Last weekend I watched Mod. I felt really sad for Nagesh Kukunoor, the guy seems to have lost it. He has become the RGV of indie cinema. Wonder what happened to his naughty side that we saw in Hyderabad Blues, the enthusiasm we saw in Rockford and the seriousness that was depicted in 3 Deewarein!
But this post is not about Mod or its maker, Kukunoor. Its about the changing face of indie cinema, which is independent no more. The economics of movie making has got the better of story telling, the good soul has been traded for a good body and the angst has been replaced by anxiety of seeing the movie do well in BO. Independent film makers are being lured by production houses, thereby killing the very concept of indie cinema.
I am not in favour of classifying movies as ‘movie for classes’ or ‘movie for masses’ or ‘indie cinema’ as such. But since the definitions already exists, I am merely using them. I believe that there is just two types of cinema – good and bad; and there are two types of budget for movie making – big budget and small budget. The purists have more classifications under budget types, as in micro-budget and low budget; but lets not get into that. The point is, a big budget movie is not always bad and a small budget movie is not always good.
Big budget movies rely on a tried and tested formulae, in most cases. Once in a while, we get a Lagaan. But more often than not, its the same run of the mill stuff. Since the makers are already aware of this, they get into the mode of hyper-marketing and big-bang advertising. This is just to take away our attention from the real stuff, so we can all go with the hype and hoopla. The next step for such mega budget movies is to flood the market with few thousand prints of the movie. The purpose of this is to make as many people watch the movie during the first weekend as possible. So, by the time the word gets out to people that the movie is crap, they would all have watched it already. You must have experienced it yourself. The moment you come out of a bad movie and make a few calls to your family and friends to warn them of the movie, the chances are that, they would be trying your number to warn you.
But lets not just abuse big budget movies. Small budget movies are going in the same direction. People like Kukunoor and Sagar Ballary etc, are backed by production houses and so the pressure to deliver a hit is on them too. They are forgetting that small budget movies cannot enjoy the luxury of few thousand prints and plush advertising. Marketing is important, but that needs to be backed by substance. Word of mouth publicity is the only form of good publicity that can draw the crowd. But if the movie lacks in story telling or has a bad story idea or not-good-enough writing or a combination of all these, then the movie is doomed to flop. In 2008, we had a flurry of good movies like Aamir, A Wednesday etc; but that spirit has quietly surrendered. Nishikant Kamath moved on to direct Force, and other makers too have gone their own way.
In the past, small budget movies have made money and indie cinema has done well. But in the name of small budget movies, what we get these days is nonsense. Movies that you can’t watch, songs that you can’t hum and stories that you can’t follow or relate to. A two minute ad concept being stretched into full fledged movie is not a good idea. A movie has to make money, that fact is understood. Else, the director (who in most cases happens to be the writer too), may not find another producer to finance his ideas. But in the process of finding a good financier, some compromises are made and the end result pleases nobody. The maker is not happy as he/she had to make alterations to meet the demands of the production house, the production house is not happy because they could not make money from the movie; and the audience is definitely not happy being a mute spectator to all this. The movie is soon pulled down from the theatres, and is replaced by an old movie (or a recent one) that may have done good business.
So, where does indie cinema go from here? I don’t know and I don’t have the answers, as I am not a movie maker myself, not even aspiring to be one. I am an avid movie watcher and commentator. I watch Ra.One and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, with the same enthusiasm as Mod and Jo Dooba So Paar. And all I keep hoping for is good cinema. Looks like, that is becoming a little too much to ask!
This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez