kalakaar, Naughty @ 40, Ready, Double Dhamaal, Chillar Party, Singham.

These are the titles of some of the Hindi movies released in 2011. Not one of these movies were founded on anything resembling a good script and its doubtful whether even one of them was based on an original idea. That, in short, sums up all that's wrong with Hindi cinema.

Indian viewers have long been aware of the lack of originality in Bollywood. There are far too many 'DVD' directors who simply rip off movies scene for scene, or borrow scenes from different movies to make a potpourri of a film. Few filmmakers until now have had the decency to give credit to the source of the original idea. The vast majority of filmmakers in the industry prefer reusing an idea that has already worked somewhere, rather than risk experimenting with an unproven idea- a fact which accounts for the number of formulaic movies currently reigning at the box office, which are but remakes of blockbusters from the South.

Even where there is an original idea involved, films usually fall short on the treatment- not least because filmmakers pander to commercial requirements and end up inserting passages or songs which are totally irrelevant to the script. Far too often, one gets the impression that directors had excellent ideas but most probably neglected to develop a good script and ended up making a mess of what was a pretty good idea. Movies like Khiladi 420, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Darjeeling Express, to name but a few, are striking examples of excellent ideas that translated into average or plain terrible movies. Perhaps there simply isn't enough importance given to the scripting.

Too often, industrywallahs bemoan the lack of good scriptwriters in the film industry. In a country of 1.2 billion, its impossible to accept the very possibility of a dearth of good writers. Clearly, the film industry is still unwilling to invest in its writers. Bollywood remains a star-obsessed place, with many leading lights having their own 'camps', a remarkable fact given the fact that even the biggest of stars have delivered far many more flops than hits in the course of their careers. 

It boggles the mind that despite so many movies sinking at the box office- that at a time when filmgoers are enjoying unprecedented purchasing power- filmmakers are still content to follow the beaten path. Based on data taken from www.boxofficeindia.com, 69 out of 150 movies released between 2006 and 2010, a staggering 46% of the movies released, were below average or flops. It may be added that the list is by no means extensive and as such, there might be many more flops slipping under the radar. Given how little innovation there is, the vast majority of those movies are run-of-the-mill products.

One only has to run a google search for 'raining flops in Bollywood' to know how this headline keeps coming back year after year, like a recurring nightmare. Given that background, it is only too obvious that the present, risk-averse approach is not working. Whatever filmmakers might claim in support of the present way of doing things, it is painfully evident that a new approach is needed.

For starters, Hindi filmmakers could start respecting the intelligence of their audiences and refrain from dumbing down their movies. Is it asking too much to demand some substance over form? Yes, glitzy locales and special effects add to the production values, but embellishments can only add to a product and not substitute it, just as excellent packing does not compensate for a poor product. Hindi filmmakers would do themselves and their audience a favour by cutting out the gimmickry and diverting some of the budget to the foundation of the movie: the script.

And yes, we the people, who love watching those movies would also request Hindi filmmakers not to embarass us by ripping off movies from other countries scene by scene. Is it unreasonable in asking for a bit of originality? Surely, that should not be a problem in a country overflowing with talent, if someone took the trouble to identify and nurture that talent. Right now, its only too evident that shiploads of talent are just being ignored.

Cinema is indeed an industry where the returns need to justify the investment that goes into the making of the movie. Nonetheless, profit motive and customer satisfaction are by no means incompatible. For all the talk of Indian viewers not being discerning enough, the number of disasters at the box office tells a different tale.

Clearly, Bollywood needs to adopt a fresh approach.

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