The New Wave of Filmmakers in Bollywood

Oh, sh*ts. I’ve been remiss about so much. I’ve got a backlog of things both shiny and smart to share with you, so please bear with me as I suddenly haunt the mutiny.

The first thing on my list: MTV Iggy’s special feature on Bollywood’s “new wave” of filmmakers. The idea is that, much like the French new wave of the 50s, Indian cinema is facing a radical change, with auteur directors leading the way with a new influx of talent, money, professionalism and creativity. And the audience in India is ready for it. 11smoking1-200x200.jpg Anuvab Pal (friend of Sepia alum Manish Vij) is now a screenwriter in Mumbai, and his funny, engaging, and very revealing article is a must read:

In fall 2003, I was asked by a friend of mine, the director Manish Acharya, to co-write a film with him. It would be about a Bollywood singing contest in New Jersey. We were influenced by the movies of Christopher Guest and Woody Allen, and had lived in New York for a numbers of years. At some point, in various coffee shops in Manhattan, as we wrote, I asked Manish who our audience might be. He intelligently remarked that we shouldn’t write with audiences in mind but just try to tell a good story. That’s the sort of answer auteur film directors give at film festival Q&As and grave audiences nod in agreement. It had a sort of nobility to it. I was far more interested in a petty middle-class answer.

“Still, who?” I insisted.

“Whom” he corrected, adding, “New India. This is a film for new India.”

[snip]

…Somehow, somewhere, someone said enough. The fiefdoms of old-school studios churning out regressive family sagas, the cartel of stars making unreasonable demands like stretch limousines during foreign shoots, silly Hallmark Channel soap conflicts, cheesy glamour, lazy storytelling, laughable dialogue that made us ashamed on airplanes when we read them subtitled, and the clichés of Bollywood (boy meets girl, coy dancing around trees, gratuitous wet sari scenes)… all, in the last seven years, somehow ended.

[snip]

“The only producers from the earlier era who will survive are those who are trying to change. You need to bring in new writers and directors to make that happen” explained a studio executive at The Indian Film Company. “Look at Aamir Khan-he starred in terribly silly movies playing lovers in sailor hats. Today he’s India’s leading cutting-edge producer of the new wave. And look at Subhash Ghai. Once with the Midas touch, now critics say he’s lost the pulse of his audience.”

As a writer of alternative films in Bollywood, I see the studios’ daily struggle to be relevant as every Friday some new director releases a cult hit. I’ve been in script meetings for a Bollywood remake of Motorcycle Diaries, an adaptation of “half” a remake of Steve Martin’s Bowfinger, and I got offered a screenplay based on “a story about a murderer/singer/dancer in Paris”.

11luckbychancee-poster (1).jpg

Clearly, producers are hungry for new material and simultaneously unsure of new ideas. Instinctually they recoil, but are worried the changing audience might think otherwise, so they second guess. “Today’s Bollywood is like the Jazz age America,” a magazine writer at Cine Blitz, India’s most popular film tabloid told me. “Everything is trendy, though no one knows the next trend”.

Into the middle of all this parachute-dropped Slumdog Millionaire, the global phenomenon which immediately made both old Bollywood and new Bollywood exhilarated and angry at the same time. Angry because new wave directors like Sudhir Mishra or Anurag Kashyap did similar (and arguably much better) films like Satya and Dharavi, on similar subjects — i.e. set in slums amongst Mumbai gangsters. Angry because no Hollywood studios swooped in with distribution deals that would have ensured a similar global (especially American) audience. Angry also because the term “poverty porn” was being thrown around as if India’s biggest cinematic export was its destitution. Exhilarated because Hollywood studios have flocked to India in the last few years, and Slumdog has cemented their stay.

Full article here. He’s a great writer, and the piece is interesting peek into an industry generally shrouded in mystery and wallpapered with winking/kowtowing celebrity profiles.

The feature also includes video interviews with directors like Anurag Kashyap (Dev D):

MTV IggyAnurag Kashyap: Bollywood = Stock Characters in La La Land
Anurag Kashyap

Rohan Sippy (Bluffmaster, producer of The President is Coming), Zoya Akhtar (Luck By Chance), actors like Naseeruddin Shah, slideshows, etc.

[full disclosure: I work for MTV Iggy and edited the feature. If you think it's stupid, now's your chance to tell me!]

71 thoughts on “The New Wave of Filmmakers in Bollywood

  1. Wow, Cicatrix. Wow.

    I can’t tell you how glad I am to see that things are changing. Ever since Slumdog came out, I’ve had a feeling that it would create some BIG change in the Indian film industry. And thankfully, thankfully it really has. This is so exciting.

