Melodramatic Cinema in Bollywood

Melodrama and music are key ingridients of Bollywood. Very few movies, mostly parallel cinema, try to be different – but mainstream film makers and masses both love the ‘masala’. And why not, if rightly positioned, a few melodramatic scenes or a few good songs and vibrant dance sequences can make the movie a runaway success at box office.

Mingling the music and melodrama in a movie elegantly is an art – there may exist so called ‘formulas’ which sell, but they alone can’t gaurantee a well made and hit movie – it requires creativity, innovation and knack of combining these elements together in a wholesome package which satisfies. And the art lies in doing this well… Movies like Sholay, Shaan, Om Shanti Om and Singh is Kinng got the mix right, while there have been many forgotten ones like Drona which couldn’t. And the onus of getting it right not only depends on the movie makers, but also on the actors – some like Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan just know how to do it right everytime.

‘Bollywood style’ movies have their origins in early Indian and folk theatre which presented larger than life characters, situations and fantasies. These theatrical works used to be musicals too. Its this world of dreams that Bollywood has taken inspiration from. Larger than life imagery, characters, fantasies and dreams sell like hot cakes in a country where many times its difficult to find anything else than movies to add the zing and spice to monotonous daily lives.

Bollywood – the cinema of excesses has received both criticism and praise for its distinctive style. To be fair, it’s not only India that fabricates and consumes melodrama in movies,Hollywood too is a big sucker for larger than life unreal imagery. All superhero movies, be it latest Batman or Die Hard, rely on unreal power packed dialogues, situations and action – all delivered with the ‘extra’ punch. The song and dance sequences may seem funny, but they are often times the much needed relief from rally of dialogues and render the movie enjoyable. These can be ‘very much fun’.

Even though the ‘masala’ in Bollywood never goes out of fashion, but this should not limit the film makers from looking beyond this distinctive style. Experimentation is essential to every art form – the imagination should never be limited and the canvasses’ layout should change and evolve. And this for the sake of progress in art and the spirit of creativity.

Saif Ali Khan and Kunal Kohli’s film

Has Saif Ali Khan walked out of Kunal Kohli’s film? That’s what people are speculating within the film industry, although both Kunal and Saif are tight-lipped about their new film together. The reasons that prompted Saif to quit the project are [i] The actor’s non-approval of the script and [ii] No clarity about who would produce the project in question.

Kunal Kohli sounded surprised when I confronted him with this news. “Saif is very much part of my film. He hasn’t opted out of the project,” Kunal clarifies, “The story is locked. Saif has approved it, so the question of being unhappy with the written material just doesn’t arise. We need to finalize the leading lady. Once that is done, we will move on to the next stage of planning the shooting schedules.” Kunal reveals that Shree Ashtavinayak Cinevision will produce the project in question.

So how did these rumours originate? “I am clueless. Perhaps, it could be the handiwork of some directors wanting to sabotage the project by spreading malicious rumours. Frankly, we should stop speculating who’s in and who’s out of any film, till people make formal announcements themselves. Let’s put together a project before we start talking about it,”Kunal says.

‘Happi’ to release on Charlie Chaplin’s birth anniversary

Actor Pankaj Kapoor and director Bhavna Talwar’s first film together DHARM was a cinematic achievement. Naturally, their next project together, HAPPI, is looked forward by connoisseurs of cinema. The film was initially slated for release in December 2010, but the makers have decided to postpone the film to 15 April, 2011 for a valid reason.

Producer Sheetal Talwar explains, “We chose to postpone the release of HAPPI to coincide with the birth anniversary of Charlie Chaplin. HAPPI is told in a Chaplinesque manner and is a tribute to the cinema of Chaplin. Also, Pankaj Kapoor’s character in HAPPI is modelled on the lines of Charlie Chaplin; it’s a tribute to one of the best entertainers of the world. Hence, the postponement.”

Casting trouble keeps Ashutosh Gowariker’s Buddha

The biggest ever project devised by Ashutosh Gowariker, Buddha, continues to be on hold. The filmmaker, who is known for films that are set on a huge canvas while boasting of an opulent treatment, has decided that he won’t progress on the film till he finds the perfect actor to play the part of Buddha.

“Frankly, it is a very difficult casting which I have in hand here”, says Ashutosh Gowariker who would be attempting a film with a religious base to it for the first time ever, “I have seen so many actors worldwide but still haven’t found the right face to play the part. It is so difficult because this actor has to be convincing as someone who goes through a complete turnaround in his life. I have to go ahead in a zero-compromise mode here.”

Another strong reason behind casting a correct face and physical appearance is the fact that Buddha is being pitched for an international market. This means that the actor, whether new or established, is required to have a pan-universal appeal.

