Well, that’s not really fair, I don’t know yet if they are better films because these films haven’t come out. But I can suspect they are better films, because the films they remind me of were really really good, and it showed even in the trailer.
Maybe it’s that trick of age thing, where your earlier memories are brighter. I know that’s why I think of the films of the early 2000s as the “real” Hindi movies. But I honestly think these two trailers serve to remind us of movies that were better.
The Baadshaho trailer, for instance. Quick flashes of character introduction, a small historical time period establishment, awesome bass riff in the background. It looks fun, kind of Grindhouse-like.
But then there’s this. Which also establishes a specific time period, also introduces a series of characters, also has a bass riff (is that the right term?). But the riff (?) is better, the time period establishment is more inventive, Ajay Devgan’s hair doesn’t have stupid highlights, everything is just slightly more so.
Tell me, is this just the haze of nostalgia, or is that second trailer actually clearly much much better?
In the same way, Mubarakan just came out with its first trailer. Arjun Kapoor and Anil Kapoor are co-starring for the first time. And Arjun is playing twins. So it feels like Aurangzeb, only with a chubbier Arjun and Anil instead of Rishi. But then the trailer wasn’t that tone at all, it was all wacky comedy and it felt really familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on it until the last frame declared it was from the team that brought me Welcome, Singh is King, and No Entry. Right! That’s what it feels like! Only, just not quite as good.
Anil is good, but he can’t be a whole movie all on his own. Welcome, which I saw all by myself in a theater at 10am on a Saturday, had a stacked cast, a plot with so many twists I can’t even remember them all, and over all was just joke-joke-joke-joke. I’m not saying it was a great movie, but it was a fuller movie than this one, you know? Here, watch the trailer and tell me if I am wrong:
So, why is this? Why are movies just not as good any more? Besides my own nostalgia blinders.
Well, I’ve got a couple of theories, which you can feel free to shoot down and say “No! It’s just nostalgia!” First, I think success has bred caution. In all kinds of ways. Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, for instance, that was an out there idea, a period gangster piece with anti-heroes, picking up on the vibes of Company and Kaante, but combining them with the era of Deewar and Zanjeer. And thinking way way outside the box with casting, Emraan Hasmi, the ultimate chocolate hero, as an action star. Remixed songs combined with original pieces, a storyline that brushes right up against the edge of libel in its historical realism, all kinds of neat things. But now, Milan Luthria is the man who made OUATIM, and Dirty Picture. Period pieces are everywhere, high (Dum Laga Ke Hasha) and low (Shootout at Wadala). No more really out there original trailers/movies, it’s all about recreating the thing we liked last time.
Second, no one works as much or in as many films any more. Look at Welcome. Pawesh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Anil Kapoor, Nana Patakar, Mallika Sherawat, Firoz Khan. Plus a crazy catchy title song, a wacky plot with twist after twist, and tons of location shooting and big song numbers. Today, you would take just one of those elements and call it a film. Look at Rustom! It had Akshay Kumar, and………. No real song numbers, a bunch of TV actors and character actors no one really knows, two b-level barely recognized actresses, and a plot that is spread pretty thin to cover a full two and a half hours. And almost entirely shot on sound stages and greenscreen. And now, we have the same team coming together for this film, and there’s Arjun Kapoor doing double duty, Athiya Shetty in her second film, and Anil Kapoor trying to hold down the “funny recognizable guy” role all by himself.
But the real problem is that there is no room at the middle for people on their way up or their way down. Back when OUATIM came out, Emraan was nothing. Well-known chocolate hero, never considered as an actor. But Milan Luthria took a risk on him, and Emraan took a risk back, going outside his comfort zone. When Welcome came out, Nana Patakar was no longer considered the brightest star in art cinema in India, but he had found a comfortable spot in the middle in character roles, and it wasn’t “beneath” him to play a comic role as the 5th lead in an Akshay Kumar movie. And it’s not just the actors, there was more space for an art director to experiment, or a popular director to try something new. Budgets are getting bigger, and films are getting fewer, you either take the safe bet big name, or you take the super cheap total unknown, nothing in the middle.