Bollywood’s descent into blatant plagiarism and its utter disregard of the audience’s intelligence is worrisome
Cinematically at least, 2010 ended with a whimper. I was sad for hours after seeing Tees Maar Khan. The film, and its cheerful embrace of all that is moronic and mediocre, seemed emblematic of all that had gone wrong with Hindi cinema through the year: big stars, zero script; an almost cynical disregard for the audience’s intelligence; proposals rather than films; profit rather than passion. But one of the requisites for being a film critic is optimism. Each week, we go into theatres, disregarding the week before.
With the same hope, I present my wish list for 2011.
In the last decade, the Hindi film industry has gone from strength to strength. Profits have boomed; viewers have multiplied; Brand Bollywood has amplified. Hindi cinema is everywhere—from the Sundance film festival to theatres in Poland and Germany. However, despite the success, the rising global profile and the increasing chances of getting caught, Bollywood filmmakers continue to happily plagiarise. So Aakrosh is Mississippi Burning, Knock Out is Phone Booth, Guzaarish has shades of The Sea Inside and Tees Maar Khan is After the Fox, which is written by Neil Simon. The day before release, director Farah Khan announced that rights had officially been bought, but apparently the paperwork was done so late that the credits continue to read: ‘story by Shirish Kunder’. Stealing is criminal and unspeakably tacky. Hopefully more filmmakers will opt for the official route and buy rights.
Less Stars, More Script
Stars are by design, seductive. We bask in their beauty and prowess. But even the Gods need scripts to stand strong. In 2010, Bollywood’s biggest and most beautiful—from Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor—were felled by bad writing. While zero face-value films from Udaan to Love Sex aur Dhokha to Phas Gaye Re Obama proved that the script is the star. Hopefully, like the long-lost brothers of Manmohan Desai films, stars and scripts will finally find each other this year.
Mindless Comedies RIP
Anees Bazmee’s No Problem hinged on the timely fart of a fake gorilla. Watching that scene, I wondered: could this be the end of civilisation as we know it? Crass, cacophonous, low-brow cinema in the guise of comedy is not funny, it’s exhausting. The dimaag- nikaal-ke-dekho concept is passé. Viewers have little desire to leave their brains at home when they watch movies. Hopefully, filmmakers and Akshay Kumar will comprehend this and respond immediately.
The green-lighting of projects at Bollywood corporates is an enduring mystery. Who at Eros, I wonder, read the script of Anjaana Anjaani and deemed it worthy of making? Who at UTV decided that Rs 60 crore was an appropriate budget for the story of a quadriplegic who wants to kill himself? Who at Reliance Big Pictures decided to pay Hollywood director Brett Ratner a rumoured $2 million to recut Kites (Incidentally, the Kites Remix grossed about $41,000 in the US). Allah tero naam, one of my favourite bhajans, includes the line: ‘balwaano ko de de gyan.’ The strong must be wise. Hopefully, the films of 2011 will reveal this.
The best film of the year, Udaan, and the most successful film of the year, Dabangg, had one thing in common. Both were made by debutant directors. In fact, 2010 was the year of the debutant—names that made a splash include Anusha Rizvi (Peepli Live), Abhishek Chaubey (Ishqiya) and Maneesh Sharma (Band Baaja Baarat). Hopefully, new, original voices will continue through the new year.
Hopefully, 2011 will be a year of passionate engagement at the movies. I look forward to being surprised, stirred, seduced and transported. Happy viewing!