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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Notes, Reflections, Fulminations & Hullabaloo.... Our Films in 2007

Two thousand and seven has been a good year for Indian films. Why do I think so? For one, this year has seen more of what is commonly called middle-of-the-road or alternate cinema, and quality products which had something or the other to recommend them for - on a global platform.
Indian films have almost always been straight-jacketed under two broad categories, mainstream cinema and parallel (sometimes strangely called 'art') cinema. I used to protest this simplistic division even as a young viewer, as the divisions are hardly tenable. The so called art- cinema movement that happened to rise amidst much fanfare and excitement surrounding the novelty of the themes and the executions, died its slow but natural death in the late Eighties, as the cliches and the formulaic approaches made the majority of such offerings stagnate in the viewers' reception or, worse still, in archives and cans!
Films, I believe, can never survive if they do not appeal to an audience, as a filmmaker must communicate with his work of art to his audience, regardless of its size. Due to the spiralling costs involved in the business of movies, it is indeed a lucrative proposition to attract as many eye-balls as possible, and, in the present context, in as little time. The business pragmatism may well be so, yet it is unthinkable to hit upon a unique and foolproof scheme to achieve this. Unfortunately, our Hindi filmmakers (the largest chunk of Indian movies are made in Hindi; commonly referred to as Bollywood as they have been continually churned out by Bombay, now christened Mumbai) do not understand this. Over the years, there has been a deluge of mindless, formulaic films (unlike genre films of Hollywood) that try to repeat earlier success stories of filmed offerings, or even the theatre of the masses. Crass executions further dilute the inane plots, and hence a whole range of masala films or commercial potboilers have been thrust upon us viewers. Needless to say, the producers and distributors, coupled by corrupt financiers and the superficial, glamour-conducive star system plagued the system of filmmaking and it has been a pseudo-realistic industry, a mirage of creativity. Our stories were unreal, and so were our films.
The advent of the multiplexes, in the late Nineties, the official granting of 'industry status' to the filmmaking sector, and the willingness of the 'youngblood' makers to create films for a niche audience have given a big boost to our films. In the Twenty-first Century, the scenario looks quite promising. In an earlier post I had talked about the exciting ventures that we audience got to see in the year 2006. Last year, luckily, the trend is seen continuing. Actors like Aamir Khan and ShahRukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are found to endorse the concept movies; they have reaped profits too, for themselves and the production/distribution houses. Films like 'Taare Zameen Par', 'ChakDe! India', 'Cheeni Kum', 'Johnny Gaddaar', 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd', 'Life in a ... Metro', 'Khoya Khoya Chand', 'The Blue Umbrella', 'Jab We Met', 'Black Friday' and 'Bheja Fry' have been toasted for reasons aplenty. Not that they were all perfect as finished products; they aren't so blemishless that they would be beyond the faultfinders' criticism. But they all had one thing in common - the urge to move beyond the stereotypes, in one way or the other. They all were about real people, or real situations, or way beyond the real - to etch out an appealing canvas and help us let go of our staid conventions. Hats off to the new age screenplay writers and dialogue writers (people like Jaideep Sahni and Prasoon Joshi have been bringing on a subtle but perceptible change even in the big production houses' products)! And there has never been any dearth of talent in the acting world or in the world of skilled technicians. We are finally moving beyond the ghettoed dominions of stars and starlets, the wide horizon of storytelling (which has always been our forte in the literary world) beckons, the makers now have to spread their wings and make us all take a flight!

[PostScript: Apart from the eight films noted above, there have been some other Indian films too which I loved watching....... in an earlier post I did mention The Bong Connection as the best Indian film of the year, I was really impressed by it - yet I did not mention it above because it was not made in Mumbai, and Anjan Dutt's film is both in Bengali and English as it traces the diasporic experience. Another of his engaging films was released in 2007 - 'Bow Barracks Forever!' - about the Anglo-Indian community in Kolkata, and hence filmed in Kolkta itself, has been left out as it is essentially an English language film, also I left out the diasporic films 'The Namesake', 'Loins of Punjab Presents' and 'Provoked'. Other mentionables, to a lesser degtree, were 'Anwar', 'Guru', 'No smoking', 'Manorama Six Feet Under', 'Gandhi My Father', 'Water' (which again was actually a Canadian entry at the Oscars), 'Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii', 'Say Salaam India', 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa', 'Traffic Signal', 'Namastey London', 'Yatra', 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal', 'Eklavya - the Royal Guard', 'Om Shanti Om', 'Saawariya' and 'Aajaa Nachle', some of which had more flaws and warts all over them than the high points,
and the rest couldn't go the whole nine yards because of crass conventions playing out rather largely.]