    I really think that this is a good thing. The industry NEEDS to change. And in the past, the argument against change was always that the “audience wasn’t ready for it and that the audience wouldn’t accept it.” Good to know that has changed and is changing.

    I’m into filmmaking so this provides some new unexplored territory for me. :-)

  2. As usual Hindi-Bombay cinema = Indian cinema. And as usual the most noticed movies are the ones that try to lift the look and feel of some import, with directors who can talk in English receiving top billing. Ignores the other 4/5 ths of Indian cinema that continues to produce novel stuff with no fuss. Subramaniapuram, Pitamahan, Santosh Subramaniam, Mungaru Male, and the big hits Bombay turns out don’t matter – because the directors of these movies while being modest and appreciative of their foreign influences, continue to work by themselves. And also it is important to maintain the delusion that the “New Indian Cinema” dropped out of nowhere, and has nothing to do with the evolution from the “Old Indian Cinema”. Just like creationists in the US imagine that every “kind” was created intact 6,000 years ago. Of course not a word about the many multiplexes that make it possible to narrowcast movies to segmented audience groups.

  3. I didn’t even know MTV Iggy existed! You’ve done a great job on the feature :) I’ve been really interested in the direction a lot of the newer films have been taking (just saw and loved Luck By Chance) and incidentally anytime I try to “convert” a friend to Indian films I start with Bluffmaster. I’m always excited when their reaction to it is the same as mine was–”THIS is Bollywood?” “It is now,” I tell them. It is now.

  4. Cicatrix, fantastic feature! I’m still waiting for Dev.D to appear on Netflix… I want to watch a decent print.

    Demondoll, I think (and correct me if I’m wrong, Cicatrix) Pal does try to make a point that “interesting” films have been produced in Bombay for some time (Maqbool (2003), already mentioned Satya (1998))– certainly before Slumdog. What’s new is that there’s much more money being poured into the promotion and distribution of these “alternative” Hindi films– because there’s more money being poured into films in general, the Bombay industry is expanding, etc. (Personal observation: over the last six or seven years, Abhay Deol, Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak, and Rajat Kapoor seem to have starred in a lot of these Hindi alterna-flicks.) And sometimes, at least in films like Zubeidaa, Raincoat, or Omkara, it’s difficult to tell what’s mainstream or alternative or parallel…

    Jyotsana’s point about the reduction of all of Indian film into Bombay films is one that most film studies folks I work with feel strongly about and are working to rectify. Whether or not that will happen in international (and national) media coverage of the Indian film industries anytime soon is anybody’s guess.

  5. Hi Nilanjana,

    I know! :-) I know that there is “alternative” (as you called it) film industry in India. I’m a huge fan of Satyajit Ray. What I was gushing about was that now it is going more mainstream into Bollywood.

    People think of Bollywood when they refer to Indian films because it is famous and known world-wide (in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, as well as in the Americas) , whereas, sadly, other Indian film industries are not very well known. When I travel, I often run into foreigners who have seen a Bollywood film.

  6. This is a great post – thanks !! Huge movie buff.

    I’ve always found it a bit ironic that a lot of the films which
    are seen by foreign film watchers in the west as Indian are the ones made by Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair, which weren’t huge in India and were even banned (more the former director than the latter. Even Slumdog wasn’t technically an Indian produced film; Bandit Queen was very, very powerful, and Lagaan was a lot of fun. Salaam Bombay will also always be a favorite.

    As long as they don’t keep ripping off other movies (sometimes frame for frame like the great Korean movie Old Boy was ‘remade’), should be interesting to see how this new wave of films do and what direction they take.

  7. Read this a while ago and remember getting irritated by it.

    The critics’ verdict is patently untrue because these filmmakers remain on the margins. Popular taste refuses to be moulded by the self-appointed arbiters of taste. That is why it is so necessary to call the bluff of the critics when they anoint faltering filmmakers like Bhardwaj as the masters of cinema.

    As the “masses” crowding the front seats of Kaminey would say, “Chutia sala.”

  8. Demondoll, I think (and correct me if I’m wrong, Cicatrix) Pal does try to make a point that “interesting” films have been produced in Bombay for some time (Maqbool (2003), already mentioned Satya (1998))– certainly before Slumdog. What’s new is that there’s much more money being poured into the promotion and distribution of these “alternative” Hindi films– because there’s more money being poured into films in general, the Bombay industry is expanding, etc.

    However, alternate Indian cinema is as old as the industry in India itself. Sure, now more money and visibility is coming in general. Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak were making “new wave” movies, the same time French and Italian cinema was doing.

