Thursday, December 12, 2013

Five Movies That Should Have Been Hits But Weren't

Today I'm going to talk about some Hindi movies that ought to have done better but didn't. These days, there's a trend amongst upper-middle class youth to pretend they don't watch Hindi movies. It's as if we're programed to believe our own film industry isn't good enough for us. It really makes me wonder how movies like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Singham and Dabangg do so well. I men, most of the revenue made by the film industry is from multiplexes and with ticket prices going up to Rs. 500 /-, I think it's safe to assume that they are mostly purchased by affluent people who otherwise like to pretend they never watch something like Agent Vinod because nothing short of James Bond is good enough for them (okay, Agent Vinod isn't good enough for me either so maybe Bollywood should make a good spy movie real fast).

Here's the thing- I've always believed that films are a reflection of society. Okay, so having a size zero heroine and a colourful, coordinated dance routine on some beach somewhere has nothing to do with reality, but the ticket collections are definitely a reflection of something. They reflect what we want to see. They reflect what our fantasies are. But sometimes, a good movies fails to make it to Cannes or maybe it's runtime is too long for the impatient audience of today (trust me when I say Lagaan probably wouldn't be a hit today because it ran, like, ten hours). Or maybe, it didn't was too simple to compete with Karan Johar-style extravagance and yet too commercial to do rounds of the festival circuit. It happens more often than we think. So here's a few movies that could have been hits if we watched them with an open mind and honest heart-

1) Aaja Nachle

A small-town Indian girl, Dia (Madhuri Dixit), elopes with an American photographer, forcing her family to leave town in shame. A decade later, after divorcing her husband (with whom she has a daughter) and succesfully running a dance studio, Dia receives news that her dance guru is dying. That's when Dia returns to her town, only to discover that Ajanta, the dance pavillion her guru ran and she loved, is now to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall. Her best friend and fellow former dancer, Najma, is married to Farooque, a shrewd businessman who is in-charge of constructing the mall. Dia then seeks help from local MP, Raja Uday Singh, requesting him to make a drop plans of the shopping mall because Ajanta is a place of art, culture and dance. Uday Singh presents her with a deal- he will cancel the demolition if Dia can put up a spectacular dance performance at Ajanta. But there's a catch- she can only pick her dancers from the town, where people have long stopped dreaming and dancing.

Dia decides to hold auditions for her play 'Laila Majnu', only to discover the qirkiest people with hidden talent- the local gunda who'll play Majnu, the untidy uncouth who loves him and therefore wants to play Laila, a docile insurance agent for Laila's brother, and a man desperate to prove to his wife he's not boring. But like all noble endeavours, this one is challenged every step of the way, with greedy politicians and businessmen doing their best to bring the production down.

The movie runs 146 minutes and I think maybe it could have tightened down to 120. Other than that, the movie succeeds in highlighting some problems faced by Indian towns. I mean, what the hell are we doing with so many shopping malls anyways? Even the upper-middle class mostly can't afford to shop at stores like Marks and Spencers, unless there's a sale or something. So who do these malls service? They're just a product of our mentality which tell us that glossy, polished spaces with ample glazing are a must if we're ever going to be 'developed'. On the other hand, local art and culture is dead. These days, I see a lot of people forming bands and drama groups. The boys have a limited range of wardrobe- band-name inscribed T-shirts, baggy jeans and flashy Puma sneaker. Maybe there's a ponytail or a mop of long hair. The girls have a fixed wardrobe too- it's either the 'intellectual' look with chunk jewellery, jhola and kolhapuri sandals or the 'rockstar' look with torn T-shirts and skinny jeans. There's a lot being done with the wardrobe, but not much with the culture. That's because art doesn't need big platforms or college fests or televised programs, it needs local platforms where people can escape after a humdrum day.Small-town politics is rampant and that's why these towns remain just....well, small. Not charming, not homely, just small. Plus, this movie has some really nice songs.

One criticism I've heard from my friend, which seems irrelevant but isn't, is this- Madhuri Dixit is fat. Really? Seriously? Okay, so maybe some of her wardrobe choices could have been more flattering, but have we really reached that shallow place of mind where any woman over forty is rampantly criticized for her weight, even if she's not really fat? I mean, if I look like Madhuri Dixit when I'm forty, I'd probably put giant posters of myself all over the city. I'm not really a Madhuri fan, Madhuri Dixit was one of the few women we've had in the last twenty years. These days mostly we just have girls.

