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By Swanand Kirkire
(Edited by Mayank Shekher for the MAMI Film Festival)
I remember when I was a newcomer to Hindi films, I had met the iconic actor-filmmaker Kamal Hassan at a social function. He had then mentioned to me that, over the years, movies in India had worked for us simply as a magic show. Most people watched moving images on silver screen more as theatre audiences experiencing magic playing out before their eyes – without knowing or thinking of the technology that went behind bringing those images to life. With the explosion of technology in later decades, this illusion of magic slowly began to fade away, and cinema 2000 onwards, I suspect, started to reflect that change.

The content of movies also changed alongside, leaving behind the magic world, and coming closer to reality. Technology allowed us to come into contact with reality in the most enticing ways as well. During this decade hence filmmakers strived to come closer and closer still to reality. That quest is still on.

This tech revolution coincided also with the advent of posh, urban multiplexes in India, which was partly responsible for dividing cinema into two distinct categories, popularly known as “multiplex” and “single screen” movies. Till the nineties, popular cinema was a wholesome package, which used to have something for each section of society, and sometimes for different regions. Filmmakers during the next or new decade were inclined to make films without conforming to the stated notion and parameters of this “wholesome entertainment”. They tried to stay close to the authenticity of the story, and their characters.

So, in the beginning of the millennium, while there were movies like Aditya Chopra’s old-world blockbuster Mohabbatein and Anil Sharma’s hardcore, jingoistic Gadar, there were also Ashutosh Gowariker’s period drama centred on sports, Lagaan (which went on to be nominated to the Oscars), and Farhan Akhtar’s yuppie, yet relatively realistic Dil Chahta Hai, which set the trend for similar urbane movies in the following years.

You could easily sense, the directors were striving for change. Actors were striving for change. So were the audiences. We laughed at our own traditional clichés, and we tried to break conventions, whether it was in music, cinematography, editing, or sound. The directors were not as keen anymore to use songs as storytelling devices, an idiom that has been unique to Indian cinema since the inception of talkies. The storytellers didn’t shy away to explore their nation’s own past but they used it to communicate contemporary ideas. In 2006, Rajkumar Hirani’s Lage Raho Munnabhai and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti brought back past Indian heroes and their values – from Mahatma Gandhi to Chandrashekhar Azad – in a modern context, while keeping all popular elements of entertainment alive. Both films were received well by audiences and critics alike. We can say that the world-view and themes explored in India’s New Wave or parallel cinema of the 1970s and ‘80s had made a comeback in the 2000 decade, with new style and flavor, and entirely as mainstream ideas.

While Bollywood’s second generation filmmakers like Aditya Chopra ( son of the prolific, top producer-director Yash Chopra, who’s been around for over five decades), Karan Johar (son of producer Yash Chopra), Farhan Akhtar (son of lyricist and India’s top screenwriter Javed Akhtar) were telling stories derived from their rich film backgrounds, directors like Rajkumar Hirani (Munnabhai, 3 Idiots), Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met, Rockstar), Rakeysh Mehra, Vishal Bhardwaj (Maqbool, Omkara) and Anurag Kashyap (DevD, Gangs Of Wasseypur) made a mark by bringing in raw narratives derived from their small town backgrounds. Hindi cinema certainly and suddenly had more colour.

In 2001 Indian cinema business was granted “industry status” by the government. This completely transformed the financing and distribution patterns of Hindi movies. The film industry was no more a glory hole where you could potentially stack up black money. Corporate funding was a welcome change. The movie business, which was known for its supposed use of illegitimate wealth, became open to the accountant and shareholder’s scrutiny. Now one didn’t need to pander to the fancies and whims of underworld dons or bhais. The business was handled by professionals.

However, in this whole process, one thing didn’t change: The magic of the stars. Instead the stars were becoming instrumental in Bollywood’s quest for change. An actor like Shah Rukh Khan, while wooing audiences with his charm in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham or Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na, would step out to do a realistic character in Shimit Amin’s Chak De India.  Aamir Khan would direct and act in a sensitive Taare Zameen Par, while still ruling the box office in a mad actioner Ghajini. In the midst all this, there was yet Salman Khan who would stand up like Dabaang, and scream at our faces, “Bro, movies are all about magic!”

The Hindi Cinema Blog would like to heartily thank highly talented lyricist Swanand Kirkire and renowned critic Mayank Shekhar for their valuable contribution and for allowing the posting of this article in our blog.


online movie tickets said...

Swanand sir, I'm a big fan of you and your work. Love the lyrics you write for films and also the dialogues you come up with. Adore your voice. You're amongst one of the finest and most talented people of Bollywood.

Pankaj D said...

If I may take the liberty to address you by your first name have been doing a fabulous job and may god bless you with much more success....

I have possibly watched all kind of movies in possibly last 20 odd years...the movie world brings people close to their dreams. Every tale has a connection to an individual in some sense....weird

I believe in the coming years the journey is going to nothing but fascinating and more intriguing.

The face of cinema is changing from drama to reality..

Cinema is about cherishing the hard work of the team who works on it...some venture might fail but the efforts need to applauded and encouraged...

Unknown said...

Hello Pankaj and Online Movie Tickets,

Swanand Kirkire is not here to answer himself but I am sure he would be moved by your comments!

Pankaj, I also agree that cinema is changing in the way it entertains us in recent decades. What a journey!

shweta wadhwa said...

with the advent of technology and people coming with better ideas, the scope of experiment in our Indian film industry has broadened. Regardless of its acceptance, either by critics or audiences, films like The Lunch Box and Chennai Express are scoring. So, its a welcomed change. I would break no bones with the fact about what Gandhi said .. no matter how insignificant what you do is,, the most important part is to DO IT.

Unknown said...

Hello Shweta,

Lovely to read your comment. Yes, I agree that the scope of Indian cinema is indeed getting larger by the day. I like to also think of cinema by the Indian diaspora as Indian and it also has a very different "feel" to it. Please visit us often :)

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