Trailers! Not terribly exciting ones, but I am so desperate for content that I will take it. And at least the Farhan one raises some interesting questions about coincidence versus copying (in other words, it has the same plot as Qaidi Band and I don’t know why).
So, here’s a trailer. Farhan Akhtar is acting again (instead of making Don 3! Farhan! I’m WAITING!), Nikhil Advani is producing. Which is kind of a good sign, his production company is pretty young but already produced D-Day and Airlift. And also Hero and Katti Batti, so their record is 50/50! Oh, and more importantly, Airlift was the first movie they produced that Nikhil did not direct, and it was GREAT! A big risk on a director with a big idea, and it paid off big time. And this could be the same thing, unknown director who came up with an odd idea and got the support of the production house.
Oh, and Diana Penty is there too, which is cool. Both because I like her as an actress (she was really great in Happy Bhaag Jayegi), and because it’s neat that she is still around, instead of being forgotten by the industry after her big break in Cocktail didn’t immediately result in a string of big roles. We need these kinds of actresses, who aren’t big big names, but aren’t little starlets either and are around to take these sort of small roles in smaller films.
But the big story is the story. Which is almost the same story as Qaidi Band. Bunch of prisoners use the jail band competition to escape, and there is a corrupt minister who is sponsoring the band.
The Lucknow Central promotions say it is based on a true story, but I haven’t been able to track that down. The closest I’ve come is Nikhil saying Ranjit, the director, came to him with a clipping from a newspaper about Lucknow prisoners who used a band to escape. But I can’t find the actual newspaper article anywhere.
Dangal and Sultan were both clearly based on a famous true story, and developed separately from the same source. Dangal went for the true story and focused on the father-daughter relationship. Sultan took a central character from the true story and then built off a new fictional story from that. And the true story was so famous and such a big deal that it would almost be remarkable if it HADN’T influenced two separate films.
But this one, I don’t know. If I can’t track down the original story, it feels like it probably wasn’t that big of a news story, so the odds of two separate scriptwriters running across it and coming up with a plot from there seems pretty unlikely.
I am going to put a pin in the “who came up with it first?” question for now and deal with “how did they do it differently?” instead. There are a few big differences here which I find really interesting. And make for a cool case study of how studios/filmmakers can approach things differently.
The Yash Raj version, first of all, added a romance. Not just a romance, a female lead. It required a bit of bending of logic to accept that there would be a co-ed band in a jail, but I know there are co-ed jails (that is, two halves of the same prison that never interact), so we can bend a little and say that maybe a egomaniac warden might be willing to put men and women together if he thought it could help him win a band competition. And this is worth doing for the Yash Raj version, because they want to appeal to male and female audiences, and they want to include the spice of a romance along with everything else.
Second, the Yash Raj version took on a bigger social issue. While the Farhan one seems to be just generally about someone wrongfully accused who has to escape in order to avoid execution, the Yash Raj one is taking a stand on a little known issue that could affect anyone. The innocent prisoners waiting for bail hearings, that’s a big deal which, as the beginning of their trailer reminds us, is a real thing in the real world, not just a kooky made up plot for their film.
Third, the Yash Raj one is about the identity of India, while the Farhan one is about art in the abstract. Both are interesting ideas, but I might lean a little more towards Yash Raj on this. Yash Raj is asking “what does it mean that the patriots who are singing this song are all innocents who are thrown in jail? And should they still be patriots, not try to escape and keep singing their song, even though their country is doing wrong to them?” Whereas the Farhan one is asking “Should you give up your art for your freedom or your freedom for your artistic dreams?” Also, the Farhan one is asking “how many ways can Farhan Akhtar come up with to excuse singing his own songs on a soundtrack and living out his rock star dreams?”
All of these little changes are getting at something bigger, what kind of a film do you want to make from this story? Yash Raj looked at it and went “Romance, good songs, patriotic message hiding a question at the heart of it, bright colors and youthful vibe”. Nikhil Advani and his company (I want to say Emmay Entertainment?) looked at the story and said “Let’s make the story the star. Straight-forward filming style, minimal songs (which Farhan will sing himself), no romance, tiny female role for a not very famous actress so as not to pull focus, and one central question related to art versus commerce at the very end.”
Now, for a much less thought provoking trailer in every way, A Gentleman song! The second one, after the “Disco Disco” song. Which I didn’t bother putting up, because the most interesting part of it was the title, in it’s brilliantly subtle obviousness. You can tell that this is the team that wrote Happy Ending in all its meta glory.
But this one is a little more fun. Still not a full song sequence, but more of one than we have gotten from other films lately. Interesting that this sort of modern deconstruction of the Indian film is the one to include a full song.
But still not quite the full song I am looking for. Just for comparison, check out the title song from Salaam-Namaste, just 12 years back. Which had a slight non-choreographed opening, and then went straight into massive chorus dance number. Versus this which has, what, 20 seconds of choreography, buried in the middle of 2 minutes of goofing around.
Close, but still not exactly what I am looking for, is the “Sweety Tera Drama” video from Bareilly Ki Barfi. I love that all 3 main stars look like they are having a great time and are really into the song, no holds barred. And I love that it is kind of a goofy song, they aren’t being all sophisticated and above it all. And I really really love that it has a kind of “real” feel to it, with older people dancing in the background and casual clothing, not the gloss you see in those “everyone in India wears skimpy $1,000 saris all the time!” kind of videos.
But, again just for comparison, check out how much longer the cuts are, and how much more specific the choreography is, in “Ainvayi Ainvayi” from Band Baaja Baarat. It’s not a huge change, but we also aren’t imagining it that the songs are getting less song-like.