Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hindi Films: 2006 - A Year of Big Bucks and Borrowed Ideas

For the Hindi film industry (I refuse to call it Bollywood), year 2006 was all about big bucks and borrowed ideas. It's being called the most successful year for the industry, and rightly so. In the past all that the filmmakers hoped for was to earn a few crores to reap a neat profit and a 'hit' tag for their films. Just one or two films would earn more than 20 crores and qualify as 'Blockbusters' and 'Super Hits'. From whatever I've gathered from the media, in 2006 there were at least half-a-dozen movies that earned more than 50 crores, with a few even crossing the magic figure of 100 crores!!! I can't vouch for the veracity of these figures, but it's sure that many filmmakers have laughed their way to the bank despite producing mediocre cinema.

Style is in, art can go for a spin - and Marketing is clearly the new mantra. Take some of the biggest hits of the year - Krrish, Fanaa, Dhoom-2 or even KANK - and it's evident that it was all about Marketing. The formula seems simple - take some of the biggest stars in the business, create a slick product, hype it to the skies, and flood the market with unimaginable number of prints so that the producers can get their money back just over the opening weekend. Whatever happens after Day 2 is clearly an overflow, and if you can go past 2 weeks, you have a super hit in your hands. It's no coincidence that Yash Raj Films has had some association with each of the films I mentioned above. They've clearly understood the importance of marketing and are bloody good at that!! The only exceptions to this formula have been Lage Raho Munnabhai and Vivah. While Lage Raho was unquestionably a very superior quality product that didn't need the crutches of hype to find its audience, with Vivah Sooraj Barjatya took the calculated risk of minimal hype and a limited release with the hope of gaining acceptance through word of mouth - and he succeeded.

The other significant thing about 2006 was that this was a year where filmmakers ran amok with sequels, remakes and literary adaptations. You might call this a dearth of creative talent which makes people recycle easily accessible content. Or you could say that filmmakers want to be on safe grounds by sticking to tried and tested ideas. Neither of these two opinions is entirely true. There's nothing wrong with borrowing ideas per se - it all depends on the execution of the borrowed idea. Let's take sequels first. There is dearth of creative writing talent in the Hindi Film industry for sure, but for every Phir Hera Pheri there's been a Lage Raho Munnabhai, which proves that even in a sequel you can be strikingly original. When it comes to remakes, there was only one remake of note - Don (I still won't call Umrao Jaan a remake, and Jai Santoshi Maa went completely unnoticed). Despite getting a good drubbing by the so-called critics, I still maintain that Don was a darn good remake! Talking of literary adaptations, would you call Omkara, Vishal's superlative adaptation of Othello, as a film that showed a dearth of creative talent? If anything, it exemplified that a great deal of creativity is required to adapt Shakespeare to the Indian milieu, that too rural India. Agreed Umrao Jaan was disappointing, but that wasn't because it was adapted (or remade as everyone seems to believe). It failed to strike a chord with the audience primarily because of its subject, lack of authenticity and inordinate length.