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Realistic cinema comes a long way...

By: Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Almost three decades ago, art house cinema, or the 'parallel film movement' as was known in those days, never found a strong foothold in Bollywood. Realistic cinema worked in spurts, in select cities across the nation. Why, I distinctly remember, art house cinema never found an extensive theatrical release then, limiting the film to a handful of cinemas in metros and a few centres here and there.

A majority of financiers weren't interested in funding realistic films because the returns were bare minimum. Just not lucrative enough, they echoed. Distributors weren't interested in acquiring the films since the returns weren't guaranteed. A majority of theatres too weren't interested in exhibiting those films. The exhibitors were of the opinion that the aam junta tilted more towards escapist cinema and the returns, they added, were barely there for art movies.

Times have changed today!

We have four realistic/slice-of-life films running across various movieplexes across the nation: Parzania, Traffic Signal and the two new releases -- Black Friday and Undertrial. With the invasion of satellite television, the mindset of the viewer has undergone a change for the better. Having unlimited access to the best of entertainment shows/soaps/programs/films from across the world, the viewer has cultivated a taste beyond the usual masala.

The icing on the cake is the mushrooming of multiplexes in India. They provide an outlet to exhibit all kinds of cinema. Today, cinema is like a buffet -- it's for you to choose what you want on your plate.

Having grown up on a diet of all kinds of films, I was spellbound when I watched Black Friday more than a year ago. It was a powerful celluloid interpretation of a powerful book and I couldn't stop discussing it wherever I went. It left me stunned and speechless. The film provided answers to the questions that kept haunting me then.

The pirated VCDs/DVDs of Black Friday were in circulation several months ago, but that only worked to its advantage. No one expected the film to fetch a hurricane-like start like Dhoom 2 or Krrish, so its 20%-25% start didn't raise eyebrows either. The unanimous reaction after the conclusion of the first show was overwhelming. The film has worked with connoisseurs of cinema as well as those who wanted a taste of reality. Saturday was better than Friday and Sunday was better than Saturday. Monday was steady at several multiplexes. As things stand today, its business in Mumbai will be the best, partly because the identification with the premise is tremendous. Also, the glowing reviews in the media have only helped the film grow gradually!

The second realistic film, Undertrial, struck a chord at several screens. Released in limited shows in limited screens, the film has been sold for low prices since the cost has been minimal. While the producers should make a profit [a foreign company has acquired the international rights, hence it was not released Overseas], the collections showed a rise at several screens as days progressed.

This film too should have the best returns from Mumbai mainly!

[Weekend: February 10-12, 2006]

A majority of medium-budget films produced by the Bhatts not only fetched an encouraging start, but also worked big time at the box-office. But HOLIDAY proved an exception. What factors must've contributed to the thanda response? The not-as-inspiring star cast? The far-from-exciting promos? The dull pre-release buzz?

So many theories crop up the moment a film falls flat. If the cast was the sole deciding factor, then Shikhar, Family and Zinda should've embarked on a record-breaking start. Also, haven't the Bhatts delivered hits without banking on big names? The reason why Holiday didn't work is because the promos didn't excite the viewer to rush to the nearby theatre. Besides, the word of mouth wasn't positive at all.

The second release, Mixed Doubles, came literally unannounced. A multiplex film basically, the irony was that even the multiplex crowd was unaware of its identity and arrival. The film was low, in fact very low on hype and that reflected in its business.

[Weekend: February 11-13, 2005]

After the success of Murder, Hawas, Girl Friend, Julie and Tauba Tauba, sex-based themes were considered 'safe' at the box-office. But post-Kis Kis Ki Kismat [Mallika Sherawat] and Naach [Antra Mali], that had skin show in abundance but failed to entice the cinegoers from Day 1, the producers suddenly woke up to reality. And with Sheesha and Chaaahat - Ek Nasha, the two new releases, failing to fetch a face-saving start, the film industry, especially those who had tremendous confidence on this genre, found themselves in a quandary.

Both Sheesha and Chaahat - Ek Nasha opened to poor numbers. The opening of Sheesha did come as a surprise primarily because the film was sold for fancy prices on the basis of its eye-catching promos. Also, the distributors were optimistic that this Neha Dhupia starrer would take a flying start, just the way Julie did.

On the other hand, Chaahat - Ek Nasha was more of an emotional film that had its share of titillation, but the makers preferred to publicize it as a sex-loaded flick. The new, bindaas look of Preeti Jhangiani loomed large on the posters of Chaahat - Ek Nasha, but its fate was worse than Sheesha at the box-office.

The third release, Humdum, was targeted at the multiplex crowd and also boasted of a refreshingly different theme. Despite its sudden release, the film had a comparatively better opening than the two releases of the week.

[Weekend: February 6-8, 2004]

Mehul Kumar's wake up call, Jaago, released in the first week of Month 2, didn't find many takers. Modeled on the lines of the maker's immensely successful Tirangaa and Krantiveer, the film industry was optimistic that Jaago might revive the theatrical business, which was going through a slump then. After all, Mehul Kumar was most comfortable attempting realistic fares in the garb of commercial cinema. And he did succeed twice, didn't he?

But the common man is just not interested in watching rapes, bullets, bloodshed, slaughter, violence, mayhem, riots, bomb blasts, scams on the big screen anymore. The Indian newspapers and news channels are full of it, so why spend money for watching them on the big screen? That went against Jaago!

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