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Bollywood banks on the 'Grin Revolution'

As David Dhawan's Partner, an intended rib-tickler, is set for release, Shaikh Ayaz writes on the grin revolution.
None | By Shaikh Ayaz, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 12, 2007 07:32 PM IST

You want romance? No. Action? IFFY. Comedy? Sure, why not? Today, laugh-raisers are the safest bet at the ticket counters. Made on relatively modest budgets, filched from Hollywood hits old and new, sprinkled with a marketable star or two (or none), the ha ha stuff has become the most favoured genre. So as Partner, an intended rib-tickler, is all set for release, Shaikh Ayaz writes on the grin revolution

If an A-line romancer or actioner costs around Rs 25 crore today, a top-flight comedy can be wrapped and promoted at half the amount. Lesser the risk, lesser the pain... in case the janta thumbs it down, never mind the carping critics.

Of late even action directors like Rohit Shetty, son of yesteryear's stunt king Shetty, have shifted to the easier stuff - almost like chronic smokers switching to lighter brands. Anees Bazmee, once associated with thrillers, is likely to be remembered in the movie records for the surprise success of No Entry.

The nearly-eclipsed David Dhawan still has stars dancing to his jokey tune.. Priyadarshan is hot. Welcome to the laugh parade. Bheja Fry, a brazen lift of a French comedy, clicked in the upscale auditoria. Cheeni Kum – an amusing take on an old man's basic instincts – fared okay .

And Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd evoked enough giggles to be described as an "earner" in the humour-savvy multiplexes.

Chuckle de phatte
Over the last two years Golmaal, Phir Hera Pheri and Pyaar ke Side-Effects have worked. Fool n Final bombed, perhaps because it didn't know whether to depend on its star names (Sunny Deol, Vivek Oberoi, Shahid Kapur) or a script of some coherence.

The case for the premium on comedies is best clinched by the two Munnabhai movies, effective because of their frothy scripts, jibing dialogue and impressive performances.

Garam Masala and Malaamal Weekly confirmed that Priyadarshan is a smart remake chef..not surprisingly every film he's currently directing (and one has lost count of how many) are fun farces.

His statements about making a "serious" film – like the one he announces time and again on the plight of textile weavers, is evidently, not to be taken seriously.

David Dhawan, who is to Mumbai masala comedies what Tom and Jerry are to cartoons, states, "I've been making comedies for 20 years. Once I tried to make an emotional drama.. Swarg .. but it flopped."

No child's play
Somewhat self-defensively, Dhawan continues, "But let me tell you comedy is no child's play, it is very difficult to make the audience laugh.. If you are making an emotional film, you are backed by a solid script.. filming a heroine shedding tears is much easier than getting an actor's comic timing right."

According to trade experts, comedy can never be out of favour since it fits in with the traditional meaning of entertainment - have fun, leave your


at home, enjoy it while it lasts - perhaps like a nonsense poem or a joke cracked by a friend.. even if it's for the umpteenth time.

Flashback mode

Atul Mohan of the trade magazine

Complete Cinema

, contends, "If you set out to make a comedy, the chances of recovery and profits are much higher than it is for other genres. Even though the 1970s may have been the era of action,

Chhoti si Baat, Chupke Chupke


Chashme Buddoor

clicked and are remembered fondly right till today ."

As it happens, the Bombay movies have had a roster of memorable comedians ranging from Kishore Kumar and Johnny Walker to Mehmood and Utpal Dutt, to name a few. In more recent years, Johnny Lever and Rajpal Yadav have made an impact.

However, lead players – whenever given the award for the best actor in a comedy role – like Govinda and Saif Ali Khan - seem to think that the tag is an insult of sorts. Since subtlety has never been the calling card of the indigenous comedies, broad farce, double entendres, situational gags and often sexist jokes are the must ingredients. Naada whines, anyone? On the positive side, utter vulgarity (best recalled by Dhawan's Sarkailo khatiya song-and-dance, besides the sicko naada whines of Shakti Kapoor) appears to have been toned down to a degree.

Remakes of Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films (the last one, Shaadi No 1, was a disaster) are out.. whether it's Dhawan, Bazmee or Priyadarshan, they often doff their hats off to the feelwarm smiley entertainers of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It's the role that counts really. Riteish Deshmukh appears to have a flair for deadpan comedy but call him a "funster" and he'll do a double take.

The marvellous actor Paresh Rawal has to state time and again that he's not a comedian and finds himself in roles that are largely self-parodies ( Bhaagam Bhaag, for instance). That Rawal is a must for any comedy is a given.. but for how long?

Last words
Comments Kundan Shah, director of the cult classic, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983): "The comedy scene in India is improving. There has always been an audience for the funny stuff.

"Earlier, there were problems of funds.. in my case, if NFDC hadn't come forward to produce Jaane Bhi.., I'd have been demoralised. Fortunately today there are many , more financial backers.. Of course, we can't bring back the quality of comedies of the 1970s.. but we can at least suggest to the audience.. let's not take ourselves so seriously Laugh and let laugh."

Some unintentional howlers:
Bindiya aur Bandook (1972), Director: Shibu Mitra Dhoti; Lota aur Chowpatty (1975), Director: Mohan Choti; Painter Babu (1983), Director: Manoj Kumar; Clerk (1989), Director: Manoj Kumar; JumbishA Movement (1986), Director: Salahuddin Pervez; Prem Aggan (1998), Director: Feroz Khan; Mela (2000), Director: Dharmesh Darshan; Jungle (2000), Director: Ram Gopal Varma; Yaadein (2001), Director: Subhash Ghai; Jaani Dushman (2002), Director: Rajkumar Kohli

Best Bombay comedies
Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Half Ticket (1962), Padosan (1968), Chupke Chupke (1975), Golmaal (1979), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983), Andaz Apna Apna (1994), Hera Pheri (2000)

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