An afternoon panel titled ‘Trends in films – The new aesthetics of popular cinema’ was all set to take on the issue head on. While some speakers were in favour of the fact that there are indeed trends and some were in fact going through an evolution, others simply refuted that nothing has changed.
The ever-eloquent Karan Johar took charge of the session and asked Suchir Batra of William Morris Agency to share his views. Sharing his international perspectives, Batra said there were certain trends that had stemmed over the past few years. “Mainstream Bollywood has gone beyond being pure entertainment and the stories have become more real today. Not all movies have songs and different subjects that appeal to different sensibilities, locally as well as domestically,” he said, picking out the main areas of change from traditional approaches of popular Indian cinema.
Also taking the focus to technology, he shared that VFX while being popular in Hollywood with films like 300, is also popular in Bollywood with movies like Krish and Dhoom 2. The third area of change that he spoke about was in the realm of commerce with the advent and popularity of branded entertainment.
Taking the baton from Batra, the actor Rahul Bose said while Hollywood had a set model earlier, where movies could find space in categories such as action, drama, kids, summer films etc, the scenario however is different in our country. Our main stream films had an amalgamation of everything-- drama, humour and even music. Hence for us it is not so much about breaking a model, but adopting different styles of film-making with dynamic subject lines.
Madhur Bhandarkar was very poignant on his stance of a trend emerging in originality. “Earlier some filmmakers watched five Hollywood DVDs and chose one to make a movie in Bollywood, or worse still, ideas from all, set in one single film. Today with Hollywood films being released simultaneously in India and overseas, dubbed in local languages and even showcased on television, it becomes tougher for a domestic filmmaker to copy the idea and pose it to be original and new, forcing him to think differently and look for novelty of idea and approach,” he opined.
Kabir Khan, after his success on the Kabul Express, believed that in fact there was change emerging, since he was given an opportunity to craft his film, which was on a non-stereo-typical subject line. However, his enthusiasm was short-lived as he pointed out the reality of several film- makers with scripts in their bags sitting in the audience waiting and hoping for a single chance, and not receiving one. His dilemma then remained with the question of there being a stroke of luck in his case, or then the new changed interest of some established Indian directors.
After the comments from half the panel, the mood began to change. Ravi Chopra took the podium and discussed the influence of society over films and creative acumen. Drawing a parallel to the movies of the 50s and the 60s, he strongly argued that trends and changes were reflective of the current state of culture and society – and the power they possessed over the media. “The 50s was a period of Independence, one that needed to showcase the Indian values and traditions, while being optimistic about the future hence the movies of the period reflected the same. When this myth and belief system crashed in the 70s and the 80s, society was frustrated and agitated, bringing the ‘angry young man’ figure on to celluloid. Today we are a global country and are internationally recognised for talent an sentiment, our society and its rejuvenated mirth is once again reflected in the new-age cinema,” he argued.
Focusing on the point made above, both the panel and the audience seemed to have been taken in by Chopra’s point of view. After all, Indian talent across the mediums, fields and locations is being put to test and constantly being experimented with. Our films are also experiments in many ways--in terms if content, subjectlines and even portrayal.
Anupam Kher, however, broke the silence and stated out loud, “I do not believe any thing has changed at all!” Furthering his thought, he went on to explain that the art of filmmaking was also to do with storytelling, and this has not and cannot be changed. And till this stays, the obvious and only underlining trend in cinema will not change.” Ensuring that the audience and other speakers were clear that in his opinion there was nothing more than storytelling involved from a filmmakers point of view, he went onto state that the audiences have changed the rules of the game. Their exposure and international experience has changed the expectations–- so while the product has not been altered, the packaging was definitely changed to an all new and improved format.
The Pakistani actress Atiqa Odho remarked on the role of women and holding onto the Eastern traditions in this time of change, as did certain members from the audience. One unanimous conclusion could be drawn from the session-– something has changed but the whats and the hows of it are still not clear.