One of the reasons why Hindi films tend to borrow more from southern cinema rather than the other way round is the rootedness of the latter. Or as Ajit Andhare, COO of Viacom 18, likes to say, Hindi films became business class whereas southern films remained economy class. It points to how a film like Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! in 1994 had as many as 7.39 crore footfalls, which is down to about 3 crore now—even a blockbuster like Aamir Khan’s Dangal in 2016 could only manage 3.69 crore footfalls. Clearly, out-of-home entertainment has a strong correlation with the economic position of the country. A $3 trillion economy does not have a substantial middle class that spends, which means the model of film consumption today is business class. The multiplex screens focus on the premium end, whereas single screens continue in the south allowing economy-class films to flourish at lower ticket prices. Yet, he says, it’s not as if nothing has changed in Bollywood. Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions, and Prithviraj-Raj Kapoor brought in the Hindustani-Punjabi sensibility which informed Bollywood’s DNA. Everything changed when Yash Raj Films made Dum Laga Ke Haisha in 2015, he feels. “The chiffon-clad woman who was at the heart of Yash Raj love stories changed into an overweight woman in a synthetic sari in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Everyone started doing content-led films, making it the new mainstay,” he adds. Films are a very complex and layered product. What eventually comes out can be very different from what one sets out to make. Most studios have had a very conventional way of running with a deal-oriented approach, he points out. For bringing out a film every quarter, they look for a certain amount of rhythm, or turnover. But a film can’t be made just because there is a package deal available—there is, after all, something called an artistic vision. No wonder Hollywood suits soon quit the industry, leaving Viacom 18 as one of the few studios left standing. Andhare is betting big on Aamir’s Laal Singh Chaddha, so the proof of this pudding will lie in its eating.
The Hindi film industry’s search for heroes from our history continues. The latest to be excavated from the archives is C Sankaran Nair, the lawyer who fought to uncover the truth of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. There were several heroes there—Narayan Vinayak Virkar, the photographer who staged the pictures in the aftermath of the massacre to show where Reginald Dyer’s bullets had fallen; the former editor of The Bombay Chronicle, BG Horniman, who smuggled the photographs to London to show the British public what its government had done; and Nair, who resigned from the viceroy’s executive council, the highest governing body in British India, when he learned of the full extent of the horror in Amritsar. It forced the British to institute an inquiry into the events of April 13th, 1919. His role was recounted by his great-grandson Raghu and his wife Pushpa Palat in a 2019 book, The Case that Shook the Empire: One Man’s Fight for the Truth about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Dharma Productions, which is filming the adaptation, got in touch with the Palats’ daughter Divya, a theatre director/producer, and the result is a courtroom drama to be directed by one-time lawyer Karan Singh Tyagi.
Who’s the Favourite?
Anecdotal evidence from certain Twitter handles intended to track star popularity indicates that news about actor Prabhas is retweeted more often than that of Thalapathy Vijay and Salman Khan. With the forthcoming release of the period romance Radhe Shyam, it seems that Prabhas’ single status is one of the reasons. He certainly tries very hard to maintain it in spite of rumours about Anushka Shetty, his co-star in Baahubali. The last time Prabhas played a loverboy was in Darling in 2010. So the wait for his fans has been long.
Did You Know?
Kubbra Sait, who wowed everyone with her performance as Kukoo in Sacred Games (2018), has got herself an important part in Apple TV+’s ambitious new intergalactic series Foundation starring Jared Harris and Lee Pace. Giving her scompany in this diversely cast series based on Isaac Asimov’s book series will be former Bigg Boss Season 3 runner-up Pravesh Rana, last seen as a persistent police officer in The Serpent on BBC One.