At a special meeting of the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Ass-ociation (IMPPA) after the 2012 Academy Awards were announced, the morale was low. Drinks were left untouched, cigarettes were unlit, as industry stalwarts moved around listlessly. Finally, the president of IMPPA got up to speak. "It is a humiliation for our industry. We've been around for nearly 100 years and we make more than 500 films every year and send our nominations to the Oscars. But Pakistan, which doesn't have a film industry to speak of, beats us to an Oscar!"
"But they have won it for a documentary," said producer Rakesh Roshan. "Acid throwing, reconstructive surgery etc. What themes for a documentary! I think the standards have gone down. But I'm thinking of going for Krrish IV in which the hero will only drink acid". The IMPPA chief was not convinced.
Karan Johar raised his hand: "A girl rejects advances from a man. He follows her, threatening to throw acid on her. She travels from country to country to avoid him — Spain, France, Norway, Rio de Janeiro, Finland. The man follows her everywhere with a bottle of acid. Finally, there is a confrontation in Iceland where he throws acid at her. But due to extreme cold, the acid freezes. The man has a change of heart and apologises to the girl, who accepts him. I could call the film, Kuch Nahin Hota Hai. The theme is so unusual it could get us an Oscar." "Not a bad idea," agreed the IMPPA boss. "But we must beat, if not equal the Pakistani achievement."
Aamir Khan, who seldom attends such meetings, spoke next. "The focus should be on reconstructive surgery on acid victims. That is a positive theme. I may do a sequel to Three Idiots where Fangchuk Wangdoo trains his son to be the best reconstruction surgeon in the world. Then, a secret criminal gang kidnaps him, but gets into a fight with a rival gang and both groups use acid freely. Our hero is the only doctor capable of undoing the damage and his captors free him after he reconstructs their faces."
"Shahrukh, what do you have to say," asked the IMPPA president. Shahrukh got up and showed two bottles. "Even before the film starts, I have ideas on promoting it as in the case of Ra One. It will be an acidic romance. One bottle contains HCL (hydrochloric acid), the other H2SO4 (sulphuric acid). Two tycoons, who are bitter rivals, make their fortune by selling these acids. I play HCL's son and a newcomer will be H2SO4's daughter. We fall in love, the parents will have none of it, they threaten each other with an acid war. How I win them over will be the theme of the film."
"We must highlight the dangers of acid," butted in Ram Gopal Varma. "My film will show horrific torture scenes with people thrown into acid tubs. Since it's a horror film, a huge monster dragon, attracted by the smell of acid, will arrive on the scene and drink up all the acid and then swallow the villain. This will be the most unusual role for Amitabh sir."
"Can I project the woman's point of view?" said Vidya Balan. "After the stupendous success of The Dirty Picture, I feel I can do anything. Why not make a movie where the villain produces an acid waterfall, an acidfall, and having failed to rape the heroine, your's truly, ties her under it. The heroine is a scientist, she had invented an acid-proof material with which she covered herself and comes out unaffected from her ordeal before throwing the villain to the acidfall. Can you imagine the wild, audience reaction and the great box office potential?"
"I am thrilled" admitted the IMPPA boss. "With so many acid films, we can win every single Oscar, not just for an insignificant documentary."
V Gangadhar is a Mumbai-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.