Johnny Gaddar

Taare Zameen Par


Satyaki said...

It is said that the films deserve the audience, and an audience deserves the films made for it.......
So, if it is a fact that our films are finally showing the signs of growing up, it is probably because because of the audience now growing up; We have obviously outgrown the garish melodramas that have always been the staple diet for the common audience base across the nation.

kunal said...

Filmmakers are finally out of the stereotype closet. They are thinking "out of the box" and its interesting to see them finally putting out work .. which is not "actor-centric", of which hindi movies have been infected for a long time. Movies today make a mark through their scripts and not on big flashy names .. for instance "bheja fry"! one of the latest flicks i saw and enjoyed was "welcome", which i think was fairly good work done both on actors and director part. Awesome update anindo .. lets hope 2008 brings it all required to raise the bar.

Mehul said...

That was a great write-up! And it obviously makes us aware of the great year that 2007 has been in terms the refreshing offerings from the Indian filmmakers. However, the producers-distributors fraternity has been crying hoarse that 2007 has been a bad year for them as many of the big-budget ventures, in which a lot of money had been tied up, failed badly. That, my dear, is the paradox of the Indian film scene! And I am afraid such paradoxes will rule for quite sometime even in the future, there's no escaping the market reality!
I hope greater pragmatism dawns in Mumbai, and quality products can then even be approved of by the trade pundits to call it a rich harvest in every sense.

arpita sharma said...

Among the ones u have listed, I genuinely think Taare Zameen Par, ChakDe!India, Johnny Gaddaar, The Blue Umbrella, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and Black Friday were the ground-breaking films that were released in 2007. Even Bheja Fry was an experiment that worked well, though the basic premise was a borrowed one.
It is indeed a commendable effort to have gone through the whole lot of films to come up with a round-up article like this! Hats off, dude! Though I personally feel that some of the ones mentioned by u are not really worth the toasting and the cheering, after all making a truly 'hatke' film is not that easy. However, I agree with Kunal who says that thinking out of the box has come into being with much cerdibility and verve.
If u ask me whether u have missed out on any worthy film, I would have to say I miss the name of Parzania on your list. And, among the also rans, Shootout at Lokhandwala could've been mentioned, no?

abhishek said...

Among the hundred and fifteen or so movies released in 2007, the majority were qualitatively poor, and the blockbusters weren't many too (as has been the trend in recent times), so it beats me how everybody is seemingly ecstatic about the year being quite promising!
Yes, I fully agree with you on the superative offerings which are rightly being acclaimed and need to have greater visibility worldwide, with wider releases. But even the year 2005 or 2006 were no exception, about half a dozen good films do get noticed by buffs each year amidst all the dismal showings!
I disagree with film journos like Nikhat Kazmi who hail 2007 year as a landmark year for good movies. Though she has also pointed out ina TOI article that 2008 seems to have bigger challenges, the challenge of keeping up with the trend of good/experimnental/reality-driven cinema.

sayantan said...

Hey Anindo!!! Loved to read your post!!! Yes, over the years the quality of movies have improved a lot!!! (a lot in the recent in few years which is GREAT for us, the audience)

Hope this trend continues......

A lot of credit must go for it to the new blood, that is the new directors who are experimenting with untouched topics and producers and actors showing their guts by supporting such projects......

My Top 10 BEST Indian Movies for the year 2007 are as follows.....

(These are my choices and it is not necessary that everybody should agree with me...I have NOT seen all movies and there is a high chance that I may have missed good movies in this way...)

1. Guru
2. Black Friday
3. Parzania
4. Honeymoon Travels
5. The Namesake
6. Life In A... Metro
7. Cheeni Kum
8. Chak De! India
9. The Blue Umbrella
10.Taare Zameen Par

(Names according to release date.)

Rajeev said...

Cool post!
I loved all the movies that u have mentioned, dude!
And that endears this blogpost all the more.
Kudos to u!

Akshay G. said...

Loved the write-up (though came to it much later)! Keep it up!!!!