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Multiplex culture crippling Bollywood


Biswadeep Ghosh

It happened not long ago. Tired of the star system and big-budget films in which pomposity, and not enterprising cinematic creativity, was dominant, some makers of the Hindi film industry decided to make small and different movies. Created with an independent spirit, starring good actors who weren't necessarily A-list stars, and made on a small budget, these movies were supposed to remind us of the golden era of art movies because of their intrepid attitude towards filmmaking.

A few years have gone by. The multiplex factory has given us some nice movies. Talented filmmaker Dibakar has given us three good films on the trot: Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, and Love, Sex aur Dhokha (LSD). Films like LSD and Anurag Kashyap's Dev. D's cinematic technique challenged, and subverted, the formulaic approach of conventional films. Others like A Wednesday and Mumbai Meri Jaan dealt with sensitive subjects with noteworthy intelligence. Honeymoon Travels portrayed the complexities of modern-day living in an endearingly simple, easy-to-watch style.

So far, so good, if we overlook the number of mediocre films to have been released in the corresponding era. Think Teen Patti, a fiasco like none other, which had stars like Ben Kingsley and Amitabh Bachchan. If Agatha Christie had been approached for Teen Patti's title, she might have called it The Mystery of the Missing Plot. If Teen Patti was one terrible, terrible film, which would not have been made in the era dominated by conservative mainstream films, a good comedy like Bheja Fry has had dismal counterparts like Ugly Aur Pagli, Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam and Aagey Sey Right. These films were marked (and marred) by frantic endeavours to be different, resulting in demolition by the critics and quick deaths at the box-office.

What then, is the problem with multiplex films? For one, some of these films attempt to deal with subjects that are significant - say, the education system and its flaws like Paathshala did. The thought is a good one, but not the treatment, reducing the film to a highly mediocre product. Because films can be released much more easily thanks to multiplexes, Ram Gopal Varma, who can conduct hideous experiments if given a chance, has made some disasters like Nishabd to victimise unsuspecting viewers. Otherwise a fine filmmaker, Nagesh Kukunoor looked around his special set of skills to make a bland thriller like Tasveer, impressing none.

Gifted with the guarantee of easy releases, many incompetent filmmakers are making films that are crippled by a lack of direction. One look at movies like Aladin, Mittal vs Mittal, and Anthony Kaun Hai, and it is easy to affirm that such films are not contributing to enrich the genre of multiplex films. Meaningful cinema - or simply, small-budget entertaining cinema - shouldn't be a synonym for movies that go haywire because of the director's inability to steer the course of the narrative. That can only result in bad cinema that stifles the process of evolution, a threat that the genre is facing today.

If Shyam Benegal's early movies were made when multiplexes were around, we would have been dazzled by the aesthetic sensibility manifested in films like Nishant, Bhumika and Ankur. Benegal's new films that have been released during the multiplex era are Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba. Not that his new films are bad. But the difference between his earlier works and those that have been released recently tell us how the so-called genre of multiplex films hasn't achieved what it could have. Somewhat disappointed, and rightly so, we wait for a better future in which more and more meaningful cinema will come our way.
If the multiplex film is to become a consistently fulfilling genre, filmmakers have to ensure that they don't rush towards making films just because visibility has become easier. They need to sit back and decide what needs to be made, and what deserves to be trashed. Only then will the output be consistent, resulting in many satisfied viewers.

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