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Genre-ally Speaking

This year opened up many new genres for the Hindi film industry. Writers and directors draw up a wishlist for 2019

The year 2018 has given Bollywood so many reasons to celebrate. On an average, this year has seen at least one `100-crore film every month, which is record-breaking. Several films that raised expectations have done well and many others surprised us by packing a punch at the box office.

The best part about all this success is the freshness of the films that have worked. We have seen many genre-defining movies make their mark this year. A seemingly simple film like Raid was a huge success as it paved the way for films based on a subject many might have viewed as dull - the Income Tax Department.

Then there were others like Raazi and Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran, which showed us how well drama films based on real events can do. Veere Di Wedding was a romance comedy with on an all-female cast. Known as a chick-flick in the West, it clocked amazing numbers as did Satyameva Jayate, which put the masala entertainer back on the Bollywood map.

Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor’s Stree defined the horror-comedy genre in Bollywood, and Sriram Raghavan took his penchant for thrillers to the next level by making a black comedy-thriller like AndhaDhun. Another big surprise this year was Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad, which was a period fantasy horror film. It was a small film that shocked people with its mix of genres and cinematic appeal.

Just as every coin has a flip side, there were films that didn’t work this year too, like the period fictional action-thriller Thugs Of Hindostan. But, overall, it has been a huge year for the industry.

With so many new genres making a mark this year and some forgotten ones making a comeback, we asked writers and directors from the Hindi film fraternity to name the genre or genres they would like to see in the near future. Here’s what they said:

Remo D’Souza, Director

It is the best period for filmmakers right now. We can experiment with any genre because we have the perfect kind of audience. We have examples in the form of Stree, Tumbbad and Badhaai Ho. These films worked very well. Right now, any new genre that is interesting will click with the audience. The Hindi film industry has explored almost every genre by now. However, I feel we do not make films like Hostel and Final Destination in our country. Maybe that is because of the expense involved. We need to attempt that particular genre. That is one genre that has still not been tapped.

Abhishek Kapoor, Writer-Director

When films that are different are made, it is always refreshing. It is inspiring to see something out-of-the-box, radical and yet so relatable that the whole country loves it. In 2008, I too attempted a film like that. People told me not to make it and how will people listen to rock music. Rock On! was experimental back in the day.

Over the years, people have been doing stuff like this. It has been a few years since people have been going beyond the mainstream and making those films work. Now, digital platforms have opened up and this is very encouraging. You can push the envelope and it doesn’t even require censorship. More new genres will come in and the future is looking bright!

Raj Kumar Gupta, writer-Director

I don’t think we should approach films or story telling on the basis of genres. As a filmmaker, I would not like to make a film because something is working. We all know that you cannot assume what is going to work and what is not. Everybody makes films on a story that they feel strongly about, irrespective of the genre.

More than any other year, this year has proved that stories that were made were the ones that people really wanted to tell. And these stories, across all genres, worked, whether smaller films like Stree and Badhaai Ho, or a bigger star cast film like Padmaavat or Raid, or any other film for that matter, these films worked amazingly.

One should not make a film keeping its genre in mind; instead one should make a film that one really wants to make. I don’t think that’s a wrong way to look at things. One should not try to second-guess what will and what will not work. The films that worked, whether small or big, worked only because they were made from the heart. Every filmmaker will personally have a story that they really want to tell but that’s an altogether different matter. But when it comes to making a film successful, decisions on the basis of genre is not the right way to think.

Raj Nidimoru, Writer-Director

Right now, because this year has been a breakout year for its unique content, I think this is a great time to start exploring new things. Personally, I would love to see more of fantasy films and more fundamentally action films as we don’t have films like that at all. We used to have action in terms of big spectacles, blowing up things, but we haven’t seen action thrillers. That is something I would love to have and I am sure the audience will also love it.

Usually, viability drives films. If a film of a particular genre doesn’t work, then unfortunately that genre will shut down for some time or for a couple of years or more. Even when a film is critically well acclaimed but it fails to make money at the box office, everybody avoids making such a film. And even if filmmakers and writers are not afraid to attempt that genre again, actors and producers pull back a little and that is how a genre gets killed for the time being.

Right now, since a horror-comedy has worked, you will see more films like that; a fantasy film has worked so there will be more fantasy films lined up. That’s just human. Somebody has to prove it once and then everyone else follows.

When I made Go Goa Gone, I had to go through that. Nobody understood why I wanted to make such a film and not stick to drama or something more interesting, deep and meaningful. But I was firm on making a trivial film. I wanted to make a film about slackers, stoners, zombies and all the weird stuff and I know it was going to be hilarious. Somebody has to take that chance and have that confidence in you.

