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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Dear Bollywood, it’s high time you fight the star syndrome and give us fresh stories

At this juncture, a new formula seems to be emerging that’s not blatantly market driven, but isn’t experimental either. It’s a blend of typical Bollywood sensibilities and new way of packaging things.

bollywood Updated: Nov 09, 2017 14:26 IST
Rohit Vats
Rohit Vats
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tiger Zinda Hai appears the epitome of formula films.
Tiger Zinda Hai appears the epitome of formula films.

There are two sets of viewers emerging in India, more so this year.

While superstars still enjoy the privilege of being, well, superstars, and a large group of loyal fans they have nurtured over the years roots for them. Then there are others who are willing to shed the same amount of money on films with good content and without stars.

The second group doesn’t bother about the star value of a film and whether it will be a good idea to spend Rs 250-300 on a ticket. In the ten months of 2017, the filmmakers have shown the willingness to break away from the traditional mindset that only star-driven formula films can make good money.

In fact, the opposite has happened. Apart from Golmaal Again, most of the other highly successful films offered fresh takes. Be it Akshay Kumar’s Toilet Ek Prem Katha or Jolly LLB 2, or even Varun Dhawan’s Badrinath Ki Dulhania, directors dared to leave the urban set-up and entered rural landscapes.

Then there are films such as Bareilly Ki Barfi, Newton, Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Secret Superstar and Hindi Medium which tried to find the middle ground, a bit of humour, a dash of drama kind of films.

At this juncture, a new formula seems to be emerging that’s not blatantly market driven, but isn’t experimental either. It’s a blend of typical Bollywood sensibilities and new way of packaging things.

Hindi Medium was a good example of this mixture. It had a message-oriented approach, featured popular music and good actors. It’s a deadly mix, but it’s in the usual bracket, which means it’s a better mixture prepared with the same ingredients.

In that regard, Irrfan Khan’s next Qarib Qarib Singlle is a more audacious attempt. Two middle-aged people go on a trip together to explore the possibility of love in director Tanuja Chandra’s film, and it doesn’t look ‘arty’. In fact, it’s vibrant and presented like any other love story.

Tanuja Chandra, in a conversation with HT, explained how the story of Qarib Qarib Singlle took shape. She said, “My mother wrote the story. It was a radio play, but we adapted it to suit the medium. It’s a story of people like you and me, not about someone who we have never seen in our lives.”

In the same interview, Irrfan said a very remarkable thing. He said, “I want to see films where men and women are not competing against each other. Both the genders have their own peculiarities.”

This statement draws our attention to how Bollywood has been presenting the gender roles. Most of the times, it’s about catching the current trend for the sake of some quick bucks rather than contributing profoundly to the ongoing debate.

Digging deep into it, in 2017, there aren’t many films that released pan-India and can be called experimental in true sense. Though there are films like Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped, Anshai Lal’s Phillauri, Shubhasish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan, Amit Masurkar’s Newton, and a couple of other films that broke the conventional mould this year but they are very few in numbers. They weren’t pan-India releases either. In fact, most of these films won the heart in film festivals circuits but not of the masses.

Out of these, Newton did good business but the news of it being India’s Oscar entry contributed significantly to it.

If the number of such films is not even ten in an entire year, despite producing most number of films in the world, it’s probably not a good condition for diversity.

Shlok Sharma, the director of critically acclaimed Haraamkhor, who has shot his new film Zoo on an iPhone, says, “If you honestly ask me, both of them can co-exist because, they both have their own specific audience. Having said that, in 2017 we also saw a lot of content- driven films reaching a wider audience. A lot of independent producers, not attached to the big studios, are also coming forward and are putting their trust in the vision of the content and character-driven films and film-makers. So times are changing.”

Sharma seems hopeful about the future, but becoming ‘experimental’ in true sense is still a far-fetched idea in Bollywood.

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