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Experimentation is the mother of all innovation

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Five Bollywood folks who made their cinematic mark in 2018 believe that original content is key especially in the year to come

Experimentation is the mother of all innovation

Sriram Raghavan, filmmaker

2018 films:Andhadhun

What was 2018 like for filmmakers?

We all know that some of the very big films have not done well and some small films have broken through. Finally it has to do with the script and so on, but there’s also a certain amount of word-of-mouth, which travels too fast nowadays because of social media. At least for my film, it began very modestly and suddenly it picked up and it is still running in one theatre in Mumbai. Every year sometimes you have a good bunch and then it regresses into a certain kind of movie. So I just hope there are more adventurous movies next year.

Personally for you what was the most gratifying part of 2018?

For me, it was putting that trust in the audience that paid off. There was a little worry in our film. It has a certain experimental nature, the way it is made and unfolds. And of course, the end! I didn’t worry about it but there was wondering if people are going to get this. But a whole lot of people, much more than I had imagined, embraced the ending. That was something terrific.

What do you think 2019 will be like for you?

You should ask me next year this time (laughs). There are a couple of things I am working on, and it’s great to do one small film a year. I hope to do that.

Five films that stood out for you this year?

Here, I have to confess that I haven’t seen many of the films which would be on my best-five list. I haven’t seen Vetrimaaran’s film [Vada Chennai]. In fact, I joined Hotstar for that but then I thought let me wait there will be a screening somewhere. But among the ones I saw and joined, Raazi was a story I would loved to have done. Mahanati was very interesting for me. I didn’t know too much about the actress and I thought it was a tragedy queen sort of a film but it was so rich, texture-wise. I’ve yet to see Tumbbad also and I’m sure it would be on my list. There are so many I haven’t seen. There’s Nagraj Manjule’s Naal which I haven’t seen. In the next week I’m hoping to catch up.

Experimentation is the mother of all innovation

Ayushmann Khurana, actor

2018 films:Andhadhun andBadhaai Ho

What was the highlight of 2018 for actors?

The highlight was of course, and we’ve been saying this everywhere, that the audience is become smarter and we need to churn out great content. ‘Content’ is a word which is being overused these days. But that’s the present and also the future. We need to get the basics right, that’s the script, the idea should be novel and have no reference point in Indian cinema. Have fresh content and you will be successful. It is as simple as that, I think. The idea has to last for two hours as well. As an actor what films you choose, overall it boils down to the content.

What was the most gratifying aspect of the year for you personally?

Both my films did really well. Andhadhun, for the kind of film it was, made around ₹100 crores worldwide, which actually surpassed my expectations because I did that for love of cinema and we were trying something radically different. The premise was dark but still humour was emanating out of it. On the other hand, Badhaai Ho was my zone of cinema which I’ve been doing for the past six years and I had expectations from it, and it did pretty well for itself. Though it released back-to-back, a lot of critics and trade analysts would say that you shouldn’t release your films back-to-back but if the content is good and people love it, it doesn’t matter.

What does 2019 hold for actors?

We need to play less safe, choose something more unconventional and be brave with our choices. This is the time we can afford to be brave and we’ve seen that happen in the last two years. [The new year] holds great regard for risk-takers, content-churners and the kind of choices I have made are also in sync with the changing trend.

Best male actors of 2018?

That’s pretty tough. In no particular order: Ranbir [Kapoor] for Sanju; Ranveer [Singh] for Padmaavat; Vicky [Kaushal] for Sanju again and also Manmarziyaan; and all three Pankaj Tripathi, Abhishek Banerjee and my brother, Aparshakti [Khurana] for Stree.

Experimentation is the mother of all innovation

Taapsee Pannu

2018 films:Soorma, Mulkand Manmarziyaan

What was the highlight of 2018 for actors?

I’m happy that the unconventional and not so heroic characters are actually getting love and attention from the audience. Usually, everyone wants to be the hero and do the larger-than-life demigod who saves the world. But this year, the not-so-righteous and not-so-perfect characters ended up getting a lot of love, which I think is a very welcome change.

What was the most gratifying aspect of 2018 for you personally?

I made varied choices and all were received so well and remembered. So as an actor, it gave me the confidence that my thinking is in tune with the audiences. And I’ve taken the right path in the kind of roles I am choosing. I am in sync with my audience and I know what they expect out of me. I’m kind of getting an idea of that and it gives me validation of sorts. Whenever I’ve tried to put myself in an uncomfortable situation, as an actor, I think that is when it works the best for me. I tried doing that three times this year. Be it Soorma, where I tried playing the more silent, reserved and shy character which is not really associated with me. That was well-received as so was Aarti in Mulk, which was a controversial character in itself. And then Rumi [Manmarziyaan] for being an imperfect protagonist. Whenever I have put myself in an uncomfortable position, where I’m unsure if I will be able to pull off the role, that has really worked. So in 2019, I’m going to put myself further in uncomfortable roles.

