News/trailers/posters round-up really. There are some new movies talked about that we should all be aware of and give our opinions of, because I know we all LOVE giving opinions.
Ranbir Kapoor is Handed Things, Part the 500th
I’m sticking with my baseline of “nepotism is how the industry functions, and not inherently evil”. But I recently added on to it the “problem of the 3rd film” and the “problem of concentrated power”. The “3rd Film” problem being that you are offered not just your launch movie, and your follow up movie building on the launch, but then a 3rd movie which could go perfectly well to any actor, and yet force of habit and conditioning means it is offered to you. And the “concentrated power” problem being that only two studios essentially run the industry now (Dharma and YRF) and those two studios are only pulling from the very small pool of talent they like to work with, as though they were still tiny little storefront shops, instead of branching out.
And that brings us to this RIDICULOUS announcement. Ranbir Kapoor, in a massive big budget action movie produced by Yash Raj. Ranbir, who has not had a solid hit to his name in FIVE YEARS!!!!!!!! Whose last big budget film (Jagga Jasoos) was such a disaster it KILLED A WHOLE STUDIO (Disney India, RIP). And that’s after he also headlined Bombay Velvet, biggest flop in the history of Hindi film.
I’m not saying Ranbir isn’t a talented charismatic actor. But this particular film is both too much and not enough for him. Too much, because it is a whole lot of money to bet on a very unreliable horse. And not enough because Ranbir shines in introspective character parts, and this looks like a big swashbuckling action thing.
YRF could have cast any other young actor in this role. Ranveer Singh, their in house hero, would be more acceptable. At least he has action credentials. Sushant Singh Rajput, same, Raabta may have failed but it did give him action training. Or bring in some new face to headline it, Jim Sarbh, Vikrant Massey, someone with experience enough to lead a big film but still hungry for fame and willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
The only reason to use Ranbir is that “3rd film” issue, giving him the movie because you never think to look outside the usual list. And the “concentration of power” issue, Dharma and YRF are now BOTH working on a big action film with Ranbir in the lead for no particular reason beyond them knowing Ranbir well. And that’s in addition to Karan Malhotra, a Dharma discovery and trainee, now working at YRF. The two studios are getting way to incestuous, it’s not good for the industry as a whole, and it’s also not good for the two of them. They need to either officially merge, or come up with more distinctive flavors.
Madhuri Gets Exactly What She Deserves
Now, this is the alternative side of things, a film that truly could only have this particular lead and she is getting a well-deserved chance. Madhuri, in Bucket List in Marathi. A film built around a strong central female character played by a strong actress/star.
Madhuri has struggled with her “comeback”, Aaja Nachle was great but failed to connect, Gulab Gang after a long break also failed, and now she is trying something completely different, instead of a larger than life character she is playing a very human level one, in a very human level industry, the small Marathi language industry instead of the big Hindi one.
I should clarify, Marathi films have a heritage that goes back almost as long as Hindi films (like, within a few years of the first Hindi film, the first Marathi one came out). It has had ebbs and flows like all the industries, but there is a distinctive artistic tradition it is drawing from, one that goes back to Marathi stage plays, a kind of earthy character based humor and social commentary. And right now, Marathi film is on its way up. Partly because Hindi film has gotten so dull and repetitive lately (see above comments).
But that very excitement in Marathi films is also a sign of how small they are, because small also means flexible. And experimental. And different. There isn’t a set formula for success, so they are still trying different things in a way that Hindi film seems to have forgotten how to do, at least when they are handed a big star. They get scared and cautious, or try to go over the top and be too big.
But this movie, this is just right. Human-sized, not “epic”, but also not afraid to leave the rough edges in place and trust it’s lead not just as a Star, but as an actress, to find the heart of the character.
The plot seems simple, if I am understanding it, Madhuri received a heart transplant from a young woman. And she takes it upon herself to finish the young woman’s “bucket list” of things she wanted to do before she died. But it’s not treated in a saccherine fashion, there are jokes about Madhuri’s mother-in-law disapproving of what she is doing, the young woman’s dreams aren’t all perfect and angellic, and most of all it struggles with the question of what Madhuri’s character (a middle-aged housewife) might also want from her Bucket List.
Oh, and can we all take a moment to admire the complete perfection of Madhuri’s eyebrow arch?
John is Proved Right (also me)
Remember when this story first broke, a dispute between John Abraham and KriArj films? And KriArj tried to spin it as John being a stupid “unprofessional” artist who didn’t know what he was doing and didn’t understand high finance? And I said that was idiotic since John had already produced two movies under his own label and KriArj had only been around for a couple of years, and besides the people running KriArj had even less credentials than John, they just looked right (western style suits, and so on)?
Welp, John was right and I was right to say he was right. He filed all his papers with the court, showing delay of payment and so on, and Prernaa Arora has been called to give an account of things. And Prernaa is still trying to play the press, claiming it is all false and so on, but is clearly scrambling (more details here).
I just finished the Sanju bio, and this is reminding me quite a bit of the gangsters coming in during the 90s. The corporate types are the new gangsters, using threats and outside connections to try to keep the film industry in line. And the film industry has to choose if they are willing to take the money and bow down to the threats, or try to stand on their own. So far there’s been a mixture, plenty of smaller studios opting for the “take the money and run” approach of scamming the corporate backers and delivering flop movies at exorbitant rates. And then larger studios like YRF and Dharma are hedging their bets and being very careful in only taking a little money from outside partners in order to maintain their independence without seeming to be a threat.
(YRF: quietly becoming one of the largest fully privately owned business in India. No outside stock sales, no foreign ownership, still owned outright by the same family that founded it. At least, until casting the same 12 people in every movie kills their profits)
But now the corporations have crossed a line, trying to actual take films from filmmakers with empty threats and dead promises. John is taking a stand, and I’ll be interest in seeing if the corporate groups are scared enough to just gently fade away, or if they come back stronger than ever in response. Not KriArj, that seems like it might be dead any minute, but the other ones that have proliferated seeing a quick scam in taking money from multinationals and keeping it from the film studios, if other filmmakers will follow John’s lead in suing for false promises and taking their films back, and if the corporate partners will follow through on their threats of using contracts to kill films in response, just like the gangsters used to threaten to kill the children of those who stood against them.