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Bollywood keeps it short and simple

Directors today are cutting the length of their films to keep it short and substantial, writes Diganta Guha.

entertainment Updated: Feb 24, 2007 12:07 IST

"Crisp and fast. That’s the formula these day," says director Madhur Bhandarkar.
We aren’t talking about the recipe for fries at McDonalds. We are talking about films, and those which are currently being served by Bollywood in particular.

Whether it’s a one-hero, big-budget project like Namastey London or a multi-starrer ike Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, the effort now is to package it into a more compact size.

Getting to the point
Indian audiences aren’t insisting on lavish, lengthy productions any more. A Bollywood film doesn’t have to mean a three-hour break from reality. It has to be short and substantial.

“It is like one-day cricket,” says Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who surprised many with his multi-starrer Eklavya-The Royal Guard, which was just a couple of hours long. The audience now-a-days does not have much patience, explain filmmakers. “It’s the remote control age now. The audience is so informed that you don’t have to explain. Make it crisp and fast and the film works,” says filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, whose Traffic Signal was 2 hours, 3 minutes precisely.

Nikhil Advani, who recently released a longish Salaam-e-Ishq (with six stories and a cluster of stars it was 3.35 hours long), found that audiences were complaining about it being too lengthy. The film was chopped to a more watchable 3.11 hours.

Better for business
The change is partially thanks to films targeting largely the multiplexes. Trade expert Taran Adarsh explains, “If the reports are good, the initial response is much higher. And with more shows per day — the average being 12-16 shows a day — the returns are greater.”

It is because of this that most small films have done such great business, be it Khosla Ka Ghosla or Pyaar Ke Side/Effects, among others. “Distributors aim at making profits and that with more shows the chance of better collections is strong,” admits Khosla… director Dibakar Banerji.

Whether it’s because of the audience or because producers demand shorter films, there’s a spate of them coming up. Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd (2 hours), Nishabd (2 hours), Hattrick (2 hr 15 mins), 1971 (2 hours), Just Married (2 hr 10 mins) and even Vipul Shah’s Rs 25-crore Namastey London (2 hour 10 mins) are just a few that come to mind.

Subjects matter
It also depends on the kind of film it is. With more songless films being made the script is becoming extremely important. The challenge of a director is to keep everything in mind and give the audience a story that’s tight enough to keep them engrossed, say both Banerji and Bhandarkar in unison.

And because the audience no longer equates length of the film with its paisa vasool quotient, the director does not see the need to pad up a story with unnecessary song sequences and futile action scenes.

It only depends on the script, feels director Meghna Gulzar who is directing Just Married. “We filmmakers shouldn’t follow any formula, we go by the requirement of the storyline,” she says. A statement a director of her generation can make with much more ease.

Not that we lack three-hour and more productions. Films like Krrish (2 hr 55 mins), Fanaa (3 hrs), Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (3 hr 6 mins) and Don-The Chase Begins Again (more than 3 hrs), all successful at the box office, prove that audiences can still sit through a Bollywood feast.

But fast food is also very much a new staple on the menu.