ARE WE USHERING IN AN ERA OF BIOPICS?

The encouraging opening AZHAR received and then for the next two days and the gradual dampening of the interest shown by audiences to the biopic has left many in a state of confusion when it comes to the making of biopics. Is the audience willing to accept films made on the lives of legends and icons, especially in the field of sports, or is it just a passing fad? Will the biopics that have been planned for the future be made with the same kind of enthusiasm when they were begun or will the way AZHAR has been treated at the box-office make filmmakers change their attitude towards making biopics which only two years ago was considered to be a safe proposition? This is one question which AZHAR has raised seriously and how and where the trend of making biopics will lead will be an interesting phenomenon to watch and to study.

The interest in making biopics started with films like THE DIRTY PICTURE, BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG, MARY KOM and NEERJA. For reasons which are still to be fathomed by film experts, learned film analysts and historians these films aroused the interest of the audience and led to the success of the films.

All these films based on real life characters like Silk Smitha, the sexy siren of south Indian films made in the eighties and nineties, the athlete Milkha Singh who missed the Olympic gold medal, Mary Kom, the ace female pugilist and Neerja Pandey, the airhostess from Mumbai who gave up her life to save victims of a major kidnap. They were well researched and well directed films with true to life performances by actors like Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor. The films were not like dry, drab and dreary stories told in an haphazard manner or like documentaries but made in a way that made the audience believe that they were seeing legends living all over again and that was the reason why the films were appreciated, awarded and surprisingly for all of them to do well at the box-office.

The success of these biopics led to a trend like it happens with all successful films and there were any number of biopics that were announced and some are still being made. Among the biopics are M S DHONI: THE UNTOLD STORY, the biopics on SANJAY DUTT, KISHORE KUMAR and MEENA KUMARI, DANGAL based on the real life of a wrestler from Punjab, Mahabir Singh Phogat being played by Aamir Khan, and a biopic based on the controversial female writer Kamla Suraiya Das who was the trend-setter among women writing in English and Malayalam in the eighties and nineties.

There are other makers who are still in a state of inspiration when it comes to making attempts to follow those who have made biopics and succeeded. There are writers and filmmakers who are trying to find characters from history, from the fields of science and Mathematics (A.K.Ramanujan), literature (Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam) and well-known war lords of a distant times like the film Sanjay Leela Bhansali is planning to make.

The biopics that have already been released have had their days and have become a part of history, but what about the biopics that are being made or planned now? It is what has been happening after the release of AZHAR that gives rise to this question.

There have been strong mixed reactions to the story of Mohammad Azharuddin as told in the biopic. There have been some of his contemporaries like Ravi Shastri, Manoj Prabhakar and some others who have taken objections to the way the realities have been presented. They are especially angry about the way their real life characters have been depicted in the biopic and some have even threatened to go to court on various charges, including defamation.

Dealing with living legends is a very dicey problem as can be seen from the different reactions by different people involved in the story and the many controversies Mohammad Azharuddin was involved with and his relationships with men and women. It is very difficult to try and tell the truth and the whole truth about some of the legendary figures and one can take these risks only if they have the background to support the films they make and the scenes they depict when dealing with characters that are living, especially. Like in the case of the biopics being planned on the life and times of Kishore Kumar and Meena Kumari, it is said that their families are entirely against the ideas of the lives of their loved ones being made public.

When this trend of making biopics was started, it seemed all so easy, but now with the changing times and laws, it will be a little difficult to make biopics with the freedom true biopics should be made. Will the obstructions come in the way of makers attempting biopics, one wonders, even worries about how long this trend to make biopics will continue.

SETTING NEW TRENDS AT SEVENTY PLUS!

In the last three months Amitabh Bachchan who has set several trends during his four decade career has been busy setting some new trends at an age and time when other men at his age sit back, relax and go into long flashbacks or in some cases even go through acute depression. He has been working day and night on the two films he has on hand, TE3N and PINK and has created some kind of an extraordinary record by completing the shooting of both these films which have aroused a great deal of curiosity ever since shooting for the films began and the main reason are the characters Amitabh is playing in them and the curiosity about Amitabh, the actor has never died down, even at times when his films were not doing well and strangely even when he had taken that five-year sabbatical.

