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A New Beginning

The most outstanding feature of 2018 was that content ruled like never before. Directors are hopeful that 2019 will consolidate this trend and open a new chapter in Hindi cinema

2018 has been the year of high-concept films working at the box office. Films irrespective of cast, genre or budget have worked if the content has connected with the audience. Of course, we have had some big-ticket, big-banner and big-budget films also raking in big numbers but the highlight of the year has been the audience welcoming different stories and story tellers. From seasoned filmmakers to newcomers, we have seen many success stories.

As 2018 draws to a close, we spoke to directors – the creative minds behind the films that we see, enjoy and critique – and asked them to share what they thought of this year’s releases and whether there were any films that stood out for them. We also wanted to know what their expectations are from 2019. This is what they had to say:

Gauri Shinde, Director

 The year 2018 has been a very good one for the Hindi film industry. We got to see a wide variety of films that were made with different sensibilities. Films like Pad Man, AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho, Stree and Manto stood out. I am waiting for Zero. I think 2019 should be another good year. I look forward to movies such as Gully Boy, The Sky Is Pink, Mission Mangal and Brahmastra.

Meghna Gulzar, Director

I think 2018 has been a bouquet of really, really good films and diverse content. Both the film fraternity and the audience have had a very satisfying year. Choosing one film from several good films is difficult and would be unfair to the rest. There were several films that stood out this year. AndhaDhun, Stree, Badhaai Ho, Manmarziyaan and Manto were all so diverse and they found their own appreciation and their own audience, which might not be equal but they all did well. The fact, that we churned out so many diverse films is very heartwarming for me as a filmmaker.

It is disrespectful to label films as big or small. What defines whether a film is big or small? The money spent on it? You could have a film made on a really tight budget but it could be saying a very big thing and have a very big heart. A film is either good or not so good. If a good film breaks out and makes a lot of money, then it becomes a rich film. I just hope that this is a beginning or a sign of new things to come. I hope it is not a flash in the pan but that it gathers momentum and this is the kind of cinema that we put out every year.

I hope 2019 is all about different kinds of films, them doing well, happy audiences, a happy industry, happy filmmakers and happy actors. Everyone is experimenting, pushing their limits today and challenging each other. Other forms of media are coming in and challenging cinema.  I think we are in a great state of flux. Right now, I am looking forward to Simmba.

Indra Kumar, Director

 2018 was a very good year for the box office as we saw a lot of hits. This has been one of the best years in the last five years. Films like Stree, AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho… I loved them all! They are all subject-oriented films and earned over `100 crore each, which is fabulous. Credit goes to the actors, writers and the directors.

In 2019, my film, Total Dhamaal, will be releasing, after Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi, the first big-budget film of the year. I expect all the good films to do well in 2019, which would be great for everyone. Now because small films are also doing well at the box office, people are really excited. They are hopeful that we will also be able to touch `100 crore. I hope this trend continues in 2019.

Anees Bazmee, Director

It has been a good year. We have seen a good number of successful films, especially films high on content. What is interesting is that these films were not big-budget films and it is a welcome change that audiences have accepted and loved them. And I have watched most of these successful films… Stree, AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho… and have liked them all.

Regarding my expectations from 2019… all I would like to say is that I am a very positive person. So I expect next year to be better than 2018. There are many filmmakers who are making good films and I hope these films get the appreciation of the audience.

R Balki, Director

 Like in most years, the good films have worked this year as well. Yes, there have been years where not-so-good films have also worked. 2018 is not very different from other years. This year is a clear example of some small films doing very big business. That is a very refreshing thing because you usually see one or two such films working, but this year about five films of that nature have worked. Hence, I think it is a refreshing sign.

The way film promotions are being done is better defined now. It is no longer just about promoting your film through the roof; it is about the trailer. That is very important because people get a sense of what the story is and what they want to see, very clearly. It is about focused marketing. AndhaDhun, for instance, was hardly marketed. They only released the trailer. And it did so well because word-of-mouth is very powerful in today’s context, whereby the second show, it was spreading like crazy.

It is fantastic. Word-of-mouth is very, very important. This year, Badhaai Ho, AndhaDhun, Stree and other small films essentially ran because of phenomenal word-of-mouth publicity.

Another amazing thing we saw this year was regional films doing very well. Tamil films have performed superbly this year. Regional content is booming. There have been so many breakthrough films and new-age films that have done so, so well. There is this Tamil film that released recently called 96. It is an outstanding film made on a small budget. It was written and done very beautifully.