Here is the Laila-Majnu performance they put up in the film. Isn't it better that any shopping mall-

2) What's Your Rashee?

This movie's problem was that it had Priyanka Chopra playing 12 different characters, each with her own song-and-dance routine, which makes the movie run for as long as eternity. But other than that, it's not really that bad. I mean, some of the prospective brides are downright funny- be it the businessman's daughter who believes Yogesh was her love in her past life, the bossy business tycoon who sees marriage as a business contratct and the pretty astrologer who will go to any lengths to make the match perfect. Plus, it also shows some real problems faced by young men and women when they try to find their partners through arranged marriage, for example, the Indian doctor who is loving and caring and instantly attracted to Yogesh but refuses to marry him because she's adamant about not settling abroad. Thing is, if you watch this mvie as a whole, you might get tired of it, but if you watch a few parts at a time, you'll see it's a great story with some very good performances by Priyanka Chopra. And I don't know why people were so reluctant to believe the basic premise of Yogesh seeing the face of the woman he will love on every woman he meets. Yeah, that can't happen in real life, but that's what magical realism is about.

3) Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic

This was a children's movie about a businessman who accidentally kills off the parents of four children. In a strange turn of events, the judge decides he should care for the children. Now stuck with children who hate him, a demanding girlfriend and a monotonous life, he has only one saviour- the bubbly angel that's sent down from the heavens to be the children's governess. Yes, the movie takes from Mary Poppins. In fact, it was initially titles Meri Poppins. It was criticized for being saccharine sweet and overly long, but here's the thing- this movie was not for us. It was for the kids! And it had all the right elements for a children's movie. And when was the last time we had a good children's movie anyways? Movies like Stanley ka Dabba are more of crossover films which are laden with symbolism. In fact, they're actually enjoyed better by adults. But Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic  is an all and out children's movie with enough of gloss and candy to make it appealing to the target age group. And isn't it time we gave a shot to being young again?

4) Raju Chacha

A rich man is killed in an 'accident', leaving his children behind with their governess. Greedy relatives soon swoop down to claim his money and it's decided that they will now have the children's custody. It looks like all's lost, when the governess' conman comes to the rescue, claiming to be Raju Chacha, the real heir to the fortune. As children, my friends and I absolutely loved this film. We saw it several times and there was this song called Kahiin Se Aayi Rani Kahiin Se Aaya Raja which we always danced to all the time. then one fine day, an older girl in our group who was already pretty cool declared it was all too childish, and we too grew out of it. Raju Chacha is one of the best children's films I have ever seen. It has a storyline which can be devoured by children, a cast including four of the best actors of our time- Kajol, Ajay Devgan, Rishi Kapoor and Johnny Lever- coupled with three adorable child actors, it's got some great songs that can be enjoyed by all age groups, it has a wonderful fairytale air to it which makes us wonder where exactly the film is taking place and the most child-friendly sets of all time, with most of the movie being shot in a gigantic mansion with a staircase that doubles as a gigantic piano. It is one of the most expensive films of all time. Incidentally, it's also one of the biggest flops in the history of Indian cinema.

5) Nayak

When movies like Singham and Dabangg becme hits, I really wonder why this one didn't get as famous. I'm not insulting pulp movie culture- with its itm songs and dishum-dishum sequences and Herculean heroes- in any way. In fact, I think they appeal to the fantasy of the common man much more than a movie like The Lunchbox- which was amazing, by the way- ever would. Nayak is the story of a common Marathi man, Shivaji, who gets the chance to interview the Chief Minister of Maharashtra after the bravery and excellent journalism work he shows during a riot. The Chief Minister, who's obviously behind the riot, is troubled by Shivaji's straightforward questions and challenges him to be CM for a day. Shivaji accepts and in one day changes the state in unimaginable ways. What follows is a bittersweet, action-packed tale of corruption, revenge and justice, not to mention the sad romance between Shivaji and his girlfriend who ironically can never be with him because he's a man of the country now, not her man. This is every Indian's fantasy for justice. And yeah, there are some dishum-dishum sequences too, with Shivaji doing a Matrix on top of a bus. The item songs, the social message, the Herculean hero- they're all there. So yes, I don't understand how this movie never became a hit, especially since we all want a Shivaji more than we want a Chulbul Pandey.