His new trend started with PIKU which was a film which was based on an unusual but simple story that could appeal to every member of the family, thus leading to the film winning the hearts of people and even all the major awards, including the National Award which was the fourth in the career of the phenomenon of our times. The success of PIKU led to other filmmakers making their own efforts to make other films the way PIKU was made. The film had a story which was well planned out in the minds of the makers. It had some of the most outstanding performances by Amitabh, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan besides some interesting roles played by veteran actresses like Mousumi Chatterjee who was Amitabh’s leading lady in a Basu Chatterjee film called MANZIL made in the nineties. It was an amalgamation of some of the best elements of entertainment that made PIKU a landmark film. It was this story that encouraged other filmmakers to try out similar stories with Amitabh as the key character.

Amitabh himself seemed to have discovered a new Amitabh in him, an actor who could make a deep impact with the character he played and brought in the audience when other actors half his age or less could not work the same kind of wonders however hard they worked and however much they were paid for the work which they did and did not find favour with the audience.

Amitabh also planned out his own working schedules in this latest span of his career. He tried his best to complete his films according to a planned schedule. He had made it possible to complete a film like PIKU in less than ninety days of hectic shooting. This was the plan he worked out to great success with PIKU and he has just completed all the shooting for TE3N within seventy-five days and has left enough time to pay all the attention to the post production work of the film. His schedules have also encouraged other artists like Deepika, Vidya Balan, Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui to adjust their schedules to match with his dates because they knew it would only be a step that would go against them if they lost an opportunity to work with the legend and icon of all times.

Amitabh has apparently made it a rule to work in films which he could complete in the time a film and its subject and treatment deserved. It is this new trend that he has started when he is seventy-three that he has followed in his other film, PINK and all the shooting of this film is also said to be complete and Amitabh, the complete professional is now working on the post production stages of the film.

It is this rigid schedule that he has accepted and has made others accept after seeing the advantages that has led the seventy-three year old actor do what he could do even when he was forty!

He is not only an actor in the films he is now doing but takes interest in all the aspects of the making of a film in which he works. He has a team which goes through the several scripts sent to him and advises him on which ones he should take seriously and which he should strictly avoid at this stage. He also takes interest in the way the script is worked on and how every character is brought to life. And if needed the man who is called “The Voice” is still willing to sing a song or two in the films he dedicates his life to. All this put together can only lead to the making of a better film more than helping the legend in growing into a greater legend.

After the release of TE3N and PINK, Amitabh will start work on other films about which he has still to take a decision. He is busier than the most successful and popular young actors of today and as things stand today, he is sure to be the actor most in the reckoning in the years to come. Any other actor at seventy-three would have been satisfied playing the father, the grandfather or the father-in-law or the grandfather-in-law, but Amitabh is that one actor who is one of his kind who keeps looking for roles that will suit his age and the changing times because he knows this is the only way he can stay around his way.

His total dedication to his profession as an actor however doesn’t keep him away from doing any number of commercials and films made in the interest of social and national awareness and his being the ambassador for various causes, the most important one being his being appointed as the ambassador for the movement for “Incredible India”.

Amitabh was a trendsetter when he came to films with an unusual body and an unusual kind of face and even voice which was considered a voice not fit for a hero in Hindi films. He set the trend for the angry young man in Hindi films while he was also considered the greatest romantic romancing young girls with the poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Anand Bakshi. He had also tried to start a trend of starting shootings at seven-thirty in the morning but it was a shift only a man with his determination and his respect for time could manage.

The rest is history which has made him a very intrinsic part of the history of not only Hindi cinema but also of world cinema. And the way he is going, it seems like he has just begun and has many other trends to set and records to break.

THE NEW FASCINATION FOR ALL THAT IS “FOREIGN” TO WIN HEARTS

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It is a strange phenomenon to know that at a time when the Honourable Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi  is talking his lungs out about his “Make in India” campaign to make India into a dream country and yet there are all out efforts being made by all his admirers and followers trying their best to follow his ideals, the industry is growing more and more dependent on things, ideas and  places that have got nothing to contribute to make India the dream country Mr.Modi wants it to be as soon as it is possible.