It is very refreshing to see classics being made amid star-laden, big, blockbuster films. There are these smaller films that are becoming blockbusters now. I would like to see such films hitting the `300-400 crore mark, a slab that is reserved for the big stars and the festival releases. I would love to see films like these enjoy that kind of reach. That would be the ultimate victory.

I am expecting even better films in 2019. I always love watching lovely films. There is an interesting line-up of films that is happening as we speak and I am sure there are many gems hidden in this slate of films. Many of the films that worked this year were the ones we didn’t know much about in the beginning of last year. Next year, I look forward to those gems and I am sure there will be a lot more of them. For me, 2019 will be the year for watching movies, not making them.

Raj Kumar Gupta, Director

I think, for all of us, it has been a great year because the films that we worked on, the subjects we believed in, have worked. This year has also been great for content, which has defined this year. Personally, I am happy that my film released this year and worked well. I am happy that whatever belief each of us had in our films, has worked. Till last year, everybody was saying ‘go digital because films are not working’. But, this year, we are thankful to the audience who has come to theatres in large numbers.

Remo D’Souza, Director

 The year that went by was a very interesting year. It changed the perception of how films are made. We have this notion that if you create a certain conventional set-up, a film will be made and people will come to watch it. 2018 has changed the perception that films with a massive star cast will work. Now, people are interested in content. The reason I am saying this is because big-ticket films did not work and the smaller ones worked wonders.

According to me, films like Stree, Badhaai Ho, AndhaDhun and Raazi stood out. Now that 2018 has taught us so much about making films, I think in 2019 we will get to see some really good films. I am looking forward to Bharat and Kalank in 2019 and my dance film towards the end of next year.

Siddharth P Malhotra, Director

 For me, 2018 was a landmark year. After seven years, I got to release my second film. Hichki not only did well here, but also in China. I have been very fortunate this year. Content-driven films that came out this year like Badhaai Ho, AndhaDhun, Tumbbad and Manto are such gems. Content is ruling right now and winning over the audiences. These are gratifying times for storytellers and filmmakers who are no longer dependent on the stars. I hope 2019 gives us the chance to tell even braver stories.

This year, we have set some boundaries. In 2019, I hope we can cross bigger boundaries. For almost five-six years, I went to every studio with Hichki. All of them turned it down, barring Yash Raj (Films). My expectation now is that nobody will ever turn down a film like Hichki. Adi (Aditya Chopra) heard the same script that I was narrating to everybody. He had no reason to back a filmmaker whose first film he had not seen. He had not seen We Are Family. He had the vision and the passion towards the filmmaker’s hunger to tell the truth. I hope that many filmmakers who have stories at home and have stuck with them get to tell their stories. People did not allow filmmakers to tell their stories because these stories did not follow the conventional path.

As a producer, in 2019, I will be sharing some beautiful digital films made by some great minds. These are stories that no one would support. I am very proud and honoured to have got the chance to empower them to tell their stories. One of the films I am looking forward to in 2019 is Brahmastra. Ayan (Mukerji) is a very good filmmaker. I am also looking forward to my own directorial. Several Dharma (Productions) movies are releasing next year. I am also looking forward to Bharat. Thackeray is also a promising story to tell and see. I am also really excited about the Hrithik (Roshan)-Tiger (Shroff) film directed by Siddharth Anand. It will be the next big film. It is a great combination. We don’t often see big stars coming together. Commercially, I am expecting a lot from it.

Abhishek Sharma, Director

 I think it was a great year because content thrived. It’s a turning point. Coincidently, I saw this happening in 2010 when my first film Tere Bin Laden released. It was the year when films like Peepli Live and Udaan worked. Back then too, content worked but it was a very unique year when small-budget films worked well. Content is working this year too but regardless of budget. I would like to call it a ‘high-concept year’ because all the films that worked were high on concept. Medium-, big- and small-budget films worked and this trend is more solid than it was in 2010. It has opened doors for filmmakers who do not have access to a big star cast and who want to make films based purely on high concepts and good content.

Personally, in 2019, I am looking forward to the release of my own film, The Zoya Factor which is also a high-concept film. Apart from that, I am excited to see how the audience will react to 2019 because it will give us an idea as to whether this is a permanent trend, that films with good concepts work irrespective of budget.

I think 2019 will be in the same zone as was 2018, where content will lead the way and stardom won’t matter much. This is the beginning of the end of the super-stardom era and big stars too will have to rely on content. They can’t just show up in a film and expect miracles. Next year will establish this because one year cannot be a decisive factor. We need to see a pattern. Since 2018 initiated something new, let’s see whether 2019 consolidates it.

