Except for national tragedies and the recently discovered fractious tendencies of its members, the Hindi film industry stops for nothing and nobody. The conveyer belt ground to a halt in deference to the November attacks three years ago; before that, a nasty battle between producers, distributors and exhibitors resulted in a strike that resulted in very few new releases. Given the number of flops that followed the strike, the nation seems to have realized that there is life—and a more interesting one at that—beyond movies.
Only one more national-level phenomenon can bring mighty Bollywood to its knees. Cricket has emerged as a game changer not just for its practitioners but also for the film industry. Producers now routinely defer releases during the ICC Cricket World Cup—which runs all the way till 2 April this year—and the Indian Premier League. This trend has vacated the movie halls for movies that would otherwise have struggled to get released.
So hard times are ahead for film critics and hard-core film goers. We have such gems to gaze upon as S, a horror film starring a bunch of unknowns. The synopsis of the 4 March release is enough to make you skip the matches between New Zealand and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and West Indies: “On April 5th 2010, 5 students were punished on Campus. They were never seen again. No Details. No Witnesses. No Wicket gamesEvidence. Until now.”
Wait and watch: Big-ticket films on the same scale as Guzaarish will not be released during the ICC World Cup.
Other films are rushing to the box office to seduce cricket fans away from the television set and the sports bar. Titles such as Yeh Faasley, Yeh Dooriyan and Shagird, a Govinda starrer, don’t hold much promise, but members of the Guilty Pleasure Society will be rubbing their hands in glee. We have to wait till 1 April (Game, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Kangna Ranaut) for a movie that stars recognizable names and doesn’t look like it was shot at the producer’s farmhouse.
Members of the Guilty Pleasure Society hold that some films are so bad they’re actually good. Such people throng the theatres for anything starring Himesh Reshammiya, and they eagerly track movies with unknown names, hackneyed storylines and aspirations of greatness. Of course, there can be diamonds in the dirt, but you have to dig very hard and for very long to find them. Sadly enough, these films more often than not deserve their fate. Do they also deserve mockery? Perhaps as much as the average self-important Bollywood movie that costs too much money and says nothing new.
The bar for so-terrible-they-are-actually-enjoyable films keeps getting raised with every passing year. Not too long ago, the populist Hindi film was an object of ridicule for the English-speaking elite. Even seasoned movie goers didn’t fool themselves into thinking that they were witnessing a work of art. The last two decades have seen the ascent of Bollywood as a cultural behemoth that casts its shadow over both salons and the streets. Almost everybody takes Bollywood so seriously nowadays, especially the people who work in the industry, that the idea of mediocrity itself has undergone massive revisions. In saner times, the creations of leading Bollywood film-makers such as Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar would have been viewed with greater scepticism than they are nowadays.
There’s no pleasure in watching the latest rehash of a formula film, only guilt at having spent so much on it.
Nandini Ramnath is the film critic of Time Out Mumbai (www.timeoutmumbai.net).
Write to Nandini at email@example.com