There seems to be a collective move among some of our leading filmmakers to shoot some of their ambitious and adventurous films which they claim are Indian but are increasingly being shot on exotic locations in different parts of the world. In the very recent announced film by the renowned director-duo, Abbas-Mustan’s “Machine” in which Mustafa, the son of director Abbas Burmawala  is making his debut as a leading man, they have made it known that 98 percent of their film is going to be shot in the seven different cities of Georgia in Europe. Some of the thrilling car chase sequences in the film will be shot with expert drivers from Hong Kong who are known for creating mind-blowing car sequences in some of the most outstanding action films in Hollywood and in films made in the Far East.

The directors who are also the producers together with A.D Films have all their reasons planned out for them opting for a far off country like Georgia. They have the complete support of all the authorities in the country to shoot their film the way they want. In addition, the government has made an offer for a hefty subsidy and all transactions to be done through a single window which will help the filmmakers in not running around from department to department to seek all the required permissions. The makers have already done a hectic recee of the country and a post-production team has been camping in the country to prepare the grounds for the shooting of the films which is all set to start off on May 21 and is expected to complete a major part of the shooting in seventy-five days without any break. They now are very confident that they will be able to wrap up the shoot during the shooting spell in Georgia.

Besides all the other advantages of shooting in a foreign country, the makers who are known for shooting most of their romantic and action thrillers in countries like America, Scotland, Russia and are even known for flying an entire unit to Turkey to shoot just one song because they found it easier to shoot in that distant land. And the biggest advantage of shooting a film on any foreign land is that all the stars are always available whenever needed and are not required or forced to run from one shooting to another.

Another film which was recently shot in Spain was ’’Mom’’ which is a very crucial film for Sridevi and her producer-husband Boney Kapoor. A film which is supposed to be the story of a mother could have easily been the best example of a Make in India film, but the makers had ideas of having some of the most daring action scenes featuring Sridevi and Akshaye Khanna and other actions experts which could according to the makers only been shot on the locations the new director Ravi Udyavar, a specialist in making ad films till now found suitable. The makers are already back home fully satisfied with the completion of the scenes they had planned to shoot.

There are at least twenty more films which are being planned as major ventures to be shot in some of the untouched locations in various parts of the globe. Are these twenty makers planning to shoot their films abroad only because of the facilities available and because they just want to decorate their films with locations the audience has not seen?

How long will our filmmakers depend on stories and subjects which do not suit the Make in India formula? When will they realize that it is not beautiful visuals alone that can make audiences throng theatres and that it is more than high time they discovered the significance of a subject which matters more than anything in this dicey but still glamorous business of film entertainment?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Content Alone Can Conquer, Neither Grandeur Nor Gimmicks Can

It is difficult to believe that in the country which is known for its great epics and countless works of creative writing, a country which has given the world writers like Munshi Premchand, Rabindranath Tagore, Saratchandra Chatterjee, Vijay Tendulkar, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chugtai and even some of the modern writers telling stories about the changing times and lives, we don’t have good stories to tell in the films we make.

Content is the life- giving strength that is the only foundation on which a good film can be built and created. And yet when we look around and see the kinds of films that are made in hundreds and even thousands we find to our utter shock and dismay that it is content that is the only precious thing that is missing. And keeps missing with every second film that comes along with all the band baaja baaraat but woefully lacking in the heart-beat of the films that are made without a heart, without healthy content, without good stories which are embellished by good and sound screenplays and meaningful and powerful dialogue.

The scene was not always so pathetic. There were the good old times when no film was started before a complete script was written after days of hard work put in by some of the best writers who worked such wonders that the directors and the stars had to only follow what they had written to write their ways to success.

