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Filmmakers court the middle class

Bollywood is taking tiny steps to connect with the great Indian middle class.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 12:40 IST
Indo-Asian News ServiceIndo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News ServiceIndo-Asian News Service

Moviemaking moguls are courting the great Indian teeming middle class like never before, making their mundane and ordinary lives the inspiration for films to feed the ever-escalating demand of multiplexes.

Close on the heels of mega successful Rang De Basanti, a coming of age film about average Indian youths, a couple of more films inspired by middle class lives went on the marquees.

Mixed Doubles by Rajat Kapoor starring Rajat, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey and Koel Purie tells a story of a regular, middle class couple whose love life has lost the spice and what they do or not do about it.

Alongside was released Holiday, directed by Pooja Bhatt and starring newcomer Onjolie Nair with Dino Morea, Kashmera Shah and Gulshan Grover. The film, inspired heavily by Hollywood-hit Dirty Dancing, tells the story of an ordinary girl who is more of an underdog in the family but grows in self-confidence to become an achiever.

Says media-savvy producer-director Pooja Bhatt: "Audiences want to see people just like themselves on the screen and are elated when the underdog succeeds. Look at Iqbal. It is the story of an underdog who makes it big in spite of all odds."

A still from Rajat Kapoor- directed Mixed Doubles. The film deals with marital boredom of a middle class couple. More and more Bollywood films are now focussing on the urban middle class and rural youth.

Speaking about the box-office fate of her third film, she said: "I work on a business model that ensures that my films don't lose money. With three films under my belt, I think I have been able to silence detractors and win the confidence of the trade."

Interestingly, nearly all small-budget multiplex-targeted films that have managed to make money at the box-office were middle class-inspired stories. These include Mr & Mrs Iyer, Jhankar Beats, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Iqbal and even Page 3 that told a story through the eyes of a middle class girl.

The working class soap queens are also ruling the television world. That the success of Jassi Jaisa Koi Nahi was not just an exception has been proven beyond doubt with the success of subsequent wannabes.

Not so long ago, Bollywood was routinely accused of promoting upper class lifestyle, with stars sporting foreign labels and romping in foreign locales.

Though Bollywood will continue to play to an ever more wealthy, urban upper-middle class in India, and an ever-growing population of NRIs globally, it is taking tiny steps to connect with the urban middle class and rural youth.

As the culture of multiplexes in India spreads to small cities and towns the trend is set to grow. The resounding success of Bunty Aur Babli and Rang De Basanti that found favour across classes and the rural and urban divide are an indication of the times to come.

The multiplex crowd across small and big cities, however, is not yet game for films like Amu and Dansh. At the end of the day, they want a feel-good movie. This could be the reason why despite the advent of multiplexes the biggest draw at the box-office are Bollywood potboilers churned out by big banners.

Whenever a big banner film releases, multiplex owners cannot avoid the temptation to flood all the screens with the same film, leaving no hope for cinegoers who may want to see something else.

However, things are set to change.

The number of multiplexes around the country is projected to double from the current level of 70-odd to over 150 in the next couple of years. The availability of seats is expected to jump from under 100,000 to 160,000. This can only spell good news for experimental filmmakers and one can expect more and more real stories sharing the space with larger-than-life fables.

The multiplex effect

The mushrooming of multiplexes has come as a boom for female filmmakers in India with director-producer Pooja Bhatt emerging as among the most successful.

In her early 30s, she is perhaps the youngest female filmmaker in Bollywood to have produced eight films and directed three of them. Pooja's directorial debut - Jism - had raised many eyebrows for its steamy scenes but also gave the industry two of its hottest reigning stars Bipasha Basu and John Abraham.

The daughter of prolific Bollywood veteran Mahesh Bhatt, Pooja may not be able to compete with her contemporaries in the department of aesthetics but she wins hands down when it comes to quantities. And the best part is that her films always make money one way or other.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 12:40 IST