Lights? Camera? Not much Action? 2009. The Year That Was. The Hindi Film Industry.
Two Thousand and 9. A good year you say? Not so much for our infamous but yet loved Hindi Film Fraternity. It’s funny how this industry is called a “fraternity”, because a fraternity is a brotherhood, that signifies unity; but here people seem to behave otherwise. Anyways, I’ll touch upon that a little later; now let’s just see what kind of a year we had with regard to the films this industry churned out, last year. Cinema in India is less of an art, more of an entertainment source, which is completely fine; and so, the films have never really faced a lull or a depression since Dadasaheb Phalke started with the trend of full length feature films in 1913. The reason being that, Indians use cinema as an escape; more of an alteration to reality, and less of an addition or mirror to life. That’s why, if a person if a little under the weather, they’d watch a movie to lift their spirits. If business is bad, and times are tough, to take a break, they’d watch a film. So this industry never really faced a lull; it is something like one will never stop reading the newspaper.
But the industry saw one of its worst years in 2009, purely monetarily speaking. It was a disastrous opening as Delhi-6 and Chandni Chowk to China, both big budget, banner films tanked 2 days after their release. This is one thing I dislike about the new “multiplex” culture. The fate of the film is decided in the first 2 and half days of the movie’s release itself. With pressured distributors and screen owners, and the sneaky critics, breathing under your neck, the film is barely given its gestation period for the audience to watch it. Now everyone goes with pre conceived notions or expectations into a theatre. Although the multiplex revolution has done more good than bad, opening a gamut of new film genres in India and the promotion of independent cinema in India, but it is the industry’s economy that is getting affected, indirectly snatching a film of its respect in the very first 12 screenings all over the nation. Then the industry witnessed one of the largest legal feuds even to have occurred in the entertainment sector. The Producers v/s. Multiplexes strike. The producer’s guild of India had a tiff with the multiplexes over the percentage of profits shared between them, so they pull the strings of all the releases for the next 2 months, from early April to early June. The dry spell was broken by Sabir Khan’s Kambakkht Ishq; which did amazingly well at the Box-Office, but failed to create any cinematic magic, due to its shallow appraoch. The only explanation I have for this is if you present a waif on the street who cannot remember the last time he had a square meal, with bread crumbs, he is going to jump at it. Such is the mind of the Indian mass. Other films like Billu, London Dreams, Dil Bole Hadippa, Jail, Blue, What’s Your Raashee, and Kurbaan, which were touted to be magnum opuses and super grosser, failed to strike a chord with the masses, nor with the bank. They sank without a trace, probably even going to losses. There were a few Average grosser at the B.O., and they purely made it halfway due to sincerity in film concepts, unlike other larger than life banners, who somehow manage to be at the helm of the industry, in spite of their products being mutated versions of Hollywood DVD’s. (Hint, hint). Anyways, the average performances were, Paa, Roket Singh- Salesman of the year, Wake Up Sid (its actually very good to see a big banner like Dharma outsource a youth-oriented crew, plunge further into plain production and come up with a product as simple and honest as this; commendable decision Mr. Johar. I just hope he was really behind it), Luck By Chance, which is another sincere, under rated film, that did not get its due in terms of box office success; and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. To see a film maker like Raj Kumar Santoshi (Andaz Apna Apna, Legend of Bhagat Singh, Khakhee, Lajja, Pukar) come up with this, makes you want to cringe, and the worst bit being, he is sort of successful with goofy junk like that. These films just broke even with their budgets. Now, the only 5 films that managed to make an impact both, cinematically and at the cash registers, in this disastrous year would have to be (in order of highest grossing), 3 Idiots (318 crores) (salutations to the cast and crew; who are probably having the last laugh right now at the cost of the infamous Chetan Bhagat), and then the simple and sweet Love Aaj Kal (85 crores), Imitiaz Ali continues his lucky streak, followed by Boney Kapoor’s Salman Khan starrer, Wanted (83 crores), which surprised everyone at the collections’ table. Then arrived the ruthless Kaminey (67 crores), not much that can be said about the genius in Vishal Bhardwaj; followed by Dev D (24 crores), (I maintain that Anurag Kashyap is one of the most well-thought and finest film makers this country will see for a while, he can be compared to the likes of Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal, and fits into the Bhardwaj and Bhansali bracket in this age; it would not be fair to write just 2 lines, so another article some other time).
Well, all we can wait for now is a good year ahead, with Anurag Basu’s “Kites”- May 21, Prakash Jha’s “Rajneeti”- June 4, Mani Ratnam’s “Raavana”- June 18, Vipul Shah’s “Action Replay”, Sanay Leela Bhansali’s “Guzaarish”- November 17, Farah Khan’s “Tees Maar Khan”- December 24; and many more.