Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Few Good Men

A while ago, some of us sat down and put together a list. Of Bollywood directors who had made at least three successful films. The idea was to see if these creative persons could sustain good output – how much of it was accidental, how many became absurdly shaken by the success of their films and the attendant silliness that accompanies it in the film industry? How was it that (some) makers of interesting initial films churned out work that was shallower, more formulaic and more manipulative as they were now able to command bigger budgets?

We were clear to begin with that ‘successful’ was a subjective judgement – we didn’t take that to mean a hit necessarily, just a film that made sense to us, or appealed in some way, or showed some heart or integrity or coherence.

We had some ideas of our own, of course. I remember Javed Akhtar being asked once about the creative process and while I can’t quote him word for the word, the essence was this: while Salim and he were having fun with that they were doing, genuinely writing plots, scenarios and lines that they enjoyed, it worked. When they started second-guessing the audience, making assumptions about what would ‘work’ and what wouldn’t, they lost the magic. So basically a process where the creative person clears the board – clears away preconceptions (their own as well as other people’s), looks at a subject with some contemplation and serves it in the best manner possible... then it works. When they start worrying about how they are going to keep this good thing going, about doing justice to this bigger budget and big label expectations, put in a slick dance or two, devote more time to the publicity schedule than they do to the script and homework, they are less satisfying. This is commonsense, of course – I am saying nothing new but evidently, so difficult to do!

At the top of our list was Dibakar Banerjee and it was decided that this here was a good man in whom we could place our trust. Anything made by him, we would line up to watch. Yes, Shanghai fell short of being memorable but his short in Bombay Talkies held its own and what variety and assurance he brings to his subjects! And I for one am super excited that he will be making Detective Byomkesh Bakshi with the talented Sushant Singh Rajput.

I am also interested in Imtiaz Ali. I loved his Socha Na Tha – even a shade better than the more touted Jab We Met. He stuttered badly of course with Love Aaj Kal but recovered his poise with Rockstar. I am really looking forward to Highway; it has all the Imtiaz Ali trademarks: travel, self-discovery and I suspect that Alia Bhatt is going to make everyone sit up.

Shimit Amin has consistently put out quality and even in spite of his association with Yash Raj Films. We will keep an eye out for Zoya Akhtar too. I am not attracted myself to Anurag Kashyap, who is a bit affected in his approach but there is something there. 

Milan Lutharia is exciting if erratic; we would look forward to Sujoy Ghosh’s next, as well as Shriram Raghavan’s. So too for that matter Abhishek Kapoor’s next: Fitoor. Tigmanshu Dhulia has become trapped in communicating a certain badlands ethos but I really liked Bullet Raja (and going by the promos I have an inkling that I will prefer it to the forthcoming Gunday as far as Jai-Veeru tales go) and how about that Paan Singh Tomar! It haunts me still.

But so many disappointments we came across as we put this list together. Whatever happened to John Matthew Mathan who made Sarfarosh?! Why did Ashutosh Gowarikar go downhill in that step-wise descent? Will Farhan Akhtar ever make something approaching Dil Chahta Hai? Or if that is asking for too much – will he ever stop with the Don series, for our sakes, and to save consecutive dilutions of a powerful, iconic brand?

All said and done, though: thanks, guys, for many hours of joy. We love the movies and if it happens that we don’t like one, we at least love sniping at it. Hail Bollywood!


Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Sheetal. Me waiting for the good movies - to see them with you :)

And glad that you find that the honest for-creativity's-sake approach works best. That's the way it should be. Also I suspect, that the honest approach is not bereft of gut instinct. And that every great director is a product of his time and at one with his audience.


Sheetal said...

Glad you liked, Sabiha.

Oh yes, in fact the honest approach is almost all gut instinct - because your mind is not made up beforehand. You are listening, in a sense, to inspiration.

Sunshine said...

Oh and uh oh for the factory guy! I of course mean the verma! And vishal too! Personally I felt the pathos of maachis is unmatched till now! Even its music. His Shakespeare attempts have a sheen of tried too hard.

Sheetal said...

@Sunshine: yes, Vishal Bharadwaj too! I liked Omkara and Kaminey as well but drew the line at Matroo...

i wonder why said...

Maachis was Gulzar not Vishal

Sheetal said...

@I Wonder Why: so right! even the name is so Gulzaresque. Odd how we associate it with VB bursting on our horizon.