Right from the days of Dadasaheb Phalke we can find films based on a story that made sense because there were filmmakers who knew the art of bringing stories alive on screen with the kind of ability and sensibility that could without any doubt reach out and touch the hearts of the audience. The fifties saw some great films which were artistically and commercially successful because of the way the films were made. The makers did not have to resort to any other ways but only tell the stories (content) in a simple way as written by the writers. There were writers like Pandit Mukhram Sharma and Rajendra Krishan and in later stages the duo of Salim-Javed who knew what kind of stories could appeal to people and they had their ways of guaranteeing success for films at the box-office and they were paid very well and given the respect they deserved and was their due.

What was of more significance was that there were directors who knew the importance of good content if they had to make films appeal to the people. There were filmmakers like Mehboob Khan and K.Asif who were not educated but knew how important writing good content was and had a team of the best writers working for them and their knowledge of cinema blended with the magic of their writers made them make masterpieces like “Mother India” and “Mughal-E-Azam”. There were other directors like Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar and directors from the South like L.V Prasad, T. Prakash Rao, Chanakya, A Bheem Singh and later directors like Balu Mahendra, K. Vishwanath, Bapu, Mani Ratnam and Bharati Raja who never went on the floors with their films unless they had a bound and final script in their hands. But all this seemed to change towards the nineties when scripts (content) were relegated to a place where they had no respect and were given a step-motherly treatment. That was the beginning of the crumbling times for Indian cinema.

Coming down to the more recent times, it is heartening to see films like “Piku”, “Kapoor & Sons” and “Ki & Ka” doing better than the films in which content had no part to play. Some of the biggest and most ambitiously made films in recent weeks have damaged themselves because of the lack of good writing, a fact that was so clear that even the common viewer could trace the flaws in them.

These days there are schools for acting, dancing, action, swimming and even horse-riding, but no one has tried to have an institute or a school which can train writers to write films. It is not that writing can come from learning; writing is an art and a discipline that cannot come to everybody.
The problem with us today is that we have writers lining up lanes and streets where films are planned and made but how many of them are the writers this industry starved of good writing is desperately looking for?

We can conquer in every field of filmmaking, we can be the makers of the largest number of films, but as long as we don’t have the right content, we can never conquer the way we should and we must.

“JUNGLE BOOK “ writes a new chapter in box-office history!

Who says animation films don’t work wonders at the box office ? Who says films made in English fail to match the magic figures of Hindi films? Who says children – centric films cannot bring in the crowds like big films made with big stars and all the attempts made to entertain have never been able to grab the attention and create an impression in terms of content and technique?

 

There are some notions in the minds of people in the business of entertainment which have not been challenged . It is these very notions that “Jungle Book “, based on the evergreen story of Rudyard Kipling and characters created by Kipling (who incidentally had his own house in Bombay more than a 100 years ago) has broken and shattered .
The film which the CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani had found scary has been loved by people of all ages who have been thronging the countless theaters
and multiplexes all over . This animated film has a story that is known to kids in kindergarten schools and their fascination for it has only grown as they grow into adults , fathers and mothers and even grandfathers and grandmothers.” Jungle Book” has universal and unanimous appeal “JUNGLE BOOK “ writes a new chapter in box-office history!

 

What this animated film has been proving ever since its release on April 8 is an eye-opener for one and all interested in the future of cinema not only in India but all over the world . The film without any stars, gloss and grandeur has been creating new records at the box office . It broke the first week records of some of the most successful films which have raked in the moolah in the first week in films like KICK and some of the recent big hits . The big Hindi films released simultaneously with “Jungle Book” have woefully lagged behind when it comes to collections during the first week . The impact of this bolt from the blue is so strong that it has even handed down a beating to a starlit and much hyped about film like FAN . And the film
has been rock steady even in the second week as the collections are still above the collections of some of the biggest hits in the MAKE IN INDIA kind of films that failed to come up to any standards in terms of the wholesome entertainers the film provides to every class of filmgoers and therefore brings in much more money than the big films which send out feelers which raise great expectations but sadly and unfortunately fall by the wayside in most cases.

