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Will she be second time lucky?

Meghna Gulzar gets set to launch her second film, Honeymoon, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 16:47 IST

As writer-director Meghna Gulzar gets set to launch her second feature film, Honeymoon, the challenge before her is to make a quality film that also ends up appealing to moviegoers at large.

Striking a balance between commercial viability and artistic integrity can never be easy. "I am not interested in making safe films," says the director who debuted four years ago with the critically acclaimed but commercially lukewarm Filhaal.

The pressure is squarely on Meghna. She cannot afford not to deliver a box office success this time around. As several contemporary Bollywood filmmakers have discovered to their consternation, a second film is always more difficult to push through than one's debut essay because the pressure of expectations doubles.

One's second vehicle usually tends to lack the vitality of the first owing to all the circumstantial equations that come into play after a filmmaker has made use of the breaking-in leeway. A more demanding, a more difficult to please audience is what a filmmaker encounters.

Ask Sujoy Ghosh, who made a strong statement with his very first directorial effort, Jhankaar Beats, about a bunch of boys bent upon winning a musical contest.

But his next film, Home Delivery, got panned by the critics and came unstuck at the box office. "Home Delivery did not work because I tried too many things," says Ghosh.

"Visually and in terms of editing, it was an unusual film. I used songs as dialogues and interludes. Moreover, the hero of the film was the villain of the piece and that wasn't accepted."

Jhankaar Beats clicked because it was spontaneous and straightforward. Personally, however, Ghosh likes Home Delivery more. "It is a much more mature film," he asserts. Does maturity, then, tend to undermine naturalness?

Another director who has been struck by the 'second film' blues is John Mathew Mathan, who earned a huge fan following within and outside the Mumbai movie industry with his hard-hitting, well crafted debut film, Sarfarosh. It took him six years to get his second feature, Shikhar, into the theatres.

Like Sarfarosh, Shikhar addressed an issue of contemporary relevance - the greed of realtors versus the need to shield nature from denudation - but it lacked the verve of his maiden effort. The box office failure of Shikhar came as a surprise to many.

The youthful spirit of Dil Chahta Hai quickly turned Farhan Akhtar's directorial debut into a cult film. But when the young man made his next film, the far more complex and deliberately paced Lakshya, he failed to recreate the DCH magic.

Lakshya was anything but a bad film, but the gap between audience expectation and the filmmaker's vision was unbridgeable.

Ghosh, Mathan and Akhtar had tasted early commercial success and that had sent expectations soaring. But for directors like Meghna and the likes of Suparn Verma (Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina), Shoojit Sircar (Yahaan), Leena Yadav (Shabd) and Vinta Nanda (White Noise), among others, whose first films failed to enthuse the masses, the struggle to set things right can only be infinitely more onerous.

These young filmmakers have their tasks cut out - they have to deliver a hit to stay afloat. If there is anything worse for a Bollywood filmmaker than overly high expectations, it is scepticism. Meghna Gulzar and second-time directors like her have a point to prove - to themselves, the audience and the industry.