Amar Kaushik, Director

I have made a horror-comedy and in future I would like to make crime-comedies and may also experiment with sci-fi comedies. It is a great feeling that people are calling Stree the first successful horror-comedy in Bollywood. In fact, after Stree, my friends in the industry say there are many people who want to make horror-comedies now. It is also heartening to see so many different genres doing well and that people are accepting such films.

Amit Sharma, Director

There is no specific genre I want to excel at; I just want to tell beautiful stories. My next film is a sports biopic. It is of a completely different genre when you compare it to Badhaai Ho.

Adventure films need a lot of VFX. In India, we do not give enough time to that aspect and to those artistes. Films like Avatar took years to make. A lot of detailing goes into such films, which we love watching. We do not get the same kind of detailing here, be it in terms of action, VFX or some other effects. Even if they get made here, the visualisation is not exciting enough. Hence, we do not get to see a lot of films like that being made in India.

The post-production of a lot of Western films takes place here. The VFX work for those films is carried out here in India and it takes a lot of time to execute work like that. In our industry, the release date of a film is announced way before the shoot begins! Once the film is shot, we want to release it quickly. And the results are before us!

Milap Zaveri, Director-Writer

Almost every genre has been attempted this year, whether a horror-comedy like Stree, traditional masala entertainers like Satyameva Jayate and Baaghi 2 or dramas like Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran that are based on real events. There are seven to eight genres which are being made worldwide. One genre we have not been doing too much of in India is the superhero genre. That is such a big genre in America. Marvel has become an empire. Films like Black Panther are huge blockbusters. The only superhero film we have in India is Krrish, which is very popular here. I would love to see Krrish 4 soon. I hope it happens because we need it.

I am also very happy with the return of the masala, commercial genre. That is something we had stopped making. The masses have been hungry for that. That is why they flocked to theatres, to watch Satyameva Jayate and Baaghi 2, in such a big way. I think filmmakers should make whatever genres they are comfortable with and be honest to that. We should not try to do everything because we will end up creating a mish-mash. We should know our strengths and weaknesses as directors. We should concentrate on what we are good at. Those who did that succeeded this year.

 Mudassar Aziz, Writer-Director

First, every director is attempting to constantly change the way our stories are told. These days, the audience is very impatient. They are also looking for something new all the time. When I had attempted Happy Bhag Jayegi, a geographic comedy, it was new. But when people watched it, they had a feeling they had watched it before. To attempt the same story in a different fashion is something every filmmaker is looking at today. It is a wake-up call for us.

On a personal level, I would want for us to see the dysfunctional family a little more openly, because we have been socially a very protective country all this while. Hence, the dysfunctional family as a genre excites me. What also excites me is the opportunity to do a noir purely in its noir fashion, something that we only associate with French and Italian cinema.

It is not like we had not tried it in the past; we had tried this genre in the ’60s and ’70s. But those were not the times for it. Now the opportunity for a great noir film is so out there, something on the lines of what the Coen brothers do or something like a Pulp Fiction. The time for that is right.

I also want to see a story around India’s traditional martial arts and fighting techniques. There are endless opportunities. We have not done a great animal film in a long time. I remember watching Teri Meherbaniyan as a kid, where the dog was almost the hero of the film. Genres are very quickly changing. The reason behind it is the audience’s impatience with everything. Something that is in vogue today might not be in vogue six months later.

As filmmakers, we have to be very careful about being slightly ahead of the game. Every film has a journey, ranging from nine months to over a year. When you lock on a concept, you think it is very relevant. But that script could end up ageing by the time it reaches its release point. That said, overall, it is a great time to be a filmmaker.

Ritesh Shah, Writer

I have an inclination towards political dramas. We do not make too many of them in our industry. We also do not make a lot of historical fiction. These are the two genres I would really be interested in, particularly political dramas. If something works well, people want to stick to that. Films with a big star cast that had a mixed genre with elements of comedy, action and drama were working perfectly well earlier. Now suddenly, there is an acceptance of all kinds of genres and they are earning big numbers at the box office. Hence, there is a demand for newer genres. Which is why, the supply is there. Earlier, there was no demand.

Siddharth P Malhotra, Writer-Director

It is a good sign that many different genres have worked with the audience this year. But there is a lot more we need to explore like the sci-fi genre. This genre has seen no successful film in Indian cinema except for Mr India. This is a genre that is waiting to be told, if only it is done well. Another genre is the mythological genre. If we look back at Jai Santoshi Maa, it was a blockbuster film. If made correctly, I am sure this genre will once again connect with the audience. Also, I would definitely love to see more family films, which deal with flawed characters. There are several other untapped genres like hardcore courtroom drama but without the music element. All these genres would be amazingly received if they are done well.

