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The verdict is out. Ghajini’s phenomenal opening has ensured the film is a huge, huge hit. As is Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (RNBDJ), said to be making an overall profit of Rs 50 crore and more for Yashraj Films in its current run, according to boxofficeindia.com. The fact, that neither film is very good is secondary. Ghajini, in particular, is shockingly bad, loud and overblown with little to redeem it, not even Aamir Khan or AR Rahman. But as far as the film market is concerned, there is no doubt. Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan have both delivered and how! And that too in the days following Mumbai’s terror attacks and with an economic recession the world over.
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This brings us to the sad but true fact. Get a big hero, take (copy) an ‘interesting’ concept, ruin it by treating it in a crass, formulaic way, spend on the obvious items, hype up the film, market it well, release it with a huge number of prints, and bingo – you laugh all the way to the bank. What you make be damned as it ceases to be important. We’ve seen this before with films like Welcome and Singh is Kinng, both woeful films bolstered only by Akshay Kumar’s star power and some extremely cheap playing-to-the-gallery humour.
Each time you applaud the audience for actually having sensibly rejected a Tashan, Drona or Yuvvraaj and having supported a genuinely different Chak De! India or even a Bheja Fry on the smaller side, the success of rotten films like Fanaa, Krrish and now the no-great-shakes RDBDJ and Ghajini ensures that Hindi cinema can never grow and a status quo remains where the (male) star has all the trumps. One big hit ensures he can endure a series of subsequent flops if need be. Of course for the Khans and Akshay Kumar, in the last few years that occurrence is extremely rare. Since the hero is always going to be bigger than the content, there is little chance of Hindi films getting better in quality. Films like the Munna Bhai films are the exceptions rather than the rule.
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One argues about the absence of quality and original writing in our films. But to be honest, the writer of a big budget star vehicle has to write keeping the star’s so called image and current successful trends in mind. Stars are too insecure to actually experiment with different roles and stories and to play real people. I remember, years ago, narrating a script to Bobby Deol. It was a Hitchcockian thriller of an ordinary man on the run, who ultimately becomes a hero as he uncovers a sinister murder plot. Bobby had a solid problem with the film’s premise itself. According to him, how could one make a film where an ordinary man becomes a hero?! In a Hindi film, a hero becomes a superhero, was his refrain! The bottom line for a star is – no matter what, the film must be a commercial success and their star image kept intact. And even if a star plays a different role (Hrithik Roshan, outstanding in Koi Mil Gaya, an awful film), it has to be within the loud parameters of the BIG mainstream Hindi film.
The plight of the ‘multiplex films’ is no better. For more such films to be made, not only should they be radically original and different in content, but a pretty high percentage of them should be successful enough at the box-office as well. Neither has happened. Most of these films are shameless copies from mostly International (non-Hollywood) films, and what’s more, are bad xeroxes with most of the films being terrible, quality wise. Not just the filmmakers, the writers too, who had the opportunity to do something different and exciting, are to blame here. Films like Dasvidaniya, Maharathi, Halla, Oh My God!! haven’t exactly helped the cause of this small cinema movement. A filmmaker like Dibakar Banerjee with Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, both extremely interesting, watchable and entertaining films, is rare. The decent box office showing of A Wednesday and Aamir is heartening on one level that audiences have gone to see them and yet extremely disturbing for the dangerous messages both films bring across. Stars of these smaller films, be it a Kay Kay Menon or a Vinay Pathak, cannot bring in an audience on their own strength and many of these films end up having their shows cancelled by the first Monday itself when they flop.
It’s not just the films. Corporates getting into the entertainment business have ruined the scenario further. Totally lacking in filmmaking experience, they’ve signed on stars for ridiculous multi-films deals way beyond their market rate and played up to the star system even more. One cannot help but recall a quote made by Tom Hanks here, “If you have to have a job, a high-priced movie star is a pretty good gig.”