Is this the end of Bollywood Cinema?

Bollywood or Hindi cinema has been mainstay of entertainment for Indians since ages. The biggest stars even today are from Bollywood; Amitabh Bachchan’s films ran from Bihar to what was then Bombay to Bangalore while South stars had a limited market. Chiranjeevi does not have a market outside Telugu states, while a few Tamil stars have some market in Telugu states, but none of them have been consistent. Take the case of Suriya, Karthi or even Vishal, their last hit in Telugu was ages ago.  So Bollywood has been, is and will be the biggest entertainment medium of the nation.

Let me discuss a few points on why I feel Bollywood is still a force to reckon with and why it will bounce back.

Are Pan Indian films the way forward?

No, they are not. The only films which run across India are Bollywood films, a south film has to be dubbed even in other southern languages to reach out to the audience, A Hindi film can run housefull in Palakkad for weeks in regular shows while a Malayalam film without dubbing won’t find audience outside the native speakers when released in the other Southern states.

After Baahubali: The Beginning, there was lot of talk about how Pan Indian films are the flavour. Guess what which film did well after Baahubali, it was the second part, there was no South films which impressed the audience on such a large scale.

Films like Saaho, Radhe Shyam did not even bring in crowd even in their home state let aside their other markets. I am sure nobody remembers films like Prabhu Deva starrer Tutak Tutak Tutiya,  Rana Daggubati’s Haathi Mere Saathi, Mohanlal’s Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, Sudeep’s Pailwaan and Vikrant Rona, Chiranjeevi’s Sye Raa Narasimha and many more. No one even remembers them in their home market. Like in case of Sudeep and Chiranjeevi, they have attempted so many Pan Indian films that it got panned even by their home state.

Dubbing in four languages does not mean, the film is Pan Indian. The content has to be right and producers should have the money to pump it aggressively. Take the case of Har Har Mahadev, the makers claimed it was a Pan Indian film, yet no posters in Malayalam or Tamil were printed, nor was even the film released there.

There was, is and will be anomalies like Ek Duje Ke Liye, Hindustani but that does not mean Bollywood is in danger. For Telugu their biggest hit of 2022 was RRR. Films which starred their biggest stars were turned out to be dud right from Mahesh Babu, to Chiranjeevi to Nagarjuna none could capture the seats at the theatre.

Gangubai Kathiwadi made more money than Telugu’s Bheemla Nayak and Tamil’s Valimai which featured the biggest stars of respective industries and their collections could not match the female centric Hindi movies. In fact Valimai’s Hindi collections were so poor that they could not even recover the costs of poster printing.

Does Bollywood have to make more native stories?

There is no clear cut answer to this, because Bollywood has to cater to a wide range of audience from Kolkata to Chennai, in fact major parts of this area do not even have primary language as Hindi.

If you see the success of Baahubali and KGF series both of them are not rooted in specific milieu, so when people claim films with native or rootedness work, it seems a bit difficult to digest considering the data which is available to us.

Will only event films work?

The answer to this is also no. Gangubai Kathiawadi and Drishyam 2 are two of the biggest hits of this year, not only in India but also in overseas. Bollywood has to make diverse films with the right budget which can cater to large number of audience across various section.

Are ticket prices the reason for audience alienating?

Now this is again a complex issue, right pricing of ticket is something which is what producers, distributors and exhibitors have to figure out. One thing I am sure of is that the audience does not have to problem to pay for tickets if we look at collections of Brahmastra and lower pricing will not help a film, if you look at the collections of Chup.

These are my two cents on why Bollywood can still survive, I have avoided mentioning the points that Bollywood should do right as I feel that there are better and well informed filmmakers to do that.

To conclude I would like to say that, people like to simplify things and predict things, but then we need to look at the bigger picture and patterns, right now it is not indicating that this is the end of Bollywood. It is just a phase and am sure it will bounce back again

Bheeshma Parvam (2022) Malayalam Movie Review: When The Mahabharata Meets Godfather

The Godfather as a movie has been inspiring filmmakers across the globe even today. In India there have been many variations of Godfather which have been made right from Feroz Khan’s stylish Dharmatma, to Mani Ratnam’s gritty Nayagan, to Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar. 

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KGF Chapter 2 (2022) Movie Review: A Tale of Men & Mines

Kannada industry is known for remaking films from other languages. In terms of creativity it is not on par with the Malayalam film industry in terms of output. Similarly it does not have the scale of Tamil or Telugu cinema to execute large scale entertainers. But then things are improving to an extent in the last few years. KGF Chapter 1 when released was a surprise hit outside Karnataka as well. This first film went head on head with Bollywood’s ZERO which featured SRK. The audience lapped up KGF Chapter 1 and rejected the same old romantic Bollywood films.

