With the kind of films that unspool every week, one can conclude that there is a dearth of not only ideas but also direction! A varied kind of films are being made. Each filmmaker trying to come out with something different. This includes all - big as well as medium-range producers. The idea seems to be taking a shot in the dark. It is all about taking chances.
Some producers are falling back on period costume dramas, which work out very costly and not every director's cup of tea. This genre was avoided for a long time mainly because of these two reasons, capability and cost. Yet, we have had period films like "Bajirao Mastani" and "Padmaavat", "Manikarnika" and "Kesari". There have been a few flops in this genre like "Mohenjo Daro", "Rangoon" and "Thugs Of Hindostan". The backers of such films would do it only on the basis of saleable stars, coupled with a capable director. Still it often proves risky.
Each week, a new kind of film is dropped in the market. For instance, last week we had "Khandaani Shafakhana", a film discussing sexual problems for those who can make sense of the title! For one, sex and problems related to it are not generally discussed in India. Delhi and surrounding areas do have such clinics but that does not make the subject acceptable all over.
One may have thought if Vicky Donor could work, why not take it a step further? An odd subject like "Vicky Donor" or "Piku", very personal to people, does work. But they need to be woven into a plausible story and dealt with a fair amount of humour. Recent such films are "Piku", "Padman", "Toilet: Ek Prem Katha". This is called reaching out to personal matters of people. Humour is a must since it delivers the message without making the proceedings seem mundane.
It seems filmmaking is all about inspirational and awareness films. A small film about a person few had heard about, "Paan Singh Tomar", followed by "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", opened up a new genre - the biopic. "Neerja", "MS Dhoni: The Untold Story" and "Dangal" followed in quick succession. The film industry calls this a 'daur' (trend). It does not last long, though.
Most writers who script stories like "Piku" or "Vicky Donor", or directors who make films like "Dangal", "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" and "Neerja", have always had this problem: What next? They usually have nothing that matches the earlier success. No maker seemed to have a worthy successor. So, they go back to usual claptrap and come a cropper.
There were also some biopics like "Manjhi: The Mountain Man" or "Sachin: A Billion Dreams" where the makers just chose to go with the trend but turned the film into a documentary. A film like "Sachin: A Billion Dreams" costs crores as royalty to the character on whose life it is based, as well as to acquire real life footage. The film on Sachin was a victim of failing to dramatise. The idea is to pick a life story and add a fair amount of fiction along with music as was done with the Dhoni film.
Akshay Kumar has become a torchbearer of the films that convert real-life stories into reel life sagas. He has been greatly successful in his endeavours. His image of being a thoroughbred nationalist probably adds to the acceptability of his films. His instincts and beliefs seem to be paying up so far.
Then, there is John Abraham. He loves to play the incredible hulk tackling major cases like the Rajiv Gandhi assassination or Pokhran nuclear tests. He has been partly successful.
It is believed that there are only seven basic storylines in this world. Films were made accordingly. There was a time when some makers stuck to making religion-based or mythological films while a few others only made horror movies. The mainstay for most makers, however, was romance and family socials. Action movies were not in vogue in the mainstream cinema till mid-1970 and action, in a measured amount, was a part of regular movies. Otherwise, the action movies as such were rated as B-Grade, released only at designated cinema halls and were left to actors like Kamran Khan and Sheikh Mukhtar. Dara Singh later introduced action movies where wrestling was the theme.
There were a few costume dramas and comedies. While most producers stuck to their formula of catering to the family audience, some even stuck to certain alphabets to name their films with. Producer J. Om Prakash (who passed away last week) named all his films starting with alphabet A as did producer Mohan Kumar. Another filmmaker, Arjun Hingorani, preferred alphabet K to name his films. Filmmakers, like many others, are quite superstitious and this trend of faith in a certain alphabet still prevails in filmmakers like Rakesh Roshan, whose films have titles beginning with K.
Now, the genres of family socials, horror and mythology have been taken away by television serials. Action films are accepted only coming from a couple of stars. There is little choice left for filmmakers.
The limited choice is between romance, action and comedy, with few writers and makers to justify the last named. While ideas are borrowed from foreign films (which includes this year's National Award winner, "Andhadhun"), and films from South languages are being sought once again for remakes by a few.
So, after each successful film, the question arises: What next? From the records, the makers of "Piku", "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", "Dhoni: The Untold Story", "Dangal", "Neerja" and many such films have either delivered flops or are at a loss for idea for their next!
@The Box Office
* The week sees two major films release with "Batla House" and "Mission Mangal", both on Thursday, August 15, to cash in on the national holiday. Both have reaped the benefit with good collection figures for the opening day.
While "Mission Mangal" has managed a hefty Rs 29 crore on the opening day, "Batla House" has collected about Rs 14.75 crore.
* "Jabariya Jodi" remains poor. The film collects about Rs 16.5 crore for its first week.
* "Judgementall Hai Kya" fails to deliver.
(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at email@example.com)