I love bleak movies. That’s a terrible passion to feed in a country that produces a world’s supply of gaudy, decibel-defying, happily-ever-after blockbusters.
Some of you might say things are changing. Audiences appreciate good cinema too. Hell, there’s even evidence to support your view. UTV’s tie-up with Palador Pictures may have been called off but Ronnie Screwvala quietly launched his world movie channel, World Movies, a couple of weeks ago. In April, NDTV plans to launch its world cinema channel Lumière, which will air festival-circuit films. Palador meanwhile just launched a five-DVD collection of Francois Truffaut’s films (see Page 20). The recently-held French film festival even travelled to Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Bye-bye happiness: And the Oscar for the best film goes to a beautiful, bleak film.
Sorry but I don’t think that’s enough.
Take the best picture line-up for the Oscars: Atonement, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton and Juno. Unless you visited a theatre in the US, you haven’t seen any of these films.
Now this is my current dream list of films. All bleak and bloody. Think Coen Brothers; George Clooney in his Lab (life after Batman); unprotected sex and teenage pregnancy; guilt, crime and shattered limbs. Most of them come with tag lines like this one, from The New York Times review: “There Will Be Blood is rated R. As the title warns, there will be blood.”
Alas, we’re unlikely to see any of these except the one that wins the Best Picture Oscar (though some independent distributor might buy the rights to Michael Clayton because of Clooney). Sony Pictures and Paramount Films of India do have the distribution rights to three of these five films. But why should they release them in India? Which happy Indian will watch them?
Paramount’s line-up of biggies for 2008 is a dramatic indicator of what works for cinemagoers here:Iron Man (comic book hero), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Harrison Ford acts, Steven Spielberg directs), Incredible Hulk (comic book hero), Kung Fu Panda (I’m sure the husband will want to see this first day, first show), Mummy 3 (I want to see this one too), Wanted (comic book mini-series and Angelina Jolie), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (comic book hero but at least director Guillermo Del Toro has Pan’s Labyrinth on his filmography) and finally, the guaranteed husband-puller, Madagascar 2.
At Sony Pictures, exhibitors are constantly asking about “Bond 23”, the working title of the next Bond film, which releases in November. Their big releases in 2007 were Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3.
Despite all the big launches, Hollywood films make up just 4% of the total box-office collections. An English film is a true hit when it’s dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu and all four versions do decent business. Now can you imagine a theatre full of people watching the Telugu version of Atonement?
But every once in a while, distributors can surprise you. I recently dragged my unsuspecting mother to watch the brilliant Eastern Promises (it’s directed by David Cronenberg so there’s profanity and extreme violence) at the neighbourhood theatre. I also saw Cronenberg’s A History of Violence in a Mumbai cinema.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not all bleak.
PS: We may not get our fix of global cinema yet, but one thing that has definitely gone global is the Indian workplace. See our cover story.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org