    Let me start naming some of them who were way before the present batch of alternate movie crowd :

    Ritwik Ghatak Satyajit Ray Shayam Benegal Mrinal Sen Mani Kaul Govind Nihalani Aparna Sen

    * In fact, Film Institute in Pune has for long produced a string of directors and actors for alternate cinema. Nasseruddin Shah, Om Puri, Shahbana Azmi, Smita Patil started their career in alternate cinema.

    ** Smita Patil started as a news reader, and then to alternate cinema.

  9. I also hope that with more money being poured in from real studio systems which are being established, as opposed to the system which has been around for decades of independent producers, that as stated, there is more professionalism and quality not just from the directing, writing and cinematography, but also on the back end. Hope this leads to an end of the ‘casting’ couch and pay-to-play stories which you hear a lot about.

    Would love to see less of the model-turned-actors/actresses and the ones who are ‘stars’ simply because of family relations – sure there are some gems who develop here and there – but want to see more who rise up from from nowhere, or with theater backgrounds, etc – like the actors from the early to mid 20th century did. Let’s see if an ‘indie’ scene can develop eventually.

  10. Kush and Demondoll, I took the word “alternative” from Pal’s own words:

    As a writer of alternative films in Bollywood, I see the studios’ daily struggle to be relevant as every Friday some new director releases a cult hit.

    . What both of you refer to has sometimes been called parallel cinema– which for a while at least, was pretty distinct from mainstream commercial Bombay films– and in the case of some of these filmmakers (Ghatak and Ray), not produced in Bombay at all. (Bless the Bengali filmmakers for making films in a language I understand.) The fact that people like Pal are using words like “new wave,” “alternative,” and (Kush) “alternate” for this (arguably) new space or category of “alternative films” within mainstream commercial Bombay films points to the fact that some people seem to think something is new, but haven’t agreed upon what exactly it is.

  11. Kush, thanks for the quotes around “alternate cinema”. Bengalis would be surprised to know that Ray and Ghatak are parallel/alternative/art and not mainstream movie makers! Bhupen(da) Hazarika has an interesting anecdote about the whims of high-brow critics – foreign and Indian – who among other things derided Indian cinema for its song and dance routine until, as Hazarika says, when Ray released his immensely popular Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne featuring not one or two but fifteen song sequences! All of a sudden critics began deep analysis of song and dance routines! How many of us know that Subhash Ghai was a student of the Film Institute when Ritwik Ghatak was the principal, and that Ghai has never missed an opportunity to thank his teacher for lessons learned?

    Hope this leads to an end of the ‘casting’ couch and pay-to-play stories which you hear a lot about.

    I see Hollywood is full of chaste boy scouts and girls scouts right?

    In that case why do Rajshree Pictures and the Barjatya family get no love from the critics? They make clean films, lead exemplary lives. Grandpa Tarachandji on retirement left the business and moved South to Pondicherry to volunteer at the Aurobindo Ashram where I have seen cook and clean the place. Sooraj continues the tradition.

  12. I think there might be a confusion between what one could term ‘art-house’ cinema and ‘alternative’ cinema. IMO alternative cinema still uses much of the basic material of mainstream cinema and has a mainstream audience in mind but aims to provide something different to them. Art-house cinema makes a lot less concessions to either the industry or the audience. And of course mainstream here = Hindi cinema; the numbers and the money means it cannot be otherwise. If you are making a film in Bengali or Malayalee, no matter how good it is you are already limiting your audience massively becuase in India, only a small proportion of an audience will to see a film in a language they can’t understand and need to read subtitles for. It is the same for European films not in English, no matter their appeal; the market for this is just too small at the mo.

  13. while I have always had a soft spot for indie American/Brit cinema from the 90s, I don’t know if I can get into Indian indie movies if all they do is ape american indie movies. Hopefully, they will find their own voice.

    There has always been indie movies in India. in fact, some of the mainstream south Indian movies developed an indie sensibility in the late 70s early 80s for a very brief period.

    One problem I see with indie movies in india is distribution. Do they have an Indian version of Sundance or IFC? And forget the Indian channels exposed to Indians in the US. Total crap channels.

