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Veteran FTII trio on BO trial

FTII trio wiil make B'wood break out of its rut, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

entertainment Updated: Sep 22, 2005 13:29 IST

The last quarter of the calendar year is usually reserved for a big-ticket Yash Chopra or Karan Johar release. But 2005 is going to be different. With the superficial but seemingly successful Salaam Namaste out of the way, Yashraj Films and Dharma will be conspicuous by their absence from the avalanche of films that will hit the theatres in the course of the next three months.

Am I complaining? Certainly not. A relatively low-profile final quarter is good news: it only serves to open up more screens for Hindi films of genuine cinematic quality.

Yes, box office powerhouse Salman Khan will be marching into the theatres with the Priyadarshan melodrama Kyun Ki, while the last of the year's plethora of Amitabh Bachchan starrers, Apoorva Lakhia's Ek Ajnabi, is scheduled for release in early December.

But those keen to see popular Hindi cinema break out of its rut of mediocrity should have their eyes on three films directed by veterans who learnt the ropes in the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
The trio in question - Jahnu Barua's Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, Prakash Jha's Apaharan and Pankaj Parashar's Benaras - A Mystic Love Story - are likely to open in the span of a month, beginning with the Mahatma Gandhi birth anniversary weekend.

Each of these films has the makings of an unusual cinematic experience. These releases could help Bollywood end 2005 in the sort of blaze of glory that the year had begun with before predictably meandering into less adventurous territory.

It has overall been a particularly happy year for the breed of Mumbai filmmakers that believes in using the medium for providing more than sheer entertainment. But none of the unconventional Hindi films released in the first nine months of the year -- not Black, nor Page 3, nor Iqbal - had one crucial attribute that Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, Apaharan and Benaras promise.

Apart from the obviously serious intent of their narratives, the three films are unique in the sense that they are designed to deliver political or social/spiritual statements of contemporary relevance. How many mainstream Hindi films dare to do that in this era of instant gratification?

While neither of these films is necessarily a full-fledged socio-political film carrying a pedantic message, all of them revolve around issues that have a bearing on the lives of all Indians. That, among other things, is what sets Maine Gandhi…, Apaharan and Benaras apart from conventional Bollywood potboilers: while these films are indeed avowedly aimed at entertaining the audiences, they are essentially propelled by a creative rationale far higher than just that.

Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, based on a script that Jahnu Barua wrote a decade ago, explores the relationship between a father and his grown-up daughter and places it in the context of the relevance that Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy still has in the life of the older man. Anupam Kher and Urmila Matondkar essay the two principal roles.

Significantly, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, produced by Anupam Kher himself, has been acquired by mainstream movie major Yashraj Films in a bid to further a strategy that the company began with its distribution last year of the offbeat AIDS drama My Brother Nikhil.