100 Years of Hindi Cinema: A wish-list for the future!

Last Updated: Fri, May 03, 2013 08:07 hrs
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I recently chanced upon the song Aa Gale Lag Jaa from the film April Fool (1964), where you have Saira Banu in a gold swimsuit, flanked by other similarly-attired ladies dancing beautifully in a pool.

I was struck by the elegance of the song. This word stuck with me as I pondered about the current state of Hindi films. The elegance is achingly absent. 

Imagine a current actress in a swimsuit with a song like that. You can be sure you'll be subjected to close-ups of the anatomy in the most undignified and jarring-to-the-senses manner.

Post the awful '90s, one was hopeful that the new decade would bring in a fresh wave of filmmakers, who'd change things around. Perhaps the most disappointing truth of this decade of films is that the present crop of filmmakers have chosen to play the gallery. 

The Rohit Shettys and Sajid Khans are all busy making pathetic remakes of either South films or old Hindi gold. And if it's a remake, the directors don't feel the need to add their own perspective, shaped as they should be by the contemporary milieu.

So the regressive elements of Himmatwala are carried forward from the original, and Chashme Baddoor is remade into a poor quality copy, failing miserably in front of the original. Three good-looking young actors form the cast of Cocktail, but the film turned out to be sexist and backward-thinking despite all the visual sheen. 

We do have an English Vinglish, Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar delighting us with their critical and commercial success, but these are still exceptions and not the rule. Plus these experimental ideas usually work only when there's a star attached to them.

The Opening Weekend phenomenon has rocked the boat. Now, it's all about filling seats on the first three days, quality be damned. And if it takes glitzy marketing, a risque item number, and dumbing down of the film – so be it.

Then the 100-crore club has raised its ugly head and as one production house head told me once, has become the most aspirational club in the industry today. We've become an industry obsessed with numbers over quality.

What chance does an indie film have in this atmosphere? What of the films that take time to get noticed? The ones that need consistent word-of-mouth for people to come watch it in the theatres? There seems to be no scope for such films. If they don't perform in the first week (not to mention the absurd show timings given), they're out.

There are several things one wishes for Hindi cinema in the future. One is hopeful that the only way to go is up. Presenting the humble wish-list for Hindi cinema's future!

No remakes, please

One wishes that the current crop of filmmakers ditch remaking poor copies of the original, and instead tell stories about today. That's the whole point of being a young contemporary filmmaker - you have to dig into your own life and bring out stories that matter to people.

Yes to indie films

One wishes that in the future, we see theatres supporting indie films. Perhaps we can even have separate small-seaters meant only for experimental films. 

In such a set-up, a high ticket rate attracting only privileged film snobs will be its biggest undoing. Lovers of cinema don't need the extra-high ceilings and ornate chandeliers in the theatre. 

A simple set-up will do, with ticket prices kept to the minimum, as an added attraction for the regular cinema-going audience.

Better censorship

One wishes that the future of cinema has a more detailed segregation of the Censor Board Certificate. Just labelling a film Universal or Adult doesn't cut it. 

A case in point is the recently released EK Thi Daayan that received the U/A certification. While it is understandable that the Universal Certificate increases the film's scope, it is also surprising that the film was deemed fit for children. 

Indeed, in the theatre where this writer watched the show, there were several kids crying because it was too disturbing a film for them. 

One hears this detailed segregation is already being worked on, and if it is implemented, one wishes the industry takes it sportingly and sees the larger good of such a practice.

Go gender equality

One wishes that the film industry embraces gender equality. That it pays heroines fairly and not just scraps compared to the hero's salary. 

That stories about women also be told in films without them being labelled as being 'women-centric'. 

That directors stop putting heroines in barely-there clothes for titillation and, instead, focus on styling them as per their character.

Honour the best

One wishes Hindi cinema takes the best from regional films, not the worst. That if they need to remake, let filmmakers pick a Shwaas or Vanaprastham or Touring Talkies and Goynar Baksho (the latter two currently in theatres).

Better jokes

One wishes that filmmakers stop making fun of homosexuals. Really, it's about time they got a rein on their homophobia that manifests itself in the form of degrading 'jokes' in films.

Quality over quantity

One wishes that we get over the number-game and reflect on whether we've truly evolved as an industry. Have our films kept up with the audience, a section of which has become frustrated and given up on watching Hindi films altogether? 

One wishes the success of a film be counted not just in monetary terms but with regards to its critical acclaim and quality of the film.

Make us proud

One wishes Hindi cinema becomes the shining light of Indian cinema and makes the country proud. It seems a tall order at the moment, but it will happen. It has to! 

Till then, happy 100th birthday to our cinema!

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