Monday, May 28, 2007

Is Bollywood out of stories or is it just a myth?

By Anant Mathur (May 28, 2007)

I don't know about you but I find it very amusing when I see press interviews with Bollywood stars, producers and directors about their forthcoming films. I mean they all say the same thing, it's an original story, the Indian audience has never seen anything like it, etc. etc. I mean give me a break, from the first frame of the same film it's very obvious where the film's story has been copied (or inspired as they like to say in Bollywood) from. Surprisingly, gone are the days when media used to write about how Indian filmmakers are copying stories from the west. These days producers and directors openly admit which Hollywood film they have copied and the media has no problems with it.

Even a film like Dhoom 2 which has been copied from countless Hollywood films (eg. Mission Impossible) does well at the box office. I guess producers don't really care about what the story is as long as it does well. But at some point they need to seriously think about what they are doing. One day, I would love to see Hollywood copy our films and not the other way around. It's happening with music. Even with music our desi music directors have copied many tunes and have never been sued. But the moment a foreign band (Truth Hurts) uses an indian song (Kaliyon Ka Chaman) as part of their song we sue them and not just sue...our guy (Bappi Da) wins! Woah! What's up with that. Now wouldn't it be great if we could accomplish that with our films also.

Sometimes I really wonder how some films even get made. I mean who really thinks that films like Red Swastika, The Challenge, MP3 - Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar, Kabhi Socha Bhi Na Tha, Ghutan, Dharm, Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii, Chooriyan, Kaise Kahe, Fear, Darling, Kaafila and Jahan Jaaeyega Hamen Paaeyega are going to set the box office on fire. Most likely many, if not all, these films will be big flops. Why even bother guys. There are way too many new directors in Bollywood these days and not many with talent. We need better writers, better stories and better direction which can only come from people who are talented not Madhuri Dixit's secretary who has decided to make films or Amitabh Bachchan's make-up man who thinks he has the best story in the world to tell.

Bollywood complaints that there are no good stories. But the moment a new writer or director approaches a production house with fresh ideas, the first thing they're asked is who's in it? Which star do you plan to have? Who will do the music? Choreography? etc. etc. I mean, Shahrukh Khan's butler probably has a better chance of getting a film made in Bollywood than a talented writer/director. Simply because he knows Shahrukh and can use his connections and Shahrukh will likely work in his film for a huge pay cut. I mean it makes you sick in the stomach to think the way Bollywood works. Mindless producers,
hopeless directors and talentless writers getting a chance simply because they know a Superstar.

In Bollywood as long as you kiss the a$$ of the right people, your film will be made. There's no talent required here. The talented ones are pushed aside because they don't know anyone. Hopefully this is something that will change because until Bollywood starts making new stories, no one is going to take them seriously. Bollywood is finally being recognized the world over and it's high time that Indian filmmakers come up with their own ideas for stories and not copy Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Wyler, Wells, Cuckor and the gang from Hollywood. There is a dearth of original screenplays in Bollywood and too many "inspired" films are being made. Talent is required to make good films not who you know or who knows you. It's time to do away with the a$$ kissing and time for some Hollywood a$$ kicking. What say?

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 21, 2007


By Anant Mathur (May 21, 2007)

Is it just me or do you also get pissed off when you see hindi film trailers? I mean what is it with just showing songs? A trailer's purpose is to sell the film. But the way hindi films are being promoted they sell the songs and not the film. When you look at trailers in Hollywood and other countries around the world, they may not reveal the story but they are interesting. A few good ones that come to mind are Spiderman Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Titanic, Fantastic Four, Shrek, . They didn't necessarily reveal the story but they made you want to go and see the film and that's the point really. Isn't it?