What do you think 2019 will be like for actors?

From the next year onwards, more actors will get out of their comfort zones and try to do something that is not obviously expected out of them. Everyone has realised that the audience needs change. Actors are going to start experimenting a lot more in 2019.

Best female actors of 2018?

I loved Radhika [Apte] in Lust Stories, Tabu in Andhadhun and Rani [Mukerji] in Hichki. I haven’t seen a few films lately and I want to see Anushka [Sharma]’s work in Zero.

Experimentation is the mother of all innovation

Priti Shahani, Producer, President of Junglee Pictures

Films in 2018: Raazi andBadhaai Ho

What was the highlight or the learning of 2018?

For me, the highlight more than the learning is that 2018 shows the wide diversity of stories that have been well-loved and appreciated. This is both, what we call masala entertainers as well as high-concept films. You’ve had Baaghi 2, Raid, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raazi, Badhaai Ho, Stree, Andhadhun. It’s the diversity of stories that have found acceptance. This diversity has given has a lot of hope for the kind of content that can get developed and have the potential of finding acceptance.

You had Raazi andBadhaai Ho as successes this year, so what was the most gratifying part of 2018?

For stories to find both critical as well as fabulous commercial success, there cannot be anything that is more gratifying. The pay-off of one-and-a-half years of the journey that you take with directors, writers, technicians, talent. If it ends in the way this year ended for us, then that is what being a part of the storytelling business is all about.

What does 2019 look like for producers?

Actually 2019 has all the big event films, and it is the big event films that test the strength of our box office because I believe that we still haven’t tested the entire potential of our box office. If you see the line-up of 2019 in the business, you see the big-budget event films but again diverse. There’s Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra or Kesari or Kalank, they are big stories and they are been mounted big in their telling and I’m really looking forward to that.

As a producer, your top films of 2018?

The ones I enjoyed the most is an easy one — there’s Andhadhun, Stree, Raid and Baaghi 2.

Experimentation is the mother of all innovation

Kanika Dhillon, screenwriter

Films in 2018: Manmarziyaanand Kedarnath

What was 2018 like for screenwriters?

The year 2018 truly belonged to the storytellers and writers in particular as well. Be it Badhaai Ho, Andhadhun, Manmarziyaan, Tumbbad or Stree, these are films that did really well and there was a special mention to not just the actors or directors, but people who wrote it. That’s a very healthy sign for our industry because finally we are acknowledging and focusing on content creators, which in turn will lead to better storytelling. All these formulas, tried-and-tested safe zones are not safe any more. There’s a complete un-boxing of commercial, formula and niche. The lines have blurred. This year whenever we’ve felt that this works, two months later something else comes up. So unpredictability, of it all has also been something interesting for me as a writer.

What was the most gratifying aspect of the year for you personally?

For me, it has been my two films Manmarziyaan, which has been liked by critics a lot and Kedarnath which was loved by the audiences more perhaps. The most gratifying thing for me was that my two directors, Anurag Kashyap and Abhishek Kapoor, are saying that it has been the most commercially successful films of their careers. That means a lot to me, that I have been able to collaborate with these talents and it has been a landmark in their careers as well. Another thing that the actors who have played the characters I’ve written have been loved by the audience and they’ve enjoyed playing the roles. Ultimately, it boils down to collective success for all, which is the most gratifying.

What does 2019 hold for screenwriters?

It’s going to only strengthen in 2019. Given that there are so many platforms for storytelling, which have no opened up. For every kind of a story, now there is an audience. Initially, we were restricted because we used to wonder who is going to watch it. So there is a sense of freedom and there is technology to support you. Storytelling will strengthen because there is are new audiences and platforms. The market forces are becoming conducive for storytellers to tell daring stories.

Films you think were best written in 2018?

My top one is Andhadhun. That film when I was watching that film in the theatre I felt like clapping and whistling for those unassuming characters. That sheer power of the telling. Sriram Raghavan is a genius and so are his team of writers. I continuously thought about the writing, which tipped the genre on its head. The next is Badhaai Ho because it was very restrained. Like how Andhadhun entertained you with its shock value, Badhaai Ho was so restrained and calm in its telling which is very commendable. It did not try too hard or fall into the trap of any tropes. If you remove just writing, the visual spectacle and the kind of telling in Tumbbad is fantastic. We’ve never really had greed in a creature film like that. So I thought that was very interesting as well.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:42:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/experimentation-is-the-mother-of-all-innovation/article25853714.ece

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