  14. Conrad,

    There’s all kinds of cinema, and in India while the directors, actors, scriptwriters may group themselves along a spectrum of commercial to art house to parallel or whatever, the technicians, assistants etc – the unnamed folk aka junior artists (watch K. Balachander’s Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal for that) work with just about anything that will help them make ends meet. While Ray couldn’t find a cinematographer to shoot Pather Panchali on location (lighting problems and all that) and had to turn to Subrata Mitra a photographer for that, he hired quite a few experienced assistants from the ranks of mainstream cinema some of whom went on to do very well. It is disappointing to see Anurag Kashyap diss mainstream cinema, considering that some of its leading lights Dev Anand, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor are subjects of scholarly study today. The song and dance routine is India’s contribution to cinema, something that has emerged from its long tradition of folk performance

  15. There’s all kinds of cinema, and in India while the directors, actors, scriptwriters may group themselves along a spectrum of commercial to art house to parallel or whatever, the technicians, assistants etc – the unnamed folk aka junior artists (watch K. Balachander’s Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal for that) work with just about anything that will help them make ends meet.

    Yes, of course, but this is hardly unique to India; several types of cinema exist in almost all countries with an indigenous cinematic tradition and industry; how one classifies it can vary and depends to a large degree on subjective factors. Obviously, the several types of cinema have existed in India right from the start; the earliest B&W films made in India were religious epics or historical dramas, that obviously didn’t incorporate song and dance routines (I have some problems btw in seeing this as somehow India’s ‘contribution’ to world cinema, as a genre it didn’t originate in India and existed in Western cinema, where it died out for various reasons. India’s contribution is more specific in the way it is woven into the on-screen relationships and narrative but this is another discussion).

    For me the films of someone like Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy represent what I would call ‘alternative’ cinema while Ray, Ghatak and Sen are what I would consider to be ‘arthouse’ cinema.

  16. jyotsana, Anurag Kashyap talks about how the song and dance sequences of mainstream cinema will always influence what he does. Anuvab Pal, the writer of the article (have you read the full article?) disses mainstream Bollywood cinema because he comes from far outside its sphere of influence. Sorry this feature doesn’t cover all the films and filmmakers you want included, but the fact remains that when people talk about “Bollywood” they refer to the Mumbia film industry. And this feature is about the noticeable tremors that might upend that industry. So throwing other regional film industries into the mix would a) be outside the scope of the piece b)be more in-depth that I can reasonably get away with. This wasn’t intended for an exclusively desi or academic audience, and it’ll still pretty thoughtful (I hope) considering the younger audience it does reach.

    As for Satyajit Ray and “old cinema” — no one’s saying it didn’t influence the present! Not sure where you’re getting that. Ray and the “old cinema” were, however, a long time ago. And in the meantime, mainstream Bollywood became increasingly farcical, and even that not on purpose. Hope I’ve addressed your complaints?

    Anyway, really glad most of you guys like it!! Please read the full article — it’s too long to include in its entirety here. And the interview with Naseeruddin Shah…he is candid, thoughtful, charming, smart. He disappears so completely into his roles, I was somehow never fully aware of the actor and didn’t quite get his celebrity. I guess I do now!

    Amit, The term “wave” is coined by Pal in the article. He’s noticed something changing and wrote about it. Doesn’t mean it’s become visible to many outside the industry yet. That being said, how many names is “only a couple”? Check here and here for lists. I wrote those, btw, so apologies in advance for the shirtless shot of Jon Abraham. I’ve never been able to resist!

  17. It is disappointing to see Anurag Kashyap diss mainstream cinema, considering that some of its leading lights Dev Anand, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor are subjects of scholarly study today.

    There are good reasons to be disappointed with Kashyap for dissing mainstream cinema (one of those is that Kashyap’s work owes a huge debt to it). But this a puzzling one. All sorts of persons and phenomena are subjects of scholarly study. Yet it may be perfectly reasonable to diss ‘em.

  18. I liked the article. For anyone interested in second helping: • There’s a funny subplot about an out-of-touch film producer in Sankat City that touches on some of the points made by Pal. • Mukul Kesavan has some interesting essays on hindi films in his brilliantly titled book, The Ugliness of the Indian Male and other propositions. Here’s one on Konkona Sen.

  19. Mr. X: Although I usually enjoy Mukul Kesevan’s writing, he’s a little harsh on Kareena in Omkara. (I didn’t think she was bad at all actually.) In any case, some of you may be interested in the following article published today– a commentary by Muzaffar Ali (Umrao Jaan, 1981) on contemporary films.

  20. jyotsana – when I made my query, it was not in relation to or in contrast with Hollywood or the ‘pure’ west.

    I have friends who have worked in the industry and others who are also related to some Bollywood stars. Have heard many crazy stories and the impression seems to be that unless you’re related to someone, or are a model-turned-actor with connections, many actors and actresses go through a lot of crap trying to make it through the myriad of producers and directors and their whims and timelines. This isn’t necessarily true across the board or true for every director or producer. Just hope that things improve over all.

