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It’s time to toll the bell

A scene from Dilwale   | Photo Credit: GRJGM

After watching a film one often feels like filling a feedback form at the box office. There is no way an audience can notify whether the money spent on the film was worth it. Once he has bought the ticket he has almost surrendered his opinion. Perhaps that’s why the marketing machinery works over time to bring the audience to the theatre at least once. Of course, there is social media but its nature is more disruptive than constructive. Not any more. These days there are platforms where you can vote and take your ire out on the worst Bollywood offered in a given year. You can virtually offer a banana, a pumpkin or toll a ghanta to make yourself heard.

From Bombay Velvet and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo to Dilwale and Roy, this year the award ceremonies celebrating the best of the worst have plenty of options to make fun of.

“The kind of sub-standard films that are being made people are bound to get frustrated and these awards are a good way to take it out. It is an expression of disappointment. And it works because it is done in an entertaining way. We are not trying to demean anybody,” says stand-up artist Sanjay Rajoura, who is hosting this year’s Ghanta Awards in New Delhi next week. Sanjay’s revulsion to Bollywood stereotypes goes back a long way. “I used to find Baghban very regressive and chauvinistic. Such films reinforce the secondary role of women in our society. It tries to show that just because of their age parents can do anything. Every time Baghban comes on air, all Indian parents get annoyed with their children.” Similarly he finds the title of a film, supposedly breaking gender stereotypes, Mardani, problematic. “I don’t find Tanu Weds Manu revolutionary either. It is trying to suggest that you have to be a tom boy to make yourself heard.” This year he has plenty to talk about titles like Hawaizaada and Guddu Ki Gun.

But does the industry take note of these awards as except for a Sonam Kapoor stars hardly turn up for such events. Rajoura’s co-host Neeti Palta, says, in a democracy it is a good idea to make fun of ourselves. “Even if they don’t turn up, they are aware of it. When you bring a bad product home, your friends make fun of your choice. And stars are no different here and their Twitter-talk reflects that they know.” She is right. Sonakshi Kapoor did tweet a photo with an actual banana after getting the Golden Kela for two years in a row.

A writer herself, Neeti’s concerns are deeper. “ Roy is sleekly produced but it just doesn’t go anywhere in terms of the narrative so much so that at one point I started feeling suicidal. My point is to highlight that give at least some importance to writing and originality.” Neeti likes to link comedy with social cause. “For example in I Love New Year, 57-year-old Sunny Deol is shown as an eligible bachelor. It is a blatant sexist, gender insensitive approach because you cast his female co-stars of 80s and 90s as mothers now.”

Meanwhile, Radio Mirchi has come up with the concept of Kaddu Awards where television serials have also been included. So, finally you have chance to vote out CID and the regressive overtones of Sasural Simar Ka. Nitin Singh, Senior Vice President, Radio Mirchi, says the concept goes with the youthful, irreverent tone of the brand. “The idea is to make your drive a little lighter and funnier.” But unlike others Mirchi has its stake in Bollywood. “I think we have seen that Bollywood can laugh at itself. And the nominees are those who have had the resources to make a good film.” Will films like Dil Dhadakne Do, which is co-produced by Mirchi’s sister brand Junglee Pictures also feature in the list of nominees. “They might. We are not going to shy way from our films,” says Nitin. A look at the nominees show that Pluto, the voice of Dil Dhadakne Do doesn’t feature in Kaddu Awards but he does make a cut in Ghanta Awards and is getting a lot of traction.

Be it Ghanta or Golden Kela, these awards draw inspiration from Hollywood’s Raspberry Awards or Razzies as they are popularly called. And Jatin Varma, the man behind the Golden Kela Awards, the oldest of the lot, carries the spirit of the Razzies. In Indian context, banana is the funniest fruit. For Jatin it is not a business proposition and he underlines that he has no stake in the film industry. “I see it as a creative outlet. Unlike others, it was not launched as a product or a business model but over the years it has become the talking point and the word has entered popular lexicon so much so that when somebody comes up with a bad product after substantial investment people say he must get a golden kela.”

It is not easy to find sponsors for such awards as Jatin suggests most of the corporate houses have tie-ups with film industry in one way or the other.

At the Golden Kela there are too many categories that sometimes you forget which one of the lot is actually the worst. “Films like MSG shouldn’t get away with just the worst film tag. They are category unto themselves. Sometimes we create a category for a particular year. Like when sequels and remakes were trending we had a most pointless sequel category.”

This year he bestowed the Sangh Pariwar Award on “Gerua” song of Dilwale. “Not many got this joke. Something like Shakti Kapoor award for misogyny or Dara Singh Award for fake accent is much clearer,” notes Jatin.

A regular Bollywood follower, Jatin feels it takes a lot of talent to make a bad film. Nothing has been able to outclass his all time worst film, My Name Is Khan. “The problem is in the last few years the quality of bad films has also come down. It is shocking that Bollywood is not doing a good job of making its regular bad films. It makes our job boring.”

Talking about the profile of people who vote for these awards, Jatin, who has an economics background, says he hasn’t any analytical data to share of it but he can say that these are actual people who are fans of Bollywood and that these are not people who have grown up on European or Iranian cinema. “It gives them an opportunity to respond after wasting their time over a bad film.”

In film schools, teachers often put value on bad films as they make you realise the value of good cinema. “Of course, bad films have a place in history,” agrees Jatin. “More than the actors, the joke is on the audience. At the end of the day, these are the films that make most of the money at the box office. We want to tell the audience that while you are having fun at the Golden Kela, you have spent your hard money on these films. And the guy who is producing these films feels that this is what the audience want.” Perhaps, the need for feedback form is still there!

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 9:39:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/its-time-to-toll-the-bell/article8537599.ece

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