Hussain Dalal, Writer

I am currently working on a period film and a fantasy film, both of which are really large-scale films. It is quite exciting because it is a time for writers more than ever before. Right now, we are shooting Brahmastra and Kalank. We are also shooting a film that is an out-and-out action film called Saaho. I have also done a Karwaan this year, which is more niche. It is the story of the lost dead bodies of parents. Five years ago, nobody would let you make something like this.

Also, the gangster genre is back with Mirzapur and Sacred Games. Horror-comedy, which is such an important genre, is also here. The problem with us is that we got horror so terribly wrong over the last few years because we keep putting sex into it. It is bizarre. There is another genre that is dead in India, which is the whodunit murder mystery genre. After Abbas-Mastan, nobody has done it. The last great murder mystery we saw was Ittefaq with Rajesh Khanna and Gupt where Kajol was the killer and everyone wrote it on the theatre wall! Now with good writing, that genre can come back because AndhaDhun brought back the whodunit.

Look at the genres that opened up this year! Real and funny family dramas are also back, with films like Bareilly Ki Barfi and Badhaai Ho. Real issues are being addressed as opposed to falsified issues like fights over property. Real cinema is working. Two kinds of cinema have worked this year. One is complete reality like Badhaai Ho, AndhDhun, Raazi and Karwaan and the other is out-and-out fantasy.

This is definitely an interesting time. A Sanju worked because it was entertaining. In 2018, writing has won. I feel like it is a personal victory. We did a semi-remake like Baaghi 2, we did a Karwaan and I acted in Hichki. Essentially, these are all writing victories. 

I am looking forward to fantastical horror films like Shape Of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth, whodunit films, period dramas and out-and-out fantasy. These are the genres that excite me. I am also looking forward to more of gangster films. I am working towards that. The era of gangster films saw movies like Satya and Company. Then, suddenly, we stopped making such films. People grew bored of them. I want to see more conspiracy films like Ocean’s Eleven and The Usual Suspects in India.

Mayank Tewari, Writer

I want to explore genres like good action films and political dramas. We have a lot of action films but they are quite stupid. The need of the hour is a dhaansu action film and a dhaansu political film. Otherwise, every other genre is good. Also, we don’t actually have a very genuine horror genre. The recent release Stree was a horror-comedy and not a proper horror film. So, I want to explore horror further after writing for Ragini MMS. Though it’s difficult to make a good horror film, this genre is very close to my heart. We must also make zombie films as they also have a very strong political dimension. These genres are not explored much because people want to play safe. When a film like that gets a good breakout, we might see more of them.

Sumit Aroraa, Writer

There are already many historical films being made but I still want to write a historical film. I am really looking forward to writing a period film or a fantasy film. These are the genres that Bollywood usually doesn’t make and even if they do it is restricted to maybe Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ashutosh Gowarikar. I would like to write films that are set in a certain period or a fictional set-up or a fantasy like the Harry Potter movies.

It is heartening to see audiences lap up such a wide variety of films, like a horror comedy or a family comedy, with an ensemble cast. Tumbbad was amazing and I am happy that it got good reviews. I wish such films perform better at the box office and more people come to watch them.

Akshat Ghildial, Writer

I watch a lot of thrillers, so I would like to see some good thrillers being made in our cinema. I was very happy that AndhaDhun did so well. It was a terrific film and it was probably the best film of the year for me. The thriller genre has never been in focus in Hindi cinema. Mr Vijay Anand used to make a lot of thrillers, and Jewel Thief is a great example. Mr Sriram Ragahvan (AndhaDhun director) is a huge fan of Mr Vijay Anand and a great fan of Alfred Hitchcock too, which reflects in his filmmaking. This is one genre that I would like to see more of.

The other is horror-comedy, which we had not seen until Stree. Generally, Hindi films are family oriented. Our film Badhaai Ho would fall into the sweet-spot for the Hindi film audience. That it is a concept-based film is another thing but the road for it was paved by films like Vicky Donor, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Dum Laga Ke Haisha. We have reaped the benefits of what these guys have done. It readies the audience for a film like Badhaai Ho.

The more genres we explore, the better it is for the audience because then you have a good response. It’s like going to a food court where you have multiple options to choose from. It is not like going to a specialised restaurant and saying ke bas yehi milega. Hindi films cannot be like a specialised restaurant, where one serves only one kind of cuisine. You have to dish out everything. It is great that genres are opening up. Every writer, every director, will be looking forward to doing stuff that hasn’t happened till now or hasn’t happened for a while in Hindi films. In that sense, these are exciting times.

- Bhakti Mehta, Bhavi Gathani, Titas Chowdhury

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