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Then And Now

There’s but one barometer to judge good cinema – it’s emotional quotient

I  celebrated my silver jubilee as a film director recently. Over the years, I’ve had so many ups and downs, not just in my career but also in the way our industry has evolved. But although I celebrated 25 years in Bollywood as a filmmaker, I have been a part of this industry since 1967.

I joined the industry when my father had passed away. I could choose to go to Wadia College in Pune or stay in Mumbai and work as an assistant director or join the Pune film institute. I chose to stay with my family and learn the ropes of filmmaking.

Over the years, I’ve seen so many different types of filmmakers, some have built a reputation for themselves; others have failed. We have a lot of young and talented directors today but the main element lacking from our cinema is emotion, an element that every blockbuster includes.

Films made by Raju Hirani and Hollywood films like Avatar have aptly portrayed emotions. This applies to films in all languages. If your film lacks emotion, it may do well but it will never be a hit. Avatar and Titanic were high on emotion, and we all know how they turned out at the ticket window.

Directors today are focusing on making technically good films. Perhaps, that’s why they lose that all-important thread that holds a good film together – emotional bonding. This also could be because young people today are raised differently. Hum log abhi bhi paav chhoote hain, abhi sirf Hi-Bye ka zamana hai. If the film plays on emotions, it instantly hooks you. If the audience is not into the film by scene five, the film will not succeed.

Another thing that has changed is a film’s shelf-life. When you release a film with 2,000 or 3,000 prints, with as many as 28 shows a day, how can a film enjoy a long run? Time was when a film had 28 shows in seven days in one screen, whereas now, it is screened 28 times in a single day! Thus, the lifespan of a film in cinemas is around two to three weeks. As a matter of fact, the entire game plan has changed. If a film does well during its first weekend, it’s a hit.

Nowadays, we make movies while targeting a specific section of the audience. Some filmmakers aim at a niche audience while others are looking at B and C class centres. But if your target is defined, as opposed to making a movie for the entire country, how can you expect your film to do roaring business?

Filmmakers and producers crunch numbers at the very beginning of their projects. There have been directors in the past who have gambled and made movies they’ve believed in – and they have hit the jackpot. When I was making Khoon Bhari Maang, everyone thought I was making a huge mistake. During the making of Karan Arjun, even my own team thought I was on the wrong track. Ditto for Kaho Naa.. Pyaar Hai – a double role but no relationship between the two characters. As far as I was concerned, I knew that if the emotional content was high, it would connect with the audience and I would be a winner.

In our day, we celebrated a film’s silver, golden and platinum jubilee. Does anyone remember when a film last celebrated its silver jubilee? Now it’s all about crossing the ` 100-crore mark. How things have changed! Nowadays, even average-earners are called ‘hit’ movies. If the film’s budget is ` 60 crore and if it manages to earn ` 5-6 crore more, it’s a success. In our time, a film was called a hit only if its earnings were three times its investment. Earlier, we had average films, hits, super-hits and blockbusters. We actually calculated our return on investment.  Not any more. Now you pick any big number and the film is declared a blockbuster.

Technology is fast evolving and it will get better. But if you ignore the emotional element in cinema, it will not connect. And if you add a palette of emotions, well, that according to me is a winner!


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