  21. While its absolutely fine to believe in a novel ideology as a means of self-gratification, I believe that when it is placed in a public domain, it should be done with the intention of invoking a debate and not a celebration, as seems to be the case here. Clearly, some erudite commentators have taken the more correct route and that is pleasing to see, but the way the site, not only accepts that there is a ‘New Wave’(not even by itself, but by quoting someone else), but also chooses to celebrate it, is clearly amusing. We have to ask ourselves – what constitutes this new wave? More importantly, why are we so excited by these concepts? And finally, most of these films are pretty tacky AND are box office flops, so who are we trying to fool here?

  22. Same here Nilanjana, I like his witty and scholarly take on films, politics etc. He is a bit harsh here on Omkara and its mainstream actors. And I really don’t care for Mr and Mrs Iyer (minority of one I think). But his review of Konkona Sen’s work is spot on.

  23. I have not been able to post for a while for some reason. Anyhow despite a few misgivings, on the whole I think this is a great thing, it may even take us away from dancing around trees..I admit this is only my beef, but I hope a new wave of writing for readers in native languages takes off as well too..

  24. I liked Mr and Mrs Iyer…mind you I liked Earth and Rang Di Basanti as well..I think instead of copying foreign films Indian films should look at their own literature like they did with Pinjar and Devdas…I agree with a post Desiman made elsewhere about the new exciting fiction produced by the likes of Roop Dhillon (Rupinderpal Dhillon) which would translate into amazing new wave films..

  25. Debojit, What we really need to ask ourselves is — what’s with all the negativity? Some erudite commenters have, quite eruditely, posted variations of, “What new wave? / It has all been done before and done BETTER I tell you / Get off my lawn.” Surely you, an Indian Auteur no less, are familiar with the prodigal amount of garbage produced in the 80s and 90s? The gangster money men and the distributors who wanted hit movies in every region regardless of wildly different viewership, had pretty much destroyed mainstream hindi films. The so-called parallel cinema had died an unlamented death. Google search Naseeruddin Shah’s mercilessly funny and on-point postmortem of this dull dreary award-baitery. But you know all this, right?

    So when a group of film makers come up with something different, the positive response is not exactly surprising. There were different and interesting films made in this period, but they were too few and usually got buried in the system. Pal’s Loins of Punjab has some fine predecessors in English, August and In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, but it doesn’t make his work any less exciting.

    Here’s Ankush Khanna’s quote from Pal’s article.

    “Not all of it was good and not all of it was original” Ankush Khanna, a film historian, said of the new wave. “But it is new. And it is speaking an entirely new language that Indian audiences haven’t seen before. Our society is in huge flux. Thousands of years of cultural order is undergoing a silent non-violent revolution as young people make different economic, social, and romantic choices than their parents. 70% of India is under 25. It will be interesting to see who among these lasts as original voices for this nation in rapid transformation”.
  26. Cicatrix,

    but the fact remains that when people talk about “Bollywood” they refer to the Mumbia film industry

    .

    Here is what, Anuvab pal writes

    After all, as New Yorkers, we consumed a cinematic diet of IFC, Film Forum, HBO and Sundance, while in the Indian film world (essentially Bollywood), fiefdoms ruled.

    So jyotsana has a point that Anuvab equates Indian film world=Bollywood. If he had just said ‘Hindi films’ instead of ‘Indian film world’ in the above quote, there would be no issues.

  27. Bollywood – They have lots of money but comparatively less creativity. Lots of Bollywood movies are remakes of Hollywood or south Indian movies

    I read a comment in the comment section after the Delhi high court rule against section 377. It goes like this “I thought that would make Bollywood more gay but wait, they already are”

    I wonder what is the obsession of bollywood hero’s with mascara and fluorescent green shirts after seeing Ghajni!

  28. Well, I read the full article by Anuvab Pal, and though I agree these are his personal views, I feel he and his team need to read up more on Hindi films, leave alone Indian cinema.

    1.No one thinks of the movies made by Anurag Kashyap et al as ‘alternative cinema’. These are all multiplex movies, and generally don’t do well in the hinterland.Even in the urban centres, people are aware that most of these new directors copy freely from hollywood, european cinema, and the latest fad – Korean cinema.These are all timepass movies, including the Loins one, and I don’t think people take them seriously enough to even do a critical analysis, except on websites where these directors critique each other (mostly patting themselves). The public and even the industry thinks of these films as ‘low budget’ films. And because they don’t cost much, it is easy to sell them for a small table profit.And when released, a decent 1-week run in the multiplexes is enough for the film to be certified a success.

    2.Ram Gopal Varma needs to be mentioned in any discussion of how Bollywood has changed over the last decade and a half.He seems to have lost his touch these days, but he has brought a lot more gritty realism than any of the rest.And he is a copy cat too.