I think the problem with hindi films bombing at the box office is that they don't promote them well enough. A two minute trailer featuring on Music channels with a hot item number isn't going to get people to come see your film, it will sell music albums, but it won't bring people to the cinema halls. A trailer needs to be interesting enough to make me wanna go hmmm...It's Friday afternoon and oh yeah...I remember this really cool trailer I saw last night and wanted to see this movie lets see what my friends are doing tonight. Trailers have the power to make me call up my friends or family to see if they want to have an evening out at a multiplex.

In Hollywood, if a film costs 100 million dollars to make, they spend 20-30 million on promotion, a prime example of this is the recently released James Bond Casino Royale. Casino Royale cost 102 million dollars to produce and had a Ad budget of close to 44 million dollars. The end result is that it made over 167 million dollars in the U.S. alone, recovering it cost and making a little bit of profit, internationally it made
over 462 million dollars, that's a total of close to 600 million dollars. That's more than 4 times what was spent on production and marketing. And this is before the DVD release. If so much money is put into a film it only makes sense to market it well.

I think Indian filmmakers need to do a makeover on the way films are marketed. A lot of good films suffer because their music just isn't interesting and because we are only shown the songs in the trailer we don't go to see it. If filmmakers really want to copy something from the West, copy their style of marketing and promotion, not their screenplays. In the end, a film which is market well will provide greater profit than a film which is not. No matter how good or bad the story is marketing is key to the success of films. That's why a lot of bad films make money in Hollywood. It's all about getting audiences into cinema halls. A place where Indian filmmakers seem to be (pardon the pun) trailing far behind...

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sexy or Sleazy?

By Anant Mathur (May 14, 2007)

There is a trend in the Indian Film Industry where all filmmakers are showing what could only be described as half naked women in the films. They’re confusing sexy with sleazy. Sexy doesn’t mean you show girls in bikinis. Sexy is an attitude.

But(t) why?

What's the point of all this sleaze? Is it just to sell some movie tickets? Is there really such a dearth of good stories that they have to stoop to this? Do filmmakers believe that people won’t come and see their film if they don’t have these half naked women? I don't think that's true, at least I hope not, otherwise the industrywala's are in big trouble. They can't start thinking this way.

Remember, yash raj films made Neal n Nikki, arguably the sleaziest film to come out of their camp, but it bombed like anything at the box office. They also made Veer-Zaara, which didn't have a Mallika Sherawat item number or any women in bikinis and yet was a huge hit. Veer-Zaara made more money than probably all these sleazy films combined. The audience has spoken.

I was travelling in a Scooter Riksha towards Juhu Beach a couple of days ago when a bus passed us by. The driver of the Rik saw an ad for OK magazine, featuring a half naked girl with a baby in her arms, on the back of the bus. He just started off after that, saying how can the government allow such sleaze on buses don't they know that children are seeing these things and how much of a bad influence it is for them. As we continued on the road he pointed out billboards which had similarly dressed girls posing for different products. He continued to say that if this doesn't stop people will get the wrong idea, then they complain about how crime is on the rise. Some servant raped a girl or someone broke into a home and raped someone. The government has to draw the line somewhere. How can girls pose like this? He continued on until I reached my destination. He was right in everything he said. He is the common man. The common man has spoken. He doesn't want to see sleaze. Not in films and certainly not on our streets where every man, woman and child has access to these almost pornographic images.

Filmmakers need to keep in mind that India is not the west, we still have extended families. Most people still go to the cinema with the entire family. If good films are being produced they will do well. The NRI audience is growing and fast becoming a major market. But why do Indian filmmakers think that just because NRI market is in the west they will want to see sleaze.

Having lived in Canada for the last 20 years, I know very well that the NRI audience for hindi films in Canada and the U.S. goes to see hindi films as a family. Yes, there are young couples and friends who go to these, but that’s not the majority. People still watch films as a family.
India still has a large population of elders, if filmmakers only make films for the younger generation they’re isolating this group. Filmmakers need to remember that these elder people probably have more money than the young lot who’re just starting their careers. If good family films are made then this elder group will spend their money on those films. They don’t want to see sleaze.

