Movies

Cinema: past present future

A director, a producer and an actor on the year that has given them the impetus to march into the New Year with vigour

Director:

Ashim Ahluwalia

Cinema: past present future

Ashim Ahluwalia, helmer of the recent biopic Daddy, based on the politician Arun Gawli, and starring the hunky Arjun Rampal, is the outsider making inroads into Bollywood one film at a time. His first feature, Miss Lovely, was a periscope zooming into the underground world of the C-grade pornographic films made in the 1980s. In his next film, Ahluwalia moved closer to the mainstream, if not entirely, by featuring Rampal in the lead role. Ahluwalia updated us about his year in Bollywood.

Between your first feature Miss Lovely (2012) and Daddy (2017), what have you learnt about working in the film industry by and large – in terms of trying to get your film made – the rigour that you now follow if at all there is one?

To make the kind of films I do, you have to be headstrong, crazy and somewhat possessed. Filmmaking is a war, there is no other way.

Which films did you see this year?

I don’t watch too much. Many recent films were too safe and predictable, kind of dull for my general taste. I like older films. I saw a Filipino film from 1975 last night, Lino Brocka’s Manila in the Claw of Light – and that would probably blow anything made this year out of the water.

What about the craft of filmmakers back home?

I like seeing films from within the community, sometimes while they are in-process. The younger directors are definitely more exciting. Kabir Mehta, who started out working with me as an assistant, made a really interesting film called Buddha.mov. I really liked Shaunak Sen’s Cities of Sleep, Kabir Chowdhry’s Mehsampur and also Nepalese filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar’s White Sun.

Is there a trend you noticed in cinema this year?

Biopics and period films.

Is that where you are heading next after Daddy, a period film?

I’m currently working on my first international film, and the first film I've made that isn't set in India. It’s set in the near future. That's quite exciting.

Producer:

Priti Shahani

Backing content-based entertainment, and headed by Priti Shahani, Junglee Pictures, the film division of the Times of India group followed the success of their 2015 release Talvar with this year’s bumper-hit Bareilly Ki Barfi. Shahani, an avid film viewer, and an industry expert who misses no release, has her fingers on the pulse of the audience with a line-up of 2018 releases that could spell success. Keeping one eye on the audience, and the other on trends, Shahani says good stories are shaking the film business, and that is the where the future of Bollywood is headed.

What is the most prominent trend you noticed in Hindi films this year?

The audience has begun to select and stand by great stories, although it is not a new trend, but it is no longer about the star cast, and the budget, and they are open to more subjects than previously. This year in fact Baahubali 2 transcended the language barrier also, becoming the biggest hit of the year.

Which films did you see and like this year?

I absolutely loved Baahubali 2 because it presented mythology just the way we as a country have grown up to accept mythology as an intrinsic part of our lives. The film was also presented in its completed splendour which made the experience of watching the film magnificent. I also loved Hindi Medium a lot for Irrfan Khan’s performance. I liked Newton and Shubh Mangal Savdhaan too.

A film you would have liked to produce?

As a film producer it would be a great experience and perhaps if I had to look at it as an institution to work for the director of Baahubali, S.S. Rajamouli. I have watched all his films, and I think how he works is amazing.

Do you think the small films that are doing well have a template – in the recent years films such as Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Tanu Weds Manu, Happy Bhaag Jayegi, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Bareilly Ki Barfi, have the all-too-familiar arc of a wedding ceremony or a new marriage in which the drama plays out.

I disagree. At least with the film I produced Bareilly Ki Barfi which is a more entertaining and romance-based film. About the others, let’s say Dum Laga Ke Haisha, it’s not so much the marriage as it is about weight and health issues, and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan goes further to discuss erectile dysfunction – a topic that most people will not even acknowledge. The reason these films are working is not because they are films about marriage, but about issues that are real and that people can connect with.

Biopics and period films are growing in numbers, is that a trend likely to strengthen next year?

I don’t think stories necessarily have a trend. When stories are met with success, we kind of follow it up with films in the similar genre. What really fundamentally works is stories that either inspire or entertain, and that’s what the audience is always looking for. Or the big fanfare film, like how Tiger Zinda Hai opened recently, the event film that everyone will go to see despite any kind of buzz around it. I am looking forward to seeing Padmavati.

Actor:

Vikrant Massey

Vikrant Massey’s quiet and beguiling turn as Shyamal Chatterjee, or Shutu, as he is lovingly called in Konkona Sen Sharma’s debutant feature, A Death In The Gunj, has got the reticent actor a foot in the door. Massey’s very first audition for the part of the hero’s friend got him his first Bollywood break in Lootera (2013). He had been working in television for more than a decade, but moved to film after his performance in Lootera lead to a part in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), culminating in a busy schedule this year. Massey spoke about next year’s roster and the performances to look forward to and the ones he enjoyed watching this year.

Would you say 2017 was your breakthrough year with three releases, including your critically-acclaimed role as Shutu in A Death In The Gunj?

Not yet, I would say. This year I complete 14 years as an actor, but I am just starting out in films. I have worked a lot in television but in films I have hardly done anything. This year I was in three films, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Half Girlfriend, and A Death In The Gunj, as a result of which I am getting more work and the kind of roles I want to play, so it would be too early to say this was my breakthrough year as I feel I am just being noticed, but the arrival as such has not happened yet.

A performance this year that you greatly admired?

Pankaj Tripathi in Newton. I think he was just effortless in his role but also because he internalises the complexities of the character with such depth that it amazes you. As the character Aatma Singh, he embodies the system as we say, the corrupt system of this country, and enacts his part with such acuity. Another actor’s work that impressed me a lot this year was Rajkummar Rao’s performance in Trapped, and he was equally good in Newton too.

What about the women in films this year?

Shweta Tripathi had a challenging role playing a school girl in Haraamkhor and I think it was as complex and tough to pull off, which she did with great detail. All the women in Lipstick Under My Burkha were excellent.

A role that you would have liked to play this year?

Shaurya, the character played by Rajkummar Rao in Trapped. I was fascinated by it, and thought it would be so challenging to play a role that is driven more by the physical energy than dialogue, and for an actor to push the limits like that, without having to explain through words, it was amazing.

Do you think the idiom of the Hindi film hero has evolved over time?

Yes. Frankly, I have never seen a hero, or don’t believe in such things, and our films today are showing real characters instead of the conventional good guy against the bad guy. There is more to invest in such characters, and actors are getting a chance to play a wide range of roles.

What roles will we see you in 2018?

I am playing a character called Bablu Pandit in Mirzapur – it is a web series for Amazon, and right now all I can say is that it is a solid action drama. Then in January we start shooting for Cargo, a sci-fi film directed by Aarti Kadav, in which I am paired with Shweta Tripathi. The film is being produced by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. After that I have Broken, a drama for Balaji Telefilms that I am looking forward to.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 3:04:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/cinema-past-present-future/article22319690.ece

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