    3.If I can watch a Tarantino or a Guy Ritchie or Wong-Kar-Wai on DVD, why would Anurag Kashyap and the like appeal to me? I mean, just for the sake of expletives in Hindi? Honestly, I am yet to watch a genuinely original film from any of the new breed and I watch a lot.

    4.”For the first time since Satyajit Ray, Indian movies exhibited complexity, shades of grey, sophisticated psychological dilemmas, nuance, and ambivalence” Load of bull.Anuvab needs to watch south indian films before making such pronouncements. Also, what is the meaning of ‘sophisticated psychological dilemmas’? Hasn’t the author watched Mani Ratnam movies?

    5.Oh yes, he mentions Mani Ratnam, but places him after Karan Johar, and along with Ashutosh Gowariker in the chronology. Mani Ratnam was making stuff much better than most of the new wave put together in the mid 80s.And his Bollywood debut Roja was released in 1992.Karan Johar came in around mid 1990s.Yuva was not Mani’s first ‘epic’.Hasn’t Anuvab heard of Nayagan or its Hindi remake Dayavan?

    6.Bollywood remake of Motorcycle Diaries, is actually a remake of a successful Telugu movie Gamyam (a hit in Tamil also).Most of the big grossers in bollywood seem to be remakes of south indian films in the last decade or so.The latest Salma Khan release ‘Wanted’ is also a remake of the south indian film Pokiri.

    7.”Angry because new wave directors like Sudhir Mishra or Anurag Kashyap did similar (and arguably much better) films like Satya and Dharavi, on similar subjects — i.e. set in slums amongst Mumbai gangsters.” Hullo ! Satya is a Ram Gopal Varma film, bhai !

    8.“A lot of these guys grew up on contemporary American and European cinema. Unlike the previous generation of Bollywood storytellers who didn’t know much beyond their immediate India.” This statement from the ToI hack is pure ignorance masquerading as insight.The previous generation includes literally the ‘baaps’ (Javed Akhtar) of some of these ‘new wave’ types.And any one who knows Indian films, knows the impact of FTII and the Chennai Film Institute.

    9.There has actually been a lot of corporatisation in Indian film industry (more in Bollywood) after various State Govts conferred industry status on films.And this has resulted in better marketing, more revenue streams etc leading to optimisation of profits. Take the example of Jab We Met – initially produced by Siddhi Vinayak films for around Rs. 18 crore, it was first sold for Rs. 25 crore, and then two corporates vied with each other to buy the rights of the movie, with the final selling price touching Rs.45 crore. The film made around Rs.60 crore.Every one associated with the film made a good profit.

    10.Ghajni (again a remake of a Tamil film) by Aamir Khan, which is a mainstream movie produced by a south indian film corporate is the biggest grosser in the history of Indian films.Sivaji, a Tamil film by Rajnikanth is a close second.Films like these make over Rs. 100 crore, while the best a low budget film can hope for is to touch Rs.20 crore.Here again, there has not been a single standout instant classic among all the low budget films from Bollywood.

    And finally, the National Awards this year were swept by south indian cinema.Bollywood doesn’t figure in any major awards.I think it is more useful to study the overall trends in Indian or Bollywood than focusing on the myth of a new wave.It is low budget.But still bollywood.

  29. Demondoll@1- please don’t say “indian film industry” when you mean umm…Bollywood. Jyotsana @2- Spot on comment. Though I’d hesitate to include Santhosh Subramaniam in that list, Vaaranam Aayiram, perhaps!
    Being Mallu I’m biased, of course, but in the Malayalam movie world the serious, non-glitzy movies have co-existed with the masaala variety and the movie going public seems to appreciate both. While Aravindan and John Abraham and Adoor made/make the hard-core arthouse movies, Padmarajan, Bharathan and more recently Kamal and Blessy have made movies that make you think without making your head hurt! I can throw out the names of a few movies from the last 5 years or so, all worth a dekko- Kaazhcha, Calcutta News, Thanmaathra, Vaasthavam, Thalappaavu, Veeralipattu, Chillu. AFAIK most of them did pretty well at the BO too.

  30. Mr.X

    Why does all our cinematic greatness – and barring none – all our cinematic greatness function in relativity? Our films are bad, but so what, even Hollywood makes bad films. Our films are so good because 80s and 90s had bad films releasing? So what? Is the fact that our present film is better packaged and marketed better than the prototypical 80′s or 90′s film that we set as a reference point, really a cinematic merit? More importantly, is that even a worthy reference point? How tough is it for anyone to make a better film than the 80′s quintessential film? And well, you must understand that 80′s was a dark decade not just for Indian cinema, but for world cinema itself, with various factors being responsible. The only difference is that while they reinvented themselves, we are still stuck with variations of the similar.