Yes, I’m sure like other things, there is a market for sleaze also. But, It’s probably the same market that watches porn. If filmmakers want to make sleaze why not make porn and call it what it is, just keep it out of the commercial films. The audience for commercial films wants quality. I for one can easily say that I don’t watch that many hindi films now. I used to watch at least 20 films a year in the cinema hall. Now that’s probably down to about 5 a year, I have stopped watching hindi films simply because they’re no good. I don’t want to see sleaze. If a quality film comes along I’ll go see it, but I don’t want to waste my money on sleaze which has no relation to the story of the film or on films without a good story and girls showing their assets. I’m the perfect example of what happens when good films are not made. People won’t watch sleaze no matter how well it’s promoted. I’m sure sleazy films are making money, but I doubt they're making as much as they would if they had a good story instead.

I guess these days directors are happy If their film runs for a week and makes a little bit of money as long as they don’t loose money, it’s all good. But what they fail to realize is that the audience is mature enough to know what a good film is and they will make more money if they make quality films rather than these sleaze-fests. We don't need producers and directors telling us sleaze is art, we all know they’re making these films for their own titillation. If they really want to show their talent they don't need sleaze, but i doubt these directors and producers have any talent. Sexy doesn't mean half naked women, sexy is an attitude, if only these guys would learn english and understand that. Sad, isn’t it!

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Whatever happened to Movie Titles

By Anant Mathur (May 11, 2007)

I Remember the good old days...When there used to be a mystery in film titles. Hollywood still has it, but the Indian film industry seems to be loosing it. Whatever happened to titles like Mughal-E-Azam, Sholay, Shaan, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. Titles that didn't give the story of the film away. Today we have titles like Neal n Nikki, Big Brother, Kabul Express, Traffic Signal, Salaam-E-Ishq, Jaan-E-Man, Corporate, Life In a...Metro, Good Boy Bad Boy, Honeymoon Travels, Shootout at Lokhandwala, Mr. Hot Mr. Cool, Just Married, Vivah, Kudiyon Ka Hai Zamaana, and Apna Sapna Money Money (I wonder what this one is about...duh!).

I don't know about you but I prefer not to know the story of a film before I see it...That way I have no expectations of how good or how bad it is. When I see it, I'll decide if I like it or not. What's the point of seeing the film if you can figure out the story from a trailer or from reading the synopsis or worst yet...from the title of the film. There should be a mystery to a film, I should be curious about what the story might be and that curiosity will make me buy the ticket come Friday night. If I know a film is about an underworld don, the mystery is gone, there have been hundreds of films made on underworld dons, why should I see this one? What makes this one better than the others?

I mean if a story is about cops does it really need to be called Police Force? Apna Sapna Money Money tells me right away what I can expect from the movie and I already start thinking about whether I want to watch a film like that, so come friday...I just say no, I don't think so. When you have a title like Sholay or Shaan, you don't know what to expect from the film. But the titles are so powerful and mysterious, it makes you curious.

These days filmmakers are under the assumption that if we tell the audience what the film is about via a synopsis they will come and watch the film. I personally think it has the opposite effect. If I read a synopsis, I will know what the story is about and have my own expectations from the film before entering the cinema hall. If the film doesn't live up to what I expected it to be I will not like it. Then I will tell all my friends and relatives that the film is horrible, don't see it. I don't think that's what the filmmakers want. There should be a mystery in the way films are advertised and marketed, whether it's the Title, the Trailer, The PR, The Ads, The Synopsis (which is really not required), filmmakers need to re-think their strategy. If they want the audience to come and see their films, give us a reason, and no...half naked girls in a song or love scenes are not a good enough reason, not for the real movie buffs at least - these are the people who see more than ten film a year in a cinema hall. So keep the mystery alive and the audience will keep coming back. In the film Field of Dreams it is said "If you build it, he will come". Same thing goes for filmmakers, if you build up a mystery about your film, the audience will be curious and the curiosity will fill the seats...

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.