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Updated: November 5, 2011 17:27 IST

GAME.PLAN

VIJAY NAIR
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Stooping too low? Ra.One
Stooping too low? Ra.One

Welcome the new movie making strategy. Hit the audience with an ad blitzkrieg. Recover the money before it can decide whether the movie is good or bad. They don't make movies like they used to in the old days, do they?

It is no longer about artistic endeavours. Or quality. What matters is how many zeroes you add to the box office returns. How much it rakes in the first three (or is it five?) days. From an appalling “Ghajini” to an even more appalling “Ra.One”, of late we have seen a steady decline of creativity on screen and an alarming increase in the numbers that are cited as returns in the initial euphoric days when news chan nels unabashedly endorse the star and his vehicle and leading newspapers rave about the work in planted reviews that never seem to bestow anything less than three and a half to four stars out of five for these mindless offerings.

We are better than Hollywood when it comes to marketing strategies to woo the audiences inside the multiplexes to sample what the superstars have laid out and ironically enough this astuteness has been accompanied by a brazen disregard for content. The new mantra appears to be the larger-than-life star can do anything on screen and get away with it as long as it can be sold to the gullible movie crazed fans before they have a chance to discern.

It's not as if we didn't have lavishly mounted blockbusters before. There is that immortal classic “Mughal-e- Azam”. Or the all time favourite “Sholay”. But we never thought about these films in terms of the zeroes they added to the box office returns or the amount that was spent in making them. When “Look how much we spent on making this spectacle” became the focus rather than what the film had to offer, audiences were quick to reject like it happened in the case of a “Razia Sultan” or for that matter “Roop ki Rani, Choron ka Raja”.

Different priorities

Things have changed in the last few years and not for the better. Big budget films are anchored on greed and competition and it's all about how quickly you can maximise your return on investment. Hollywood always had its studios trying to outmanoeuvre each other in order to be more profitable. Lately we have our superstars who started out by wanting to be actors but are now intent on running the same production houses to ground that made them the names they are today. It's not the Chopras or the Sippys or the Barjatyas who are mounting the biggest of them. They have faded in the background while Aamir Khan touts his own production house as a haven of good cinema, Salman Khan ensures members of his large family produce his biggest extravaganzas and Shah Rukh Khan never misses an opportunity to motor mouth about his ‘Red Chillies'. Not to mention an Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgn who are desperately trying to keep up with the Khans by floating their own production houses.

When the megalomaniac superstar decides to not just act in a film, but take over all aspects of production, calamity is bound to follow. It does not matter whether a “Ready” or “Bodyguard” crosses the 100 crores mark in the first two weeks; the all-important question is, does anyone remember what these films were about after a lapse of a few months. Apart from setting new standards in bad taste, that is.

The latest “Ra.One”, with its nearly 50 marketing tie-ups and a simultaneous release in an unbelievable number of theatres on Deepavali day is yet another assault on audience sensibilities. It is a shockingly bad film by a superstar whose only intent in making this disaster appears to have been his desperate need to beat his rivals at their own game. Why else would a man who comes across as suave and intelligent in his interviews make a film that he claims is for kids and fill it with sexually explicit innuendoes. What was he thinking of?

A new low

The problem with “Ra.One” is not that its script is tailored to challenge the intelligence of the audience. Commercial Hindi films have never been about pleasing the intellectual palate and we all accept that. But how low a film and its star are willing to stoop to provide cheap thrills. Just when you thought it can't get any worse than a gruesome “Ghajini” or a manipulative “3 idiots” or for that matter the recent Salman Khan blockbusters, each outdoing the other in the sheer idiocy quotient and each more forgetful than the other, Shah Rukh Khan decides to prove that it can indeed get a lot worse.

The animated avatar in the film first gropes the protesting leading lady and then follows this shameless act by groping the bewildered villain who wants to know what the hero is doing to him. He is also frisked by a seriously lecherous gay man in the airport. The animation tops his bizarre acts by cracking jokes about condoms to a mother in the presence of her pre-adolescent son and who later joins in the fun by cracking his own jokes about contraceptives. We are not talking cheesy here. The film abounds with these kinds of depraved and perverse scenes. The more harmless fun in the film is about targeting South Indians. According to Khan's twisted logic they eat noodles with curd and pronounce keys as kiss. What can you say to that?