    “So when a group of film makers come up with something different” Sure. I agree. Now tell me what ‘different’ they are doing, and I am ready to be converted. Let’s not talk in vague terms here. That is as good or as bad as saying, I like this film, because it was ‘different’. Different from? Different how? Moreover, is being ‘different’ an achievement?

    The film historian’s comment is not needed for he is stating the obvious. In the post-1992 world, what did you expect? However, that hardly accounts for better cinema. I mean, come on.

  31. Kumar,

    Spot on about the multiplex phenomenon. My issue with the article is that Anuvab is hardly the face of new Indian cinema as many have mentioned.

  32. Kumar, Good points re: RGV and Mani Ratnam.

    If I can watch a Tarantino or a Guy Ritchie or Wong-Kar-Wai on DVD, why would Anurag Kashyap and the like appeal to me? I mean, just for the sake of expletives in Hindi? Honestly, I am yet to watch a genuinely original film from any of the new breed and I watch a lot.

    For me, Black Friday > Kill Bill and everything made by poor Englishman’s Tarantino Chungking Express > all of the above How do you define genuinely original? This is not to make excuses for Indian rip-off artists, but Tarantino cheerfully borrows from (among others) WKW who borrows from the French New Wave.

  33. if this revolution involves less love stories with sailor hats, count me out! that’s my favorite aamir movie of all time.

    but in seriousness, good article. at the end of the day a lot of people love bollywood and indian cinema as a whole for the song and dance as well as the other characteristics like the wide spectrum of emotions, the extremes, the excesses; will be interesting to see whether (and if/how) any aspect of that aesthetic can be retained and translated into an “alternative” genre.

    I also add my agreement to the claim that indian cinema is not simply equivalent to bombay produced hindi cinema. I think there is a much larger symbiotic relationship to the regional industries that all contribute to the larger national industry. to delineate sharply between them is to have an incomplete picture of the large scale industry and does a great disservice.

  34. Debojit,

    Why does all our cinematic greatness – and barring none – all our cinematic greatness function in relativity? Everything is relative.

    Our films are bad, but so what, even Hollywood makes bad films. I thought you didn’t like stating the obvious.

    Is the fact that our present film is better packaged and marketed better than the prototypical 80’s or 90’s film that we set as a reference point, really a cinematic merit? They are not just marketed better but are better in every other aspect — storytelling, acting, technical chops. It may not be enough for the hardcore film buffs, but it’s a great starting point.

    And well, you must understand that 80’s was a dark decade not just for Indian cinema, but for world cinema itself… Not really. 80s were great for Hong Kong cinema, which influences many of the current Hollywood and Indian filmmakers.

    Now tell me what ‘different’ they are doing, and I am ready to be converted. What we have here is a failure to communicate. I don’t think I’m converting anyone. One of them damn Mexican standoffs.

  35. And well, you must understand that 80’s was a dark decade not just for Indian cinema, but for world cinema itself…

    You mean in a dark mood? Films from that time: Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas; Blue Velvet, Diva, Stranger than Paradise, Coffee and Cigarettes, Down by Law, Mystery Train, okay, Dune; Jean de Florette, Le Grand Bleu (winks to Mr. X). Sigh….it was a gloriously dark time, indeed.

  36. Any honest literary critic – make that art critic – would be the first to admit that today’s popular entertainment is usually tomorrow’s classics. Rahul, T. S. Eliot once said it took a hundred years before a period of history was properly understood and its artistic outpourings, good, bad or mediocre, re-categorized in value. The cycle may have become shorter now, but it is still not real time.

    Take, for example, Elizabethan drama, a genre that most people would consider the epitome of literary excellence primarily because its most popular figure was Shakespeare. In 1591 the growing popularity of theaters led to a law closing all theaters on Thursdays so that the bull and bear baiting industries would not be neglected! That should tell you something about the level of entertainment and specially, the clientele, found at the likes of Globe and Swan theaters. The Shakespearean actors, much like Shah Rukh and Salman rushing from one movie set to another with little time wasted on understanding the character, were given Shakespeare’s lines to deliver at the last moment. The peanut gallery was filled with English peasants either chuckling at the Shakespearean clown or hurling insults at despicable villains like Shylock. The similarities to today’s Bollywood goes on and on.