“While this is truly a major reason, I also feel that the team of Buddha has a responsibility to take care of for several other nations as well”, continues Gowariker, “There are millions in this world who practice Buddhism; whether it is Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and others. When they see our film, they should be able to relate to the actor and say that this is their Buddha. I should be accurate enough in my presentation so that there is a sense of reverence that comes in for a world-known personality like Buddha.”

All of this means that while the search continues for the right face and personality, Ashutosh Gowariker may well move to some other film in the interim. His Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se is up for release and post that, it would be time for Gowariker to zero on another subject and begin work on it.

“Frankly, I haven’t closed on anything as of now”, he brings on a smile here, “All that is occupying my mind currently is Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. There are just a few more weeks to go and we are going full steam ahead in pumping up the promotion further and bringing the film to the audience.”

A period thriller, this Abhishek Bachchan-Deepika Padukone starrer is based on the book ‘DO and DIE: The Chittagong Uprising 1930-34’ by Manini Chatterjee. Also starring Sikandar Kher and Vishakha Singh, Khelein Hum… has music by Sohail Sen and releases all over on 3rd December.

Remake of Belgian Film

The hunt is on for a 17-year old newcomer to play the Big B’s daughter in a remake of a Belgian film. The mega-star’s first official remake of a foreign film this untitled Hindi version of the Belgian director Dominique Deruddre’s Oscar-nominated film Iedereen Beroemd (Everybody’s Famous) is special because of its theme.

The Big B loves the idea of doing a father-daughter film.

Amitabh Bachchan who has done innumerable father-son films, both as the son (Trishul, Shakti) and as the father (Sarkar, Waqt) is now all set to embark on a unique emotional father-daughter film. A theme that the Big B has been eager to explore. The Belgian film is about a father who dreams of making his daughter a singer.

It’s also his first bona fide remake of a foreign film.

Says the film’s producer, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, “When I saw the Belgian film I was completely bowled over. The father-daughter story is so Indian. We immediately sought out the rights and purchased it. Only Amitji can play the father. The hunt is on for a 17-year old girl to play his daughter.”

Yash Chopra and inauguration of IFFI 2010

He has given us countless hours of entertainment and continues to do so with his production house Yash Raj Films, he is none other than the famous Yash Chopra. The veteran Bollywood filmmaker will be inaugurating the 41st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) this year in Goa.

Yash Chopra

Yash Chopra

IFFI will also be felicitating several actors whose names will be disclosed at a later stage. The festival which begins Nov 22 and goes on till Dec 2, has already received a record number of 450 entries for the Cinema of World section and the final list will be chalked out soon, while 15 movies from several countries will be up for the competition in the international competition section.

Raima and Riya Sen’s – Controversy about next film

The lovely Sen sisters, Riya and Raima, are caught in a dilemma. The bone of contention between Ghai and Ghosh, and by extension involving Riya and Raima is the film that brings the two sisters together, a wide-screen adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s controversial novel Nauka Dubi which casts Raima and Riya in a bold wife-swapping tale.

In the novel, as too in Ghosh’s Hindi-Bengali adaptation, the two women protagonists played by Riya and Raima never come together, not even for a passing shot.

Apparently, Ghai who has produced the film, feels the audiences specially in the Hindi belt would feel cheated if the two hotties are not brought together at least once in the film.

Says a source, “Ghai belongs to the hardcore commercial school of filmmaking whereas Rituparno Ghosh’s sensitivities are far more arty. This is the first time that the two sisters Raima and Riya are coming together. Even in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s adaptation of Saratchandra’s Devdas the two female protagonists, rivals in love, came together although their paths never crossed in the novel.”

However Rituparno Ghosh won’t relent.

Protests Ghosh, “Why should Raima and Riya come together just because people expect them to? This is material from Rabindranath Tagore and therefore inviolable. I respect Sanjay Bhansali’s work. But that (Devdas) was his vision and interpretation. In my Naukadubi the two women cannot come together.”

Raima and Riya seem to agree with their director. Speaking on behalf of both, Raima says, “People expect us to come together. But that’s the beauty of the story. Everyone else comes together, only we don’t. Besides this is a Rabindranath Tagore story. Ritu-da left it at that.”

Over to you, Mr Ghai.

The producer says diplomatically, “We’re planning to release Naukadubi on January 23, Subhash Chandra Bose’s birthday. Ritu has done a great job.”

An added dimension to the all-India release of Naukadubi is that it re-launches Bengal’s superstar Prosenjeet in Hindi. Naturally, Ghai would like to expand and extend Prosenjeet’s stardom beyond Bengal. For this he needs to make sure the audience goes home happy.