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Hello Angreziwood

Whether they make big bucks or not, the market is opening up for movies with an urban ethos. Deepa Gahlot writes on the English wave.

entertainment Updated: Mar 27, 2008 17:44 IST
Deepa Gahlot

There's another side to our movies. It speaks entirely in the English language, it is more intimately scaled. And today, it is considered ideal material for multiplex audiences. Whether they make big bucks or not, clearly the market is opening up for movies with angrezi dialogue and an urban ethos.

Love Songs releases this Friday, more are on their way.. and so here's Deepa Gahlot, with her thinking cap on, writing on the English wave

They have been trickling in - a handful every year - Indian films made in English. Surprisingly, in terms of numbers, they can be still counted on the finger tips.

English is the preferred language of the educated, young urban Indian - the segment that is the primary target of the multiplexes mushrooming on the city landscape.

This segment of the film audience is believed to have a stronger disposable income and a more pronounced taste for the offbeat.

<b1>English films have to stick within a small budget and tell intimate stories. The upside, of course is that these stories are being heard and lauded.

Film history has it that the first English film was made in India in 1933 - Karma - starring Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai, directed by J L Freer-Hunt. A costume love story, it is chronicled in film history books for a lengthy kissing scene.

If the films of Merchant Ivory like The Householder and Heat and Dust are precluded - considering producer Ismail Merchant was based in the US - the first Mumbai-made English language film to make a splash was Dev Benegal's English August (1994), based on a novel by Upamanyu Chatterjee, about a bureaucrat stewing in mofussil India.

The film may not have been a huge money-spinner, but it spoke to the city bred westernised Indian, and attained some kind of cult status.

Before this from Kolkata there was Aparna's Sen's masterpiece 36 Chowringee Lane (1981), Delhi-based Pamela Rooks' Miss Beatty's Children, and also Delhiite Pradip Krishen's comedies, In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones (which is now famous for being Shah Rukh Khan's official onescene movie debut) and Electric Moon.

<b2>Setting a trend
Nagesh Kukunoor's debut-making Hyderabad Blues(1998), set off the trend for the small, multiplex friendly movie in English. Made on an unbelievable Rs 19 lakh budget, the comedy about an NRI's visit home to Hyderabad, was discovered at the Mumbai International Film Festival. It was picked up for distribution by Shringar, made several times its money and turned Kukunoor into a star director.

He made a couple of more English films like Bollywood Calling, Rockford and much later, the sequel to Hyderabad Blues, before switching to Hindi.

Despite commercial hiccups, the market is deemed open for experiments in angrezi.

There are the quality efforts like Aparna Sen's

Mr and Mrs Iyer,

Mahesh Dattani's

Morning Raaga

, Rahul Dholakia's


and Homi Adajania's

Being Cyrus

. And there have been the utterly forgettable ones too like

Let's Enjoy, Freaky Chakra, Oops




Shyam Benegal's

The Making of the Mahatma

(and more recently

Bose: The Forgotten Hero

), Govind Nihalani's


, Kaizad Gustad's

Bombay Boys



, Pamela Rooks'

Train to Pakistan


Dance Like A Man

(based on Dattani's play), Rahul Bose's

Everybody Says I'm Fine

, Vinta Nanda's

White Noise

and Revathy's

Mitr My Friend

, received considerable media attention. But alas, not much by way of ticket sales.

Still, the optimism hasn't dimmed. Directors like Kolkata's Anjan Dutta continue to make films in English from his first Bada Din to Bow Barracks Forever, his latest Bong Connection and the under-production BBD. Aparna Sen's under-production The Japanese Wife is in English, like her previous effort 15 Park Avenue.

Westside story

One is not even talking about the work of NRI filmmakers like Mira Mehta and Nair, Deepa Gurinder Chaddha, or about the regular inflow of ABCD-angst films by young filmmakers of Indian origin, taking the Indie route and more often than not, vanishing after the first film.

Then there are also those like Shonali Bose who made Amu, (Leela) Somnath Sen and Manish Acharya (Loins of Punjab Presents), who came back from the west to make films in India.

<b3>But the Indian, maybe Film Institute trained, urban-bred filmmakers, who speak and think in English, are perhaps not being given that many opportunities to make their kind of cinema.

Still, there is always the hopeful director who thinks international, and will one day succeed in cracking the domestic box-office.

Hinglish mix
Amol Palekar tried it with Quest, Abhigyan Jha with Sacred Evil. Some attempted a mix of English and Hindi, like Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, Sujoy Ghosh's Jhankaar Beats, Rajat Kapoor's Mixed Doubles and Vinod Pande's Sins.

There's mainstream Bollywood support for a film like The Great Indian Butterfly, produced by Sanjay Gupta; Santosh Sivan has foreign funding for his Before the Rains, Ketan Mehta, who had released an English version of his Mangal Pandey film, is making his Raja Ravi Verma biopic as a bilingual Rang Rasiya/Colours of Passion.

Meanwhile, Tanuja Chandra's NRI-funded Hope and a Little Sugar and Rituparno Ghosh's The Last Lear await release, after making the international film festival rounds.

This week, Jayabrato Chatterjee's Love Songs reaches the cinemas.. fate unpredictable.