It’s big change that’s needed in Bollywood, not big bucks, says Anupama Chopra

Updated on Jul 30, 2022 03:19 PM IST

The ₹150-crore Shamshera is built on a story that gives way in the first hour, leaving its lead, the talented Ranbir Kapoor, floundering. Meanwhile, small gems continue to hook audiences, including Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi films made on tiny and even crowdsourced budgets.

Rajat Kapoor’s RK/Rkay is a witty and whimsical take on making movies, on questions of authorship, destiny and free will. The film crowdsouced its <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>2-crore budget, with about 800 people contributing between <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>100 and <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>50,000 each. PREMIUM
Rajat Kapoor’s RK/Rkay is a witty and whimsical take on making movies, on questions of authorship, destiny and free will. The film crowdsouced its 2-crore budget, with about 800 people contributing between 100 and 50,000 each.

In a 2019 interview, actor Rana Daggubati told me that there was simply too much money in Bollywood. He said, “Every time I’m here, people say, we’ve raised 100 crore to make a film but it doesn’t require all of that. With so much money, with so much of these resources coming in, your thought goes away. It goes into how to spend so much money and it goes back into the VC world. They have issues of deployment but that’s not the place we are supposed to be in.”

I remembered this chat as I watched Shamshera, a boisterous period action saga, which frittered the vast talent of its leading man – Ranbir Kapoor, in his first double-role – and of its A-list team, which includes cinematographer Anay Goswamy and music composer Mithoon. According to press reports, Shamshera was made on a budget of 150 crore. The film has some breathtaking visuals (parts were shot in the Nubra Valley in Ladakh) and extensive special effects. But the grand edifice is built on a story that gives way in the first hour. And Ranbir, one of Bollywood’s finest actors, is left flailing, like a shipwreck victim without a lifejacket.

Shamshera has some breathtaking visuals, but a story so thin that its lead, Ranbir Kapoor, one of Bollywood’s finest actors, is left flailing like a shipwreck victim without a lifejacket.
Shamshera has some breathtaking visuals, but a story so thin that its lead, Ranbir Kapoor, one of Bollywood’s finest actors, is left flailing like a shipwreck victim without a lifejacket.

Contrast this with other recently released films – Gargi in Tamil, Malayankunju in Malayalam (both directed by debutantes) and RK/Rkay in Hindi. The first is a horrific and heartbreaking story of a school teacher whose father is accused of raping a nine-year-old girl. Gargi fights relentlessly to have his name cleared but director and co-writer Gautham Ramachandran doesn’t give us the happy ending we hope for. In the last act, he brilliantly twists the narrative on its head. Sai Pallavi, who plays Gargi, delivers a stunning performance as a woman determined to do the right thing. The film is easily one of the best of the year. According to media reports, it cost 5 crore.

Malayankunju, which means child from the Malyan tribe, is a survival drama. Fahadh Faasil plays Anil Kumar, a curdled, bigoted electronics repairman who lives with his mother in a hilly region in Kerala. Anil is bitter and so filled with hate that he can’t stand even the crying of a little baby born to his neighbours who are from a community that he considers lower. But nature teaches him a fitting lesson. Torrential rain causes a landslide and Anil becomes trapped underneath. He is guided to the surface by the crying of the baby he earlier rebuked. Director Sajimon and writer-cinematographer Mahesh Narayanan deliver a gripping film about redemption. And Fahadh is brilliant as a man whose brush with death leads to an emotional rebirth.

Most startling of all is Rajat Kapoor’s RK/Rkay – a witty and whimsical take on making movies, the question of authorship, destiny and free will. This film crowdsouced its funding. Some 800 people contributed between 100 to 50,000 to make it. RK/Rkay cost a mere 2 crore but the film is far more inventive than Shamshera.

They say money can’t buy happiness. Clearly, it can’t buy good storytelling either!

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