Abhishek Kapoor’s new film Kai Po Che has released today. The reviews so far have been unanimously positive. But does it mean anything beyond that – The Big picture? Over to filmmaker Hansal Mehta who connects the dots.
4 reasons for not watching the increasing number of films released every week –
- I am perennially broke
- I am lazy
- I need to work
- My wife is not in the mood
- I am hoping I get invited for a preview/premier.
The past few weeks have been different though. The spate of films released and due for release stared at me in the face because
- They featured friends in lead roles
- They were directed by friends
- They were produced by friends
- I was looking forward to the films
- I felt compelled to watch them
I am going to limit my post to the Hindi films I saw because in the case of foreign films:
- I feel inadequate commenting about commenting on them
- I did not feel like watching many of them
- I am waiting for uncensored DVDs of some of them
- I don’t get invited for previews of these films
In the past few years, most significantly 2012, I am seeing a pattern in films that are successful (relatively) and appreciated. A majority of them stand out for their choice of actors, their choice of subject, their non-formulaic narratives and a host of other similarly intellectually stimulating reasons. One factor that has begun to increasingly stand out in these films is sheer audacity. The more I think about what drew me to watch the films, to like some of them, to dislike some of them and to find some of them memorable was the lack of apologetic film-making that has mostly led our films towards pathetic levels of mediocrity.
I’ve noticed that many film-makers no longer feel pressured to make the same formulaic nonsense with the same boring people over and over again. Many of the older directors also seem to realize the futility of formula and are trying hard to reinvent. Those who aren’t will soon be history.
Ever since I made Shahid, I’ve been asked over and over again about how the trend of biopics is on the increase. The media unfortunately reads trends very poorly and looks for convenient analysis. Trade pundits who have in the past thrived upon silly generalization are very shallow in their understanding of artistic/creative decisions taken by film-makers or in analyzing the success of films that don’t fall into their formulaic comfort zones. The truth is that book adaptations, biopics and stories inspired by true events are an indicator and not trends in themselves. We now have film-makers looking for newer stories to tell. We have film-makers looking for new ways to tell stories. We have film-makers who are fearless. We have film-makers who are not afraid of audacity.
Whether it is Talaash, Gangs of Wasseypur, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Vicky Donor, Special 26 or Kai Po Che, I notice a fearless streak in the directors and the team that has made these films possible. Even potboilers like Dabangg, or before that Wanted, or the recently released ABCD have displayed a certain audacious vision. Rockstar had the audacity to be deeply philosophical and sometimes mendering while pretending to have commercial trappings. A certain Anurag Kashyap whose films either got banned or termed as jinxed is now celebrated because of his delightfully indulgent Gangs of Wasseypur or his subversive take on Devdas. Sujoy Ghosh redeemed himself with the surprising Kahaani. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Pan Singh Tomar was commercially successful. English Vinglish marked the successful return of a Bollywood diva who churned out some of the most cringe-worthy films of my growing up years. The list could be exhaustive and I’m sure it will soon dominate successful box-office lists. On the other hand there has been a steady increase in films (Ship of Theseus, Miss Lovely, Peddlers etc.) that have found appreciative audiences in international film festivals and critics. These films have shown a fierce independence in their making while giving alternate Indian cinema a new lease of life and an unpretentious, fresh form of expression. They have been audacious in their abandonment of what we perceived as ‘art-house’ or ‘parallel’ cinema in India. They were unabashed in their treatment, style, narratives and expression. These and many other films that I have viewed over the past year and this year have challenged audiences, provoked critics and subverted formulaic convention with amazing audacity. Even more encouraging is the fact that producers, actors (including some stars) and trade have begun to embrace the audacious breed, backing them to the hilt.
So what is the point I’m trying to make? It’s simple. Audacity is in. Safe is not safe anymore. Take the second installment of Dabangg. It disappointed because it succumbed to ‘ingredientization’ and failed to live up to the fearless audacity of the first part. Films like ‘Zila Ghaziabad’ or ‘Jayantabhai Ki Love Story’ are passé. They will continue to get made. They will continue to remind us of everything that is unimaginative and about how we have allowed ourselves to be taken for granted all these years.
So here is my two bit gyaan. Whether you aim for the mainstream or the alternate space, make it audacious. Just making it big will soon cease to work – neither for the makers or the audience. Yes, we will have regular installments of successful franchises. We will have ridiculous remakes. We will have mindless, story-less films – but my guess is that all of them will work for their audacity and not for their adherence to convention.
Audacious will soon be safe. Safe is already dangerous. It could soon be suicidal.