Amit Sharma, Director

 This year has been very good because content-driven films have worked well. If these films had been made five years ago, they wouldn’t have worked. If Badhaai Ho was made five years ago, it would not have worked. If movies like Badhaai Ho, Stree and Raid have worked, it opens doors for people who want to make content-driven films. Everywhere I read that content is king and so it seems that this is a good time for films. People have called and messaged me to say that they thought good films were not being made any more, but after watching these kinds of movies, they realised we still have good films to give out.

My first film was Tevar, an out-and-out commercial film. After making that, I wondered what to make next. And when I was making Badhaai Ho, people told me not to. They said it was a small film but I said that there is no ‘small’ or ‘big’ to consider when it is a film. I will make a film with a story that has affected me most. I am happy that the film has worked, so I would call this year a good one.

Milap Zaveri, Director

 For me, it was a miracle year. If you had said a year ago that I would make a film like Satyameva Jayate which would do so well, I would have said it would not happen in this lifetime. It was only John Abraham who had the guts to say ‘I will do this film’. He liked the script that much. It’s been a miracle year. I was glad that in this great year of content, a massy film like Satyameva Jayate worked, which was very interesting. I believe every film that worked this year was honest to its genre. A Parmanu did not try to be a Satyameva Jayate and a Raazi did not try to be a Raid. Every film was honest. That was the best part of this year.

Shree Narayan Singh, Director

 2018 has been an amazing year, with a mixed bag of cinema – big budget, small budget, issue based, remakes, biopics, stories based on true events, female protagonists, love stories, etc.. It was like a huge, tasty buffet.

Many films did really well at the box office and with audiences as well. Although I haven’t seen all the films, I liked the few that I did manage to see, like Raazi, AndhaDhun, Tummbad, Stree and Badhaai Ho. In the last few years, Indian cinema has evolved a lot and is ever changing. The line-up for 2019 looks great. Considering the response the films have received in 2018, I am expecting a few path-breaking films in the coming years. 

Abhinay Deo, Director

 It’s been an interesting year, with some rather epic disappointments and some unexpected success stories. We can scrutinise each film and its fate but I would rather spend time talking about the audience. As they say, ‘a film is only as good as its audience is’. This year showed a considerable change in audience-viewing patterns. They seem to care more about content and less about star power.

Films like Tumbaad, AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Stree were more successful without an ‘A’ lister than many others with big stars. That’s always a comforting thought. While some of the usual suspects got the numbers that were expected, one could see that they did not exactly hit the desired mark. All in all, it’s been a good year for content even though we still have a long way to go before we can call our industry a ‘content-driven’ industry. But filmmakers and viewers are definitely headed in that direction.

In 2019, I expect filmmakers to start relying more on content and less on stars. If one can get both, that’s sone pe suhaga, so let’s concentrate on good scripts and make 2019 a better year for our amazing industry!

Vinod Kapri, Director

 2018 has been a wonderful year, especially for filmmakers and directors who believed in their stories and scripts. This year has proved that you can ignore stars and big actors, but you can’t ignore good scripts, good writers and good directors. It is really heartening to see that writers are getting their due and films with different content are working. I would especially like to mention that the audience is maturing al the time. This is a very good sign. Hopefully, this will continue in 2019 also.

Raazi is one of the films that stood out in 2018. AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho, Stree and Tumbbad were also landmark films. I don’t think too much about box office collections. Let me say something on behalf of all my producer, director and writer friends. For a director and writer like me, it was impossible to believe that you could have a film with just one character, that too a two-year-old girl, and that film would get a good release and the audience was willing to spend `200-300 per ticket to watch it. I salute those audiences, their maturity and the vision of producers like Siddharth Roy Kapur and Ronnie Screwvala.

I believe that 2019 and 2020 will be much better. If films like Pihu are getting a good window and a good release and people are coming to watch them, it is a very good sign for the industry. That way, I think 2018 was a very good year for filmmakers, especially the ones who think differently. Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi is looking very good. I’m definitely going to watch it.

Amar Kaushik, Director

It has been a special year for me  because I made my first film. I had been wanting to make a film for a long time. I made it and thankfully it worked. Since films like Raid, Stree and Badhaai Ho have done well, producers will be open to listening to subjects like these. And that is very important. Also, first-timers will also be getting more work. It’s been a great year.

 

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