 

JUNGLE BOOK has all the potential to capture the imagination of the viewers and give them much more than their money’s worth , which is what most of our films have been miserably failing to do. JUNGLE BOOK once again proves that quality content is the least that viewers who pay through their noses expect . The grand success of JUNGLE BOOK emphatically proves the point. UTV , the company that took the risk of having a massive
release for the film also played it clever by releasing the film in India before it could be released even in Hollywood which was an added advantage. Eventually it’s a business and you have to perform at the box-office “Another point that goes in favor of the success of JUNGLE BOOK is that it has been released in four dubbed versions and has done equally well in all the languages . In fact , the dubbed Hindi version of JUNGLE BOOK has done much better than some of the most well publicized Hindi films which speaks volumes for the kind of entertainment provided by our big budget and star- studded films that we keep churning out all through the year. Does a film like JUNGLE BOOK send out a message , loud and clear? Yes, it does! And it does in a most fascinating and forceful way. It sends out one strong message and that is what we have been saying once too often. . Content with sense and sensibility , with entertainment and enlightenment is a must if our films have to survive and succeed at the box-office. The sooner we learn this simple lesson from the success of JUNGLE BOOK and other similar films, the better for us because if we continue the way we
lose track of the importance of content , we may land up in some kind of a scary dark ”jungle from which it will be very difficult to wriggle whatever
other books we may try to follow.

We can combat the fever of cricket with the power of content!

It seems like only the other day when we ushered in 2016 as the year of hope , and we are already about to complete the first quarter of the year.
There have never been so many films released in the first three months of any year, but what about the fate of most?? The only two films which could rise to reach new heights both in excellence and as money -makers at the coveted box- office are ‘AIRLIFT’ and ‘NEERJA’, . Interestingly, the films were based on true life stories and the makers and especially the actors , Akshay Kumar in AIRLIFT and Sonam Kapoor in ‘NEERJA’ gave the films their very best, the rewards of which not only they had all the reasons to celebrate , but the two films also gave a big boost to the industry which these days is woefully running short of films that do well. The third film KAPOOR AND SONS has just been released but the initial response gives us hope to see it as another memorable film of the three months that are soon coming to an end.

 

It is in the spirit of hope with which we started 2016 that we look ahead with hope when we will see the fate of some of the most talked about films coming up to face their trial by fire in the next three months. Hopefully the good times should begin with R Balki’s KI AND KA, an unusual film and with an unusual theme with Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. It will be followed by other films like ‘Tiger Shroff’s second film BAAGHI –The Rebel and then will come the big SRK film , ‘FAN’ in which it is known by now that SRK is playing a double role as a superstar and also his crazy fan and
this could also be the most ambitious film of the year . It will be followed by the eagerly awaited bio-pic on Mohammed Azharuddin , the former and controversial captain of the Indian cricket team , AZHAR followed by another bio-pic on another cricket captain MS Dhoni . Will these films be able to hit the bull’s eye ? That is the billion dollar question.

 

What is going to be of great anxiety, insecurity and if we may say so terror for these films is the competition they are going to face not from any rival from within the industry, but a much more formidable rival from outside, the ever growing popularity of the game of cricket which is now not only popular in the metros and towns but even in the most remote parts of the country . The T20 World Cup matches already on and this form of the game has become much more popular than the Test matches and the ODI’s . Cricket has become like a thrilling game of hockey or football or even kabaddi where the results are out within hours. This competition to films will continue till March end. The same kind of thrill in cricket will rear its head when the much more feared IPL matches will start in the first week of April. The T20 matches that are going on now have shown how they can hit weak films out of the theaters . The IPL is a much bigger and popular tournament which attracts millions and according to several surveys it has been predicted that these matches will keep people home and anyways lovers of cricket will give up anything , including films for their love for cricket and its stars.

 

And as if the cricket fever was not enough to damage the prospects of films , the examination fever has already gripped millions of our youth and it is a
well known fact that thirty -five percent of film goers in India are in the age group of 10-18 years.

 

How can the industry face these virtual threats to its survival ? There are several solutions offered by experts but the only power that can beat these
threats is the power of content that our films will have to be able to give and must give if they have to stay on in their game with dignity? We have said it time and again and in the interests of the industry we again reiterate that it is only good and healthy content that can help us survive at all times and even in threatening times like the times to come.
If your focus is on content , you can score all the boundaries and sixes and win and overcome any kind of danger to this great industry .