Satyen K Bordoloi writes on why the Housefulls of Bollywood work and how dangerous their success is for cinema
It was as if the bored audience had suddenly been injected with adrenalin. They were on their feet, hurling projectiles of veiled abuses at the dais.
And all it had taken this man to raise an instant-storm were two lines: "There are no stories left. We have to rehash old wine and put it in new bottles.”
The man was none other than Sajid Khan.
That afternoon discussion about scriptwriting, organised as part of the Mumbai Film Festival in October 2010, ended up being unforgettable. Sajid Khan’s opinions were his concern, but to air such anti-cinema views sitting next to two of India’s best scriptwriters - Shama Zaidi and Anjum Rajabali - seemed like blasphemy.
Anjum tried unsuccessfully to placate the crowd while also showing Sajid the error of his views by saying: "India has thousands of years of storytelling tradition so this comes as a little surprising. The problem is the limited vision of commercial filmmakers. They do not explore."
Shama Zaidi, meanwhile, was her honest self when she said that the reason most Bollywood hits work is because they are copies of successful scripts created after much hard work by other film industries.
“Obviously there’s 75% chance that it will work for Sajid even if he is a half-competent filmmaker. If it has worked in one language, chances are it will work in another,” she reasoned.
Instead of mellowing, Sajid toughened up. He said all he needed to make a film were stars and not a story and finally he thundered: ‘I know what the audience wants’.
He may have been sulking most of the time that afternoon but obviously absorbed nothing because the next film he made is Housefull 2.
To give Sajid his due, he was telling the truth. He really did not need a script at all. All he ever needs is the shell of a successful film lifted from either a Hollywood (Heyy Babyy from Three Men & A Baby) or a Tamil movie (Housefull from Kaathala Kaathala & Housefull 2 from Banda Paramasivam), throw in some terrible and corny PJs mouthed by some bad actors specifically instructed not to act and voila, he has a 100 crore plus blockbuster.
That those from whom he lifts obvious bits and pieces have put in their blood, sweat and money to write the originals is a fact that bounces off Sajid Khan’s thick protective force field made up of his ego and infinite megalomania.
No one should grudge a man his money. What needs to be exposed is the means and how it is destroying cinema. Let’s begin by the good, the bad and outright ugly in the two 'Housefull'.
In picture: After being castigated both by the viewers and those on the dais, Sajid Khan spent most of the hour sulking but defended his I-don't-need-script-i-only-need-stars point of view. Seen here with Anjum Rajabali. (Image copyright: Satyen K Bordoloi)