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Mumbai movie medleys multiply

Directors are trying multiple story formula, first used in Darna Mana Hai, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 17:39 IST

Dus Kahaniya? Indeed, that is what producer-director Sanjay Gupta has up his sleeves. The maker of Kaante, Musafir  and Zinda  has just announced a Hindi feature-length film that will be made up of ten 10-minute fictional shorts. Different directors, including the likes of Shyam Benegal and Sudhir Mishra, will helm these films.

Unprecedented stuff? Well, not quite. Earlier this year, moviegoers were treated to the intriguing Darna Zaroori Hai, a RGV Factory-made horror flick that had as many as seven diverse stories, each helmed by a different director. DZH was a sequel to Darna Mana Hai, which had five different storylines merging into one in the climax.

And now, there are several other portmanteau films in the Bollywood pipeline. What is it about multiple-strand storytelling that has suddenly caught the fancy of Mumbai filmmakers?

This trend, in a tangential way, probably springs from the long-held Bollywood belief that every film meant for mass entertainment should deliver an array of enticements to the paying public. Can there be better way of doing that than designing a cinematic vehicle that carries multiple stories for the price of one?

Ramu’sDarna Mana Hai kicked off multiple story session in Bollywood. Many directors are trying this formula now.

Darna Zaroori Hai,

notwithstanding the weight of stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Bipasha Basu, fared rather poorly at the box office, as did Khalid Mohamed’s offbeat

Silsilay

, which narrated three stories revolving around women struggling to come to terms with the complexities of their lives and sexuality.

Nearly five decades ago, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s debut film, Musafir, too, had three stories about three sets of occupants of a rented house. The film did not click despite the presence in the cast of actors like Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Kishore Kumar. Musafir, in the Indian context, represented a refreshingly new approach to storytelling. The audience wasn’t quite ready for it. 

History is still clearly loaded against portmanteau films, especially in India. Yet, at least three major upcoming Hindi films – Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq, Reema Kagti’s Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and Naseeruddin Shah’s Yun Hota To Kya Hota – narrate a melange of tales that are not always intrinsically related to each other except in a broad thematic manner.    

Three-in-one films have been given a huge fillip by the critical and commercial success of Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Amores Perros, which inspired Mani Ratnam’s Yuva. Inarritu, of course, did not stop at one – he went on to deliver two more such films – 21 Grams and Babel.

At the global level, the trend was strengthened last year by Crash, one of the biggest critical successes to come out of Hollywood in the past 12 months. Crash, which dealt with the scourge of racism in the US, showed the power of the technique of weaving several narrative threads into one cinematic quilt.

A string of stories helps a screenwriter and a director move from the particular to the general, and vice-versa, within the limited duration of a film, and thereby create a human tableau that provokes thought as well as arouses emotions.

The finest three-in-one film ever to be made in India is, of course, Satyajit Ray’s Teen Kanya, which commemorated the centenary of Rabindranath Tagore by stringing together three stories authored by the Nobel laureate. Postmaster, Monihara and Samapti  captured three different genres of filmmaking – the emotional, supernatural and comic – in one expert sweep.

It would be too much to expect any of the upcoming experiments in crafting a collage of tales to match Ray’s effort, but, no matter what they are worth, it would certainly be interesting to track how these new films perform in the multiplexes.