    This is not say that Bollywood would definitely be ranked someday at par with Elizabethan drama. But I won’t dismiss a medium that, since the days of New Theaters in Calcultta and Bombay Talkies in Bombay, has successfully entertained a few hundred million people whose backgrounds range from rikshawallah to college professor. In that, Bollywood is nothing short of an artistic marvel. Its story lines, language, stock of emotions and thoughts, are absolutely unprecedented in their ability to communicate to such a broad spectrum of people.

    While the “parallel” Hindi cinema is clearly superior to Bollywood as we evaluate them here and now, we really don’t know how history would judge them. Playwrights, novelists, painters and poets that were considered merely popular in their times have now been re-evaluated as emblematic of their times. Those that had the respect of their peers are now relegated to the footnotes. In another fifty years, we will be re-evaluating the relatively new medium of films in the same manner.

  37. This is not say that Bollywood would definitely be ranked someday at par with Elizabethan drama.

    Sure and for the reasons you stated – entertainment for the people, churned out every week by a set group of performers, storylines dependent on an actor’s skill and the technology of the day. Shakespeare became a better writer when he had better actors, the productions became more interesting as technology allowed(being able to hold water on stage was a revelation). And when Bollywood film production studios become more technologically sophisticated you’ll get more realistic stunts – not like what you see in that Dhoom machale film. How about Omkara? A true marriage of Bollywood and Elizabethan theater, that one! And not once do I remember seeing Kareena Kapoor standing in a wind machine. I almost didn’t recognize her.

  38. Who is this brilliant writer Anonymous at 44, you may be asking yourself? It’s moi. Throw your rotten potatoes As You Like It, at me, a poor player strutting and fretting my hour upon the stage to be heard no more you may hope.

  39. Tarantino does borrow a lot. He usually borrows a lot of trash and bits of forgotten classics and makes them one big gold package. On the other hand, Indian filmmakers borrow and dumb them down.

    South Indian cinema in the late 70s , early 80s fused art house and mainstream into movies like AkaliRajyam(a movie with Kamalhassan and Sridevi about unemployment), and a few others back then did the same.

    What I want to see is a new wave which has its own voice. And Indian cinema needs to come up with some innovative techniques of their own instead of doing a bad Indianized version of many western stuff. I frequently find the editing in indian movies to be awkward.

  40. Some people seem to indicate that there have been much better directors from India in the past. While I do not claim to know anything about regional cinema, I do think hindi cinema right now is in a better shape than ever before. Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday/No Smoking were not just ‘multiplex movies.’ They are truly alternative from a Bollywood standpoint. Hindi Art House films from the 70s and early 80s were decent but were too focused on social upliftment rather than creating interesting characters/stories. And the cinematography was almost always mediocre. Compare that to Dibakar Bannerjee’s Oye Lucky Lucky Oye!. It’s visually beautiful, has a detailed character study and clever undertones of social commentary packed with genuinely good music score. Then there’s Rajat Kapoor’s Mithya. There’s Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddaar (the greatest hindi thriller to date). Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool. And all these directors have made more than one good movie. Even though most of them are still inferior to the best lot from World cinema, they have never been better. The only sad part is that these movies aren’t always box office successes. Maybe it’s too early to label this as a wave, but something is definitely going on. Lets hope it lasts for a while.

    On a side note, Kashyap wrote Staya. So although RGV directed it, AK was heavily involved with it.

  41. He usually borrows a lot of trash and bits of forgotten classics and makes them one big gold package.

    Not always. I prefer City on Fire (another classic from the dark ages) to Reservoir Dogs. Kill Bill was terrible. Death Proof plays like a Tarantino parody in which every female character talks like Tarantino about… Tarantino’s favorite subjects. I hear good things about Basterds though.

    In related news, Werner Herzog’s latest project is a not-a-remake remake of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. Go check it for Nicolas Cage’s bugged out performance.

  42. From the e-ether, funny quote about Tarantino:

    I wish there were more unhinged idiot savants making very interesting, provocative and weird movies.

    Whether or not he meant to, in Pulp Fiction he breaks down the manly myth of King Arthur. Uma made for a lovely Guinevere.

  43. Bess

    If you really mentioned the names of some good films from a decade to substitute the general atmosphere of an era – where the renowned auteurs were all fading away, the Cahiers turks had not lived up to their promise, Bollywood had gone awry because of the influx of the VCR and Southern Producers, the Chinese fifth generation had not yet come into their own, the German Oberhausen gang were not producing their best works, and the American Cinema had come to a halt with Schwarznegger/Reynolds/Stallone films, simultaneous with the conversion of the American New Hollywood into the new studio system – and the only lone star being Jarmusch, whose films you have mentioned with great extrapolation – then well, happiness to you.