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BEAST (2022) Tamil Movie Review: Guns, Swag and Vijay in a Nelson world

Commercial cinema in India is a tricky issue, especially so in Tamil and Telugu where directors need to tread a path wherein they need to balance their storytelling and pander to fans. While Vijay has been consistently among the most popular stars in Tamil cinema, with a solid mass fan following, Nelson on the other hand is a director who is known for dark comedy, a genre which has not been explored much in Tamil cinema. I was looking forward for this combination, expecting something exciting to emerge out of it.

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RRR (2022) Telugu Movie Review: Andhra Extrrravaganza

RRR has been in the news since the time it was announced and rightly so as it is not everyday you see two superstars of Telugu industry coming together. Facing numerous delays due to the pandemic the film has finally hit the theatres today.

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Sooryavanshi (2021) Movie Review: This Needed More Masala

I decided to watch Sooryavanshi at a theatre near my home as the theatre had just opened 3 days before lockdown and was soon shutdown. Strangely during the pandemic I was consuming a lot of masala films and rewatching films which gave me comfort and gave a sense of poetic justice to me.

Sooryavanshi could not have come at a better time when one of the most celebrated cops in the country has been under scrutiny and there is a slugfest around him due to politics and an ex-commissioner is missing . thus the film comes at the right time when it gives us hope that Mumbai will bounce back and so will Mumbai Police.

Rohit Shetty started his career with the actioner Zameen which was a Bollywood take on Kandahar Hijack, but Rohit changed his tracks later and met with success due to his comedy films. As far as I know Rohit Shetty hasn’t worked again on original scripts (apart from Zameen) as most of his film have been adaptations of Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films but with his take on it.

Sooryavanshi to be fair in most parts is an original film but has strong shades of Thuppakki, with Akshay Kumar having featured in the Hindi version (Holiday) of the same. Now let us be honest, politics or subtlety is not a strong point of Rohit Shetty. This is where Rohit flatters the most.

Sooryavanshi starts with this idea where Pakistanis are marrying Hindus and waiting to carry of sinister plan against India. Love Jihad check. The film mentions that Bombay/Mumbai has been under attack since ’93 by Pakistani sponsored terrorists, which is true and also tells us that the hero had lost his parents due to the Bombay Blasts, the largest attack ever carried by terrorists pre 9/11.

We have Kabir Shroff (Javed Jaffrey) obviously an ode to one of Mumbai’s supercops, Rakesh Maria, who along with his team from Mumbai police solved the case within a record time. But strangely there is no mention of Bombay riots, it is as if the makers are scared to utter the incident or that they think that it did not affect millions of Mumbaikars. But then I guess this is now part of rewriting history.

Then for some reason the makers confuse ISIS with Pakistani terrorists and terrorism. This is followed by a mention of Padgha where these religious teacher is recruiting Indian Muslim youth to fight against the state, strangely we all know how the so called accused or perpetrators of crime were declared not guilty by the court but then I guess we need to toe the line of propaganda and our hero needs to deliver sermon on who is a good Muslim or bad Muslim.

Surprisingly the much touted helicopter scene is marred with bad vfx and compared to this I would still say the action sequence in 1994’s like in flms like Sab Se Bada Khiladi had much better aerial sequence.

Also Bollywood needs to stop remixing old songs, Tip Tip Barsa Pani is one of the worst picturised songs of late and it does not do any justice to the original and Katrina is nowhere near the league of Raveena. Also do not know why Katrina looks jaded in the movie.

In Singham and Simmba despite being alpha action movie, the lead female character had an objective to support hero here that is totally missing and in one scene it becomes misogynistic also when Sooryavanshi glances accusingly his wife when the security lapse was on the part of his team.

Now that we have done with the bad parts, let me come to the good parts. It emerges when Rohit Shetty stops taking himself seriously and goes full on Bollywood masala mode, beginning with the Hum Hindustani song and you know it is cheesy but that is the time when you start to enjoy the movie. From here on Rohit is in full control, bringing back Singham (Ajay Devgn) and Simmba (Ranveer Singh) to set up his cop universe.

This where we see Farhad Samji with their witty one liners like ” aa gaya Dev leke Gun”, wordplay reference to Ajay Devgn. From here on the film is irreverent with a bomb disposal scene which includes fun and tense moments in parts.

