Is Bollywood listening?

By Koral Dasgupta

These are exciting times for Bollywood. The year 2015 has experienced myriad trends that not only challenged the traditional content and prejudices of the industry, but it has also applied some welcome experiments to redefine the tastes of audience with some brave and successful strokes.

One part of the year found an emergence of films that may not necessarily be women centric and yet made a statement on women empowerment with Deepika Padukone (Piku), Kangna Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu Returns), Bhumi Pednekar (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), Anushka Sharma (NH 10), Kalki Koechlin (Margarita With a Straw), Sonam Kapoor (Dolly ki Doli), Tabu (Drishyam), Richa Chadda (Masaan), and others essaying strong characters.

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On the other hand, Irrfan Khan has galloped ahead breaking all stereotype definitions of a mainstream Bollywood hero with intense roles like those of Piku, Talvar or a masala flick like Jazbaa! Till few years back we had discounted this man as a good actor who was fit for a supporting cast. The Bollywood biggies like Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan delivered masterpieces with Drishyam and Bajrangi Bhaijaan respectively.

Comparatively the newbies have been confident enough to take up challenging roles like those of Badlapur and Bajirao Mastani, both of which have been acclaimed by the critics and masses. A film which had siblings as protagonists and lovers as the supporting casts (Dil Dhadakne Do) created fantastic jingles at the box office. The darling of Bollywood, Priyanka Chopra, walked the Hollywood red carpet as the lead cast for Quantico. And some small budget films like Titli, Hunterrr, Manjhi, Court touched hearts. And some well-made short digital films addressing serious social issues were thrown into the web at different times of the year.

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The industry certainly is in a mood to explore, and the time seems right because the audience too is prepared. Releases of 2016 seems to be starting on the same note where Chalk and Duster has the women force colliding over the good and the evil, Nimrat Kaur is all set to debut as the heroine for a mainstream Bollywood flick, Saala Khadoos promises unconventional content, Aligarh has been reviewed as a film with a gay character which will leave you misty eyed, the biopic Neerja would remind of an undeserved unfortunate end, Jai Gangaajal would have a woman protagonist turning the power tables, Fan is reportedly set to mark the first ever attempt to personify a quintessential Bollywood lover, biopics Azhar and Dhoni would take us back to the cricket grounds, and Sunny Leonne finds a convincing genre to brand herself with porn-coms.

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Popular Demand

The range which Bollywood offers today is interesting. With the visions of the new age film makers that are rampant in the films that have just hit the bull’s eye or are expected to do so in 2016, we reached out to the social media asking film enthusiasts what kind of films/characters/stories they wish to watch in the days to come. The responses are interesting. Rishiraj Sen, a 15-year-old who has already written a book, wants thrillers like Breaking Up the Shackles by Gunjesh Bond or romance like Love Was Never Mine by Kunal Bhardwaj to be made into films.

“May films like those that Shah Rukh Khan made in the ‘90’s come back”, he adds. Rupa Publication’s Sayantan Ghosh suggests that Sandip Roy’s Don’t Let Him Know be made into a film, preferably by Mira Nair. Jaineel Soni, a student of Engineering wants Amitabh Bachchan to recreate Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret on screen. Sci-fi works of Douglas Adams also fall into his list of recommendations.

Journalist Priyadarshini Rakshit wants Gone Girl to grace the Indian celluloid space. Educationist Bernhard Fuchs suggests that may be a director like Gurinder Chadha should go for a biopic on Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, based on a book titled Sophia by Anita Anand. Pune based Finance professional Suhrud Javadekar wants Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things to have a celluloid representation. Market Research Analyst, Kaushik Sarkar goes back to his Bong roots and would love Professor Shonku, a legendary character from Satyajit Ray’s literary genius, to be transformed into a sci-fi film. Another Bengali novel, Aaranyak by Bibhuti Bhusan Bandopadhyay is suggested by freelance writer and aspiring film-maker Udayan Ghosh, because of the book’s international appeal and timeless spirits with an Indian backdrop. Journalist Swetha Amit votes for Tuhin A. Sinha’s The Edge of Desire because of the statements it makes in favour of women empowerment. HR professional Prachi Bawari recommends The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma. Mumbai based marketing professional Japes Parikh wants a biopic on cricketer, Kapil Dev. Another respondent, Sweta Kawar Daga wants Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand to hit Indian screens. A very interesting insight comes from freelance writer and student of engineering, Mehek Bassi. “Remember the film, Kahaani?” She says. “There’s a character named Bob Biswas. If anyone can recreate that, it will be awesome! Such an unexpected villain. Otherwise, Bollywood has worst characterization of villains. Predictable and boring.” 

Last but not the least, author and entrepreneur Shabia Ravi Walia recommends Bridges of Madison County to be made in India. That actually is my choice too. How awesome would it be if Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla reunites over such a concept!

Bollywood listening?

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