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Star is Kinnnnnng!

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.

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.

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.”

8 Comments

  • The ‘stars’ seem to be like our politicians! Much as we revile them for delivering mindless duds the public flocks to see them just as we keep on electing incompetent politicians due to lack of quality alternatives on a consistent basis.

  • apart from smart marketing, favourable release time, star power and the ‘formula’ that the mainstream cinema so heavily depends upon… there surely should be something within the body of the film that might have a direct bearing on its success at the box office. I mean.. why did people (presumably) flock to see ‘Rab Ne Bana di Jodi’ and not ‘Tashan’? Both had ‘smart marketing’, ‘star power’, ‘distribution power’ and the all important ‘formula’. What does ‘ Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ have that ‘Tashan’ does not?

  • There’s no doubt a film is ultimately made to be seen by as many people as possible and one understands the need for making it a viable product. But, what’s unfortunately happening today with the star driven system is that often in our films, content suffers with everything else being paid attention to, in particular, the marketing blitz and a belief that half the battle is over once a saleable star has signed on. Stars will only do certain kind of films and roles thereby restricting the filmmaker even more. As I’ve said, the Munna Bhai films, great as they are, are extremely rare. Lage Raho Munna Bhai, especially, is a film where everything was in place – relevant content cinematically presented that not only entertains you but, more importantly, makes you think. The star fitted into the film and its content rather than the other way around. And it’s not as if this is impossible. Our older filmmakers like Bimal Roy and Mehboob Khan too worked with top stars and came out with films like Do Bigha Zamin, Madhumati, Sujata, Andaz and Mother India that were entertaining, successful and yet having content of great depth. They used the same mainstream elements of melodrama, song and dance too. What we need is a director driven system if we are to bring mainstream Hindi cinema anywhere near its golden age – the days of Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor.

  • Manju
    Yeah RNBDJ did have its moments but that’s about it. Overall, to me, it is not a very good film, especially so considering the talent involved. According to me, it has pulled through more due to star power (SRK) and a strong marketing blitz rather than on the film’s merit and that is the point I was trying to make.

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