This article was published some time ago....it tries to put some essence into bollywood....which is otherwise rot.
A band of small town boys with big-time talent is giving Bollywood a completely new turbo spin. Tinseltown’s glitzy ivory towers —propped up by traditional film industry families trapped in a maze of old habits — are in danger of being toppled by the increasingly persistent winds of change blowing over the Hindi cinema landscape. For proof, just take a look at the promos of Omkara, with scruffy Ajay Devgan striding across a dustbowl Hindi heartland landscape, as Sukhvinder Singh chants ‘‘Omkara, Omkara…’’ Transporting Shakespeare’s Moore (the film is an adaptation of Othello) from Venice to Meerut takes imagination and chutzpah. But director Vishal Bharadwaj has never lacked either. His first film, Makdee, was a children’s film that didn’t look and feel like a children’s film, and he followed it with Maqbool, setting the story of Macbeth in the Mumbai underworld, with two amoral soothsaying cops as the three witches.
So, is the end of the era of vacuous designer films at hand? Are fluffy fantasies facing a fade-out? Films like last year’s Bunty Aur Babli and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and this year’s run-away success Rang De Basanti, to name just three, would suggest that. These films have sent those who play the moviemaking game by the archaic rules of mainstream Mumbai cinema scurrying for cover. P
opular Hindi cinema is today as much about hinterland politics, small town quandaries an perpetually shifting mofussil dynamics as about woolly-headed reveries.
Film makers like Bharadwaj, Prakash Jha, Sudhir Mishra, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia, among others, have yanked a large chunk of Mumbai cinema away from its pretty, glamour-driven plasticity and invested it with gritty grey cells. This is a band of outsiders who grew up in “real India”, in small towns in the Hindi heartland. “Outsiders bring with them stories that are unusual, surprising, and firmly rooted in the real world,” says Varanasi boy Anurag Kashyap, a writer-director educated in Dehradun, Gwalior and Delhi’s Hansraj College. “These are exciting times for directors who have their own way of telling stories,” says lyricist, poet and filmmaker Gulzar, who penned the superhit songs of Shaad Ali’s Bunty Aur Babli with the intention of learning “the language of new Mumbai cinema.”
It is not just unusual songs and nifty folksy choreography that have cast a magic spell. A string of stylish, cinematically rich films made in the last few years by gifted storytellers from mofussil India have shown up the vacuity of the mush and mayhem that is dished out by conventional Mumbai-bred producers and directors. Some of these off-mainstream films have been runaway hits, others like Kabeer Kaushik’s UP underworld thriller Seher or Chandan Arora’s small town middle-class marital comedy Main Meri Patni Aur Woh, both set and shot in Lucknow, and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil, a love story located against the backdrop of murky university politics, have failed commercially. But they have all helped Mumbai cinema mature and diversify. So, are we witnessing signs of a return to the golden era of Hindi cinema? Says Gulzar: “Today’s films are more cinematic than the films of the 1950s. The latter were essentially literary in nature. The new independent Mumbai film-maker is more adept at using the entire range of the medium.” “Small town boys are taking over everywhere — in cricket, the corporate world, advertising and academia,” says Sudhir Mishra, whose cinematic ode to the politically volatile 1970s, Hazaaron..., is now a benchmark for Hindi cinema that dares to go beyond the realms of mere entertainment. “The Mumbai film industry is the last bastion of feudalism,”says Mishra. “It is only when this bastion is dismantled will real talent flow in freely.” Kashyap agrees: “Bollywood’s top shots are still mainly from within the film families.
But in a decade or so, small town boys will call the shots. From producers to directors, writers to technicians, they will be everywhere.” This had to happen,” says Kashyap, maker of such talked about films as Paanch and Black Friday. “The change is now too fast and furious for the Bollywood big guns to control.” Bunty Aur Babli, says Kashyap, is evidence of that, albeit in only a small way. “Even a banner like Yash Raj Films is today forced to move away from Mumbai and Switzerland, and head into the heart of UP,” says the man who co-authored the script of Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya, besides writing dialogues for Mani Ratnam’s Yuva. “The Bombay boys have lost touch with reality,” says Mishra, who grew up in Lucknow and spent his formative years on the campus of Sagar University in Madhya Pradesh. “Their arrogance is completely unfounded. They wear their illiteracy like a badge of honour. It is ridiculous.” Mishra makes a distinction between “Real Mumbaikars” and “Juhu Mumbaikars”: “Guys like Ashutosh Gowariker and Makarand Deshpande are real Mumbai boys — they are as culturally rooted as anybody else, steeped in Marathi culture. And yet make the most of Mumbai’s cosmopolitanism.”
Indeed, that is precisely why the outsiders — now with free access to mass media training — are on a stronger wicket than local practitioners. “The reference points of Mumbai-born filmmakers are severely limited,” says Prakash Jha, whose hard-hitting films have catapulted the boondocks of Bihar into mainstream Bollywood space. “People who have grown up within the confines of the industry can never understand the nuances of life in other parts of India,” says Jha. Adds Kashyap: “Mumbai-based filmmakers simply haven’t seen enough of life. T
hey have grown up surrounded by Bollywood films. Their storytelling is, therefore, simply too stale to pass muster.” “The world that Mumbai’s conventional filmmakers create is plastic, artificial, soulless,” says Gulzar. “Boys like Vishal, Rakeysh and Shaad know the lanes and bylanes of the land. Their sensibility springs from the ethos of middle-class India, in turn reflecting the vitality in their films.” Says Jha: “I could never have made the films that I have had I not been born and brought up in Bihar.” Like, on Haasil, Dhulia was quoted:“I don’t think college politics in Mumbai, or anywhere else, is as volatile as it is in the Hindi belt. I had seen all this as a student in Allahabad. I had to base my film there.”
Indeed, writers and filmmakers who have learnt the ropes from life have an inherent advantage over those who have never ventured outside their cosy circle. “Boys who come to Mumbai from outside,” says Jha, “have great hunger. They have a point to prove.” Which they have already proved beyond an iota of doubt. The future of Hindi cinema is here, not in the hands of Bollywood’s commercial satraps. “Mumbai is no longer the centre of our movie universe,” says Kashyap. “You do not have to be in Mumbai to make films. You can make films no matter where you live in India.” The shift is complete.