Audiences, especially multiplex audiences, it seems, are eager to watch films on issues they can relate to. Which is why a handful of directors are throwing aside colour-coordinated comedies and pale romances and focusing on the gritty realities of metro life.
Coming up are films like Delhii Heights, Signal, Metro, One Night @ The Call Center, Big Bazaar and Corporate. They all focus on problems that people living in Indian cities have to face.
The tide turned, perhaps, with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3 in 2005, which portrayed the hollow core of high life. A small-budget venture, it became a huge multiplex hit, though it was largely ignored in rural areas.
Bhandarkar’s Signal, about the life of people living on the streets of Mumbai, and according to him, “a slice of life in the traffic signals”, might invite a wider section of viewers, but it, too, is a film that focuses on an urban issue. Similarly, Mahesh Manjrekar’s Big Bazaar is about the lives of Mumbai’s mill workers and their suffering after the closure of the mills.
Metros and their problems are in focus in Bollywood’s latest ventures. Basu’s forthcoming Metro is about urban stress and ambitions that take the joy out of living.
Like Bhandarkar’s other film,
, which deals with the balance a woman has to strike between work and home, Anurag Basu’s forthcoming
is about urban stress and ambitions that take the joy out of living.
There is a reason these kinds of films are being made. A certain section of the Indian audience, which is educated and informed, is no longer willing to look at films as pure entertainment, feel directors. Says Bhandarkar, “People love to see their own problems being dealt with on screen. They love issues that they can relate to.” Adds actor Bipasha Basu, who plays the lead in
, “I can relate to the subject since it talks about the balance that a woman has to maintain between work and family.”
It’s not only people from the big cities but also the smaller towns that are watching these films in multiplexes. Says Anurag Basu, whose earlier film Gangster was also in an urban setting, “We are passing through a transition in society, which is why such films are being made.”
It is naturally not a new genre. There have been films now and then that focused on urban problems. Back in 1972, Basu Chatterjee’s Piya Ka Ghar was about a couple’s lack of privacy in a congested Mumbai chawl. More recently, Sudhir Mishra’s Dharavi (1992) talked about life in Mumbai’s largest slum, Dev Benegal’s Split Wide Open (1999) and Rahul Bose’s Everybody Says I’m Fine (2001) exposed middle-class hypocrisy. But now there seems to be a spate of such films.
Based in cities, the films often deal with contemporary facets of urban life. Call centres and pizza chains are all part and parcel of new urban India, and particularly involve the youth. Rohan Sippy’s One Night @ The Call Center (based on Chetan Bhagat’s book) talks about the lives of call centre employees. Sujoy Ghosh’s Home Delivery has a pizza delivery man playing counsellor to a young man.
What the multiplex culture has done, according to filmmaker Vinta Nanda (whose film White Noise showed the relationship between two TV professionals), is that they have enabled filmmakers to speak to a “specific audience”. And increasingly, the audiences these directors have chosen have been urban ones, comprising those who live in India’s cities and towns and not villages.