Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General
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Pans & Tilts…Deceit, Sarkar Raj, Hollybolly…

Indian cinema lives in deceit and feeds deceit. For weeks, Kamal’s “Dasavatharam”, opening worldwide on June 13, was in the news because President George Bush was to have watched the Tamil superstar’s antics in Ten Avatars. Kamal Haasan plays Bush in one of them! But poor Bush knew nothing about his date with himself and flew away to Europe on a farewell trip. As someone said, he had deliberately escaped to spare himself the torture of trying to understand a Tamil film. For one whose English itself has been criticised, the very thought of lisping a strange Dravidian lingo along with Kamal, Asin and Mallika Sherawat must have caused nightmares for the outgoing American President.

But why must Indian cinema stoop to this kind of cheap gimmicks?
Not that it has never indulged in it before. Even last month, several movies had reportedly been screened at the Cannes Film Festival. What the cinema folks hid from the media was that these were shown at the Market, which has nothing to do with the Festival and where anybody can show any movie provided he coughs up the fee to hire an auditorium. What is even more scandalous is that the media does not bother to check its facts before running stories like these.

And, for years, we have seen Indian films at the Oscars! What really happened was that they were sent up for possible nomination. That is all. If a movie is nominated, it is news even if it does not win an Oscar. Lagaan made news a few years ago when it got the nod. Yet, the cinema industry has been feeding this kind of nonsense to the media, which was so naïve to believe all this!

Ultimately, the public finds itself fooled!

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Rajeev Menon, better known as a cinematographer than a director, told me recently that films these days were made and unmade in urban multiplexes. If a movie did well in one in the first few days, it had gold. Gone are the days when a film could hope to make money in B and C centres after the first few weeks of its opening. And multiplex-goers are invariably swayed by what critics write.

Take the case of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Sarkar Raj”. It was ripped apart by critics, and obviously the multiplexes reported poor showings even on the first day. The occupancy did go up from 50 per cent to about 85 per cent during the first weekend. But by Monday, the collections in multiplexes across the country plummeted. Varma has to pull up his socks and try and give us better cinema. The audience is now getting smarter, and is not inclined to watch filth.

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Varma has had a bad time for a while now. His recent “Aag”, “Darling” and “Nishabdh” sank without a trace. In fact, I remember at Pune, theatre owners pulled out “Aag” mid-week, that is just a few days after its release. This is usually never done. So poor were the collections.

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And what is wrong with “Sarkar Raj’? A flawed script, poor performances by Abhishek Bachchan and wife Aishwarya Rai (even Big B looks and behaves like Big B), and the villains, except one, were the usual caricatures. Come on, we need better villains in a political thriller. And, horror of horrors, there is going to be one more sequel. So it seemed at the end of “Sarkar Raj”.

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Tailpiece: Aishwarya Rai will team up with Hollywood legend Meryl Streep in “Chaos”. Rai plays a prostitute in this American work. Truly, this is a great cocktail. Should we call it, Hollybolly? Cheers.

(Webposted June 13 2008)