It's one thing to chuckle along with a bunch of young bachelors cracking risqué jokes and doling out abuses by the dozen in a film meant only for adults. It's quite another to watch a middle-aged father engaging in crotch grabbing brand of bawdy moments in the presence of his son. The film has a token director who was in news recently for protesting against the sleaze in an adult comedy like “Delhi Belly”. Clearly, he was not present when his middle-aged star was trying to be ‘cool' in front of the camera and falling flat on his face.

But does any of this matter in the final analysis? For all we know, by the time the audience discovers they have been taken for a ride, “Ra.One” would have generated a healthy surplus and Khan may very well be counting it as a path-breaking success. Never mind the much publicised technical wizardry which is not a patch on the superhero films Hollywood doles out regularly. Never mind if ‘G.One' in “Ra.One” has no emotional core to boast of and there is nothing for the audience to connect with him. These may not be serious considerations in a sweepstake where all that matters is whether the first day collections of one Khan vehicle manages to surpass that of another Khan who came up with an equally stupid and incoherent film a few weeks earlier.

I only wish they would leave children out of it.

Vijay Nair is the author of the best selling The Boss is Not your Friend and the novel Master of Life Skills.

So, here is another writer on high horse, ready to damn Bollywood completely, paint the whole Bolly canvas with one black brush. I can understand the writer's frustration at the overmarketing of cinema--often it seems that current Hindi cinema is more about commerce than artistic endavour. But it is also true that cinema is a commercial art, one that needs to be commercially viable if the industry is to survive. There have been plenty of film producers who have become impoverished in their pursuit of artistically true cinema. Thankfully, these days it is easier to at least recover cost, if not make a profit. The author is I feel being snobbish about popular bollywod as exemplified by the Khan trio. He is too abusive and dismissive of them, particularly about Aamir Khan--who does not deserve to be spoken of in the same contemptuous breath. No way do his films (whether his own prodns or other outings) match the crassness of a Ready.Aamir in fact remains one true voice of reason.

from:  LS
Posted on: Nov 11, 2011 at 15:18 IST

Firstly I really appreciate the efforts and honesty about the comments made on actors or their so called super-blockbustes!In recent years definition of the 'Hit' movie has diluted way too much n one minute aspects of success(money) has magnified as the ultimatum deciding factor!!But I wish the media did their roles much more honestly and seriously to review the movies and soon enough after!

from:  Himani
Posted on: Nov 7, 2011 at 20:56 IST

Sure, movie making is big business. However, you would expect certain basic
norms to be respected when making big money. Ra.One is clearly a lot of masala
without any substance. The special effects are great and that is only pillar that can
hold it up, if at all. You take away the special effects and what you have left is a
thin story that is replete with sexual innuendos, mindless violence, humor directed
at gays, inappropriate sexual comments with children, and topped with a dose of
really bad acting by SRK who tries desperately to portray a Tamilian. And the
desperation shows in his pathetic performance as Shekar. In contrast, 3 Idiots is a
movie that anyone can watch. It is not an art movie or something from "parallel
cinema", and it is truly entertaining. However, the author is right on the money
when he talks about the growing depravity in Indian cinema. It is about time the
Indian movie industry grew up and exercised more maturity.

from:  Ram
Posted on: Nov 7, 2011 at 02:03 IST

I know everybody wants to take a dig at Khan and am not surprised a leading
author as highlighted by the newspaper doing the same. Lets put it this way, movie
making is a business and its the right of the producer to go at great lengths to
make a profit. Nobody is going to produce a movie to fail. The Ra. One is a very
good example on how to market a product. I have always admired SRK for doing a
great marketing job. Lets come to the second part.The product as I understand is
an entertainer which lasts less than 3 hrs. Its not a life long utility. You just go,
have fun if you can and forget about it. Thats what a movie is all about. Some
movies do stay in your mind and the others are just a wash out. 3 Idiots was a
great movie, Ghajini though violent was enjoyable. So again, whats the author
trying to tell us. Does he want producers to go bankrupt in trying to make an art
movie or a parallel cinema. I feel the author might have written to gain some cheap
popularity.

from:  vishwanathan
Posted on: Nov 6, 2011 at 09:58 IST

3 Idiots is not a forgetful film by any means. Much better than Ghajinis, Readys, Bogyguards and not even worth mentioning in same breath as Ra One. The whole world is still going crazy over 3 Idiots, it is breaking box office records in Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA, South Korea etc. and not just celebrities in India, but even in countries like China, Philippines have praised 3 Idiots. It is being shown in schools and universities for parents, students, teachers across the world and you compare it to foolish blockbusters like Ghajini or Ready!

from:  Ashu
Posted on: Nov 5, 2011 at 23:41 IST
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