Thursday, June 27, 2013

Indie.Genius: Bollywood’s New ‘New Wave’

Apart from the trivia about the stars, I wrote the following piece for the Brunch Collector's Edition on Bollywood - on the new age filmmakers. The ones who are going from Toronto to Tardeo, from Cannes to Cinemax. 
Did I tell you that the issue is a steal at hundred bucks? Well, I will just repeat myself then. The issue is a steal at hundred bucks. Buy it yesterday. 
And do take a look at the cover. What can I say except the issue is a steal... 

In 1997, Ram Gopal Verma started work on a gangster movie and hired a twenty-five year old novice to co-write the script with Saurabh Shukla. After shooting the first scene, RGV realized ‘this is not what my film is about’ and trashed the script. He canceled the schedule and packed off his writers to do the script all over again.  
For all my attempts at suspense, all of you know the movie was Satya and the novice writer was Anurag Kashyap. And this partnership with Ram Gopal Verma probably sowed the seeds of the low-budget, different-with-a-vengeance, quasi-indie revolution we are seeing today.

Ram Gopal Verma used the success of Rangeela and Satya to dictate terms to producers and green-lighted a slew of unusual scripts helmed by some very talented directors. He called his production company The Factory and his assembly line included Chandan Arora (Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon), Sriram Raghavan (Ek Hasina Thi) and Shimit Amin (Ab Tak Chhappan) among others. Some of these films suffered from the obvious haste in which they were made while some were ahead of their times.

A decade later, Anurag Kashyap replicated the model. After the success of Dev D and Gangs Of Wasseypur, he has backed directors like Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan and the forthcoming Lootera), Bejoy Nambiar (Shaitan), Raj Kumar Gupta (Aamir) and Sameer Sharma (Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana). Not all of his ventures have been successful (Aiyya, for example) but most of these directors have scaled greater heights. Both Raj Kumar Gupta and Bejoy Nambiar made much bigger second films (No One Killed Jessica and David, respectively) while the rest are looking good for more.

Ram Gopal Verma’s dichotomy of creative energy and financial doldrums taught the next generation of filmmakers to be a lot savvier in their quest to make different films. By keeping production costs low, marketing films innovatively and co-opting the support of big production companies, the financial success has become much more achievable. Adopting a guerilla way of shooting, charming themselves into locations instead of building expensive sets and choosing talented actors instead of stars, these directors have taken cognizance of their still-limited audience and scaled down their budgets, not their ambition. 
Anurag Kashyap’s made Gangs of Wasseypur was made for Rs 18 crores, less than Salman Khan’s fees for one film. Sujoy Ghosh made Kahaani for about Rs 8 crores while Tigmanshu Dhulia and Shoojit Sircar made their magnum opii for Rs 5 crores or less. None of their bootstrapping was visible in the films, all of which made big money at the box-office even by Bollywood’s ten-digit standards.  

What these makers lack in financial muscle, they more than make up for in innovation. The marketing of their films have gone off traditional media and used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube instead.
@RamadhirSingh appeared on Twitter. Vidya Bagchi looked for her husband on Mumbai local trains. The Shanghai cast went to college campuses instead of malls. With ‘making of’ videos and by engaging in real-time conversations with fans, these filmmakers have fully understood the need for marketing their niche products and have done so with panache.

To woo the musically inclined Indian audience, these films have gone beyond the item number.
For Gangs Of Wasseypur, composer Sneha Khanwalkar took off on research trips to Bihar and Trinidad (!) which ended with her picking up novices who sang for the final soundtrack, which was authentic and eminently hummable. Amit Trivedi has become the acknowledged master of real sounds. His Kai Po Che score evoked Gujarati energy while Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana was as smooth as Punjabi butter. Be it the edgy Dev D or the dulcet Wake Up Sid, Trivedi’s music for these films have busted the charts and added one more reason to watch them.

Not only music but in all departments – editing that paces the film right, totally real casting and gritty, pulse-pounding action – these films have managed to take elements of the masala blockbuster and imbue them with realism. Without sacrificing the entertainment.

While these films have made their mark, their impact seems bigger on Twitter than in the real world. For all its cult status, Gangs Of Wasseypur collected in the region of Rs 50 crores (both parts put together), still some distance away from Bollywood’s Rs 100 crores Holy Grail. Another critics’ darling – Paan Singh Tomar – made just Rs 20 crores. But as Vidya Balan proved with Kahaani’s blockbuster success, one major star in the mix multiplies the mass appeal.

As these films slowly take root in a country obsessed with pretty things, we see a director like Anurag Kashyap become a star in the truest sense of the word. When he is not attending international film festivals, he appears in advertisements for Cadbury chocolates. What better sign do you need of these films becoming an idea whose time has come? 

1 comment:

Arjun said...

While directors like Anurag Kahyap and Sujoy Ghosh are writing a new script, it is heartening to see mainstream actors like Vidya Balan experiment with these films and push the boundaries for themselves and the filmmakers.