It is where the movie shines, when the focus is on Simmba and Singham and the action shifts to hand to hand combat and punchlines and boy it is what we missed about our movies, in the end hero saves the day.

Alas the last act comes tad too late, but it entertains.

Also a request, if you are watching this in a cinema hall, please follow the guidelines issued by local authorities and listen to the cinema ushers. They are doing their duty to keep a safe environment for you and other film buffs, show your vaccine certificate when asked, be seated in your allotted seats, keep your masks on and do not argue as to why you want to eat inside the theatre.

Be safe, stay safe and welcome back to the movies.

Aakrosh(1980): The Anger of the Voiceless

India is facing a challenge, we do not have vaccines, the Government is busy building a palace for Prime Minister Modi, while Indians all over the country are dying due to lack of oxygen, beds and vaccines. The Government is not paying heed to it has made this crisis worse and has hit the middle class and cities. This makes me wonder, what about people who do not have access to technology? How do they air their grievances? The prologue is related to the theme of the movie Aakrosh. What do the voiceless do when they are failed by the very system which is supposed to protect them?

Aakrosh begins as a legal thriller where we see Lahanya (Om Puri) being accused of murdering his wife and the film directly does not answer the question for a major part of the film. The film is not interested in the crime or condemning it, but more interested in how of it and not the why of it. 

Then we have Dusane (Amrish Puri) who is from the Tribal community but has been assimilated into the upper class society because of the position he holds. He knows he is a part of the society and shares the table with bigwigs because of his position. He is sure that he may be welcomed socially, but will never be a part of the upper caste club. 

Then we have Bhaskar Kulkarni (Naseeruddin Shah) a rookie lawyer whose father has groomed Dusane and is an idealistic who is navigating the world of caste, politics, and justice. The film is mostly depicted through the viewpoint of this protagonist 

At first, he is more concerned about his career and how it will affect his career as a lawyer. He is frustrated by what he thinks is a lack of cooperation by his client. He is met with silence everywhere he goes, he thinks that it is their arrogance or ungratefulness on how these people cannot work with this great system. What he does not know is the system is just to give a moral and legal cloak for those who are in power and can oppress those who do not have a voice. 

Bhaskar is an interesting protagonist. He is not someone who is trying to change the system, his belief in the system is intact. You cannot fault him, for the person he is. And because of the genetic advantage of being born in a certain caste, he does not have to face discrimination in his life. When he discovers the gutter of corruption and greed, he is shaken and scared at first. He gets to fight the system in his way only to be greeted with disillusionment. 

Nothing is black and white in this Govind Nihalani directorial debut where he is aided by the genius Vijay Tendulkar. This is not a film that gives any comfort. It is a film that causes you discomfort and makes you think that we all are part of the system and in a way, we also play an active part in this action. 

Om Puri as Lahanya delivers one of the finest performances in his career. The anger which comes due to helplessness is solely conveyed through his eyes, and way he cries at the end of the movie is so haunting. Om went on to do another angry man role with panache in Nihalani’s next Ardh Satya

Smita Patil‘s role sadly doesn’t have much scope to offer and it is sad she is just used as an ornamental piece in the film. 

Amrish Puri cast in a role that is a far cry from his usual Bollywood roles reminds me why he is such a good actor. Naseeruddin Shah as a young lawyer is a delight to watch. But to think of a him as a Marathi Brahmin guy requires suspension of disbelief. 

Govind has cast Marathi actors for non-important roles, but surprisingly for lead roles he went with a non-Marathi cast who do not look or talk like Marathis. Not that I am holding a grouse against him for this, but casting Marathi actors in key roles would have helped the film a lot.

That aside, Aakrosh is one of the best films to come out of India. Do give it a try. 

The film is streaming on Amazon Prime India and Hotstar (in a censored version)

 

Karnan (2021) Movie Review: The Missing C Factor

I remember watching Fandry in a packed theatre and the audience laughing at the character and his mishaps, but then came the gut-wrenching climax and the audience went numb because it exposed them. I cannot remember such a stunning silence after a movie, here I thought was a director who has failed but then he has done a much bigger job as he had shown us the mirror. 

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Kavalthurai Ungal Nanban (2021) Movie Review: The System and the Common Man

Kavalthurai Ungal Nanban (KUN) has been making some noise since it was released and it is presented by one of India’s best directors, Vetrimaaran I was waiting for the film to stream on OTT. The film is now streaming on Zee5. 

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