December is the month when you try and rewind the year, sometimes even if you don’t want to. Some people think, what was good. Some tend to veer towards what went bad. While some, just out of habit, look for what was new in the year. What new would happen when mediocrity is appreciated, laziness is looked up to and passion is missing? For our country and society as a whole, average is the best! Above average is frowned upon. And brilliance is something everyone is scared of. We are not comfortable being associated with any kind of brilliance. Why? Chasing brilliance consists risk. And since our childhood we have been programmed to not take risks.
Another important reason why we don’t like brilliance is that, it takes time to deliver brilliance. We have so many aspirations to fulfill (others’ primarily) that we always have paucity of time. We don’t want to sit, pause, think and then proceed. You see, we have so much to achieve! So when this rules us, our families, our work-place and everything associated with us becomes mediocre. Thus, everyone’s life becomes exact replica of each other’s. Like we were printed in a Xerox machine. Then how would you expect something new to take place?
Anyhow, let’s keep the cynicism aside because there are a few change agents and thank god for them. Let us look at Bollywood, for example. So what has changed if at all in 2016 for Bollywood? Apart from Shahrukh Khan in stubble, for starters. (Yes, I am a fanboy.) For that, let’s recollect the movies which came out and made it big or failed. We had box office breakers like ‘Sultan‘ and ‘M S Dhoni’ hagiography. ‘Dangal’ is much anticipated in the same league. We had damp squibs like ‘Wazir’, ‘Mohenjodaro’, ‘Fan’, ‘Rock On II’ & ‘Mirzya’ to name a few, which were much awaited but failed miserably. Then the mainstream provided us with some gems like, ‘Airlift’, ‘Neerja’, ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’, ‘Kapoor & Sons’, ‘Udta Punjab’, ‘Pink’ and ‘Dear Zindagi’. They were winners quite clearly, with only exception of ‘Fan’. I am still decoding the failure.
However, there were a slew of films made on shoe-string budgets backed by steel-willed producers, supreme writing, brilliant directors and actors. To name a few, ‘Chauranga’ by Bikash Mishra, ‘Chalk & Duster’ by Jayant Gilatar, ‘Aligarh’ by Hansal Mehta, ‘Waiting’ by Anu Menon, ‘Dhanak’ by Nagesh Kukunoor, ‘Parched’ by Leena Yadav, ‘Umrika’ by Prashant Nair & ‘Moh Maya Money’ by Munish Bharadwaj. Perhaps a few of the films listed here are not known by all but all of them got to see their releases, were raved by critics and since were made with a lot less money than an average Bollywood movie. They secured a break-even. Some of them did make some profits too, which was heartening.
To give credit where it’s due, mainstream Bollywood also worked hard to give us some splendid cinema experience this year. Films like Neerja, Pink, Kapoor & Sons were risky subjects. But all of them were marvelously treated. The labour which had gone into writing, filming, acting was quite evident when we saw the films. The writers got importance! Slowly, but surely. Another win for the year 2016.
And that was the most exciting thing about Bollywood 2016 – Small independent films! Coming out of nowhere and giving us something which needed intellectual and mental chewing/grazing on the piece of work, savoring its bitter, sour or sweet taste, to make it soft and tender before we swallow it and enjoy. The first thing which fascinates me with such films are the producers. Think about them. Think about the people who put money behind such projects where they are not even sure that their money will come back, let alone make any profit. The sheer effort and such decisions need applauds from the public and from the average cinema-goers. And in the year 2016 it increased.
2016 almost felt like the era in Indian film history in 70’s when a slew of independent filmmakers started making “parallel cinema” commonly known as “Art films”. Those so called “Art films” are as much our pride as a “Sholay”. It never is the case of either this or that. The mainstream we can’t keep dissing because that gives the money the industry needs. Those big budget “mindless” entertainers (if at all) are also a sad necessity for the industry. But at the same time impetus to such small scale but with large content films has to be given. Not to fetch Oscars but to satiate a section of cinema-goers. They too want something. This kind of cinema needs nurturing like never before. Variety is what we want when we look up to our entertainment industry.
The more, the different – the better.
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