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Is big necessarily bright?

Bollywood could be well shy of what it achieved in terms of quality last year, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2006 11:17 IST

Does the year 2006 promise to be better for Bollywood than 2005 was?

The last calendar year had seen the Mumbai movie industry notch up some remarkable triumphs, both in terms of box office receipts and quality filmmaking. This year, the industry seems to be doing fine on the first score but falling short on the second.

For big buck hunters, the current year has been pretty impressive already. It has yielded two big success stories -- Rang De Basanti and Fanaa. Neither of the two films can be categorised as run of the mill Bollywood fare. Neither is, at the same time, a small film. No production with Aamir Khan in it can ever be anything but a big budget proposition. Much rode on these two films.

 

 Rang De Basanti is the big success story of 2006

But the fact that

Rang De Basanti

and

Fanaa

broke away from the established commercial formula certainly served to strengthen the movement that gained considerable ground in 2005 with the box office success of unconventional films like Sanjay Leela Bhansali's

Black

, Madhur Bhandarkar's

Page 3

, Sudhir Mishra's

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

, Nagesh Kukunoor's

Iqbal

and Ram Gopal Varma's

Sarkar

.

As Rakesh Roshan's Superman-inspired Krrish makes it to the theatres this Friday, the question that arises is: will this year be bereft of the sleeper hits that made 2005 so memorable? The last six months have belonged squarely to the big-ticket blockbusters. The next six months are unlikely to be any different, what with films like Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Umrao Jaan and Dhoom 2 lined up for release.

In 2006, Bollywood will probably rake in more moolah than it did in 2005, but in terms of sheer quality, it might come up well shy of what it achieved last year.

In the first six months of 2006, the only off-mainstream release that came anywhere close to finding popular acceptance is Homi Adajania's English-language Being Cyrus. But, then, given the language on its soundtrack, it was never going to be mass hit.

This year, the industry is still waiting for another Page 3 or Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. Well, Bhandarkar's Corporate is ready for release and it is by far the least expensive of the ventures that are on the roster of this year's much awaited films.

However, the element of surprise that accompanied the success of Page 3 would be absent in the case of Corporate. If Bhandarkar's new film clicks, it would be par for the course. If it doesn't, life won't stop.

Among the notable films that have clicked this year are Malamaal Weekly and Phir Hera Pheri, both outrageous comedies that revolve around an old human weakness -- money. Last year, films like No Entry and Kya Kool Hai Hum, both of which dealt with men, married or otherwise, chasing women, had cornered the honours.

Krrish, as it gives Hindi cinema its first comic-strip superhero, has the potential of transforming the entertainment scene in this country. Dhoom 2, as it seeks to extend the success of the original biker gang flick, is poised to give Mumbai movies a bankable new formula. And Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, no matter how 'different' the storyline really is, will deliver some more mush and melodrama, the kind that the masses love.

Bollywood does need films like these, films that have the power to pull in the crowds on the strength of their high entertainment quotient. But the industry also needs films that keep pushing the creative envelope. Rang De Basanti and Fanaa have done that to a certain extent, but the low-budget, non-formula space has remained vacant so far this year.

We are still waiting for that one little gem that will shine like a well-chiselled precious nugget through the razzle-dazzle of the high-gloss, high-cost blockbusters. Bollywood owes it to itself as much as it does to those who believe that the industry has learnt to rise, at least occasionally, above glitzy kitsch.