When I was watching Maqbool, I was seeing it with multiple perceptions flowing inside my system. I had read a lot about this film, both good and bad, but mostly good. I found it very raw in its treatment I am not even trying to sound very technical here because I am not. Raw in the sense that Maqbool could have been better as a film and I say this as an audience.
I loved what I was watching and I understood the metaphors but but deep down the film did not feel complete to me. I had seen Omkara before Maqbool and Makdee before Omkara. Vishal Bhardwaj’s work has opened at different levels for me. So, when I saw 7 Khoon Maaf, it too, was before Maqbool. In fact, I saw Maqbool after Haider. Filmmakers are unlike writers, who kind of get worse with their next. Almost most of whom I have read. There is a perception with which we see their cinema. So, if you are seeing Maqbool after having watched Haider, you will not like it as much as you liked Haider.
Take an Anurag Kashyap for example. His first official film, Black Friday is way too long. Not that it’s not good but you want it to be a little crisp in its editing. So, I saw Black Friday after watching Dev D. I had found Dev D very, very strong. It had an immense effect on me and I wanted to experience Kashyap more after this film. So, Black Friday was good but it was not like Dev D.
All these films, however, clicked with the Indian audience and their latest work made people see their previous films. With their recent failures, people are now asking them to make something like their previous films, which ironically are all different from each other. Kashyap’s Dev D is way different that a Gulaal or a Wasseypur. Bhardwaj’s Haider has got nothing to do with 7 Khoon Maaf. So, why do we expect them to repeat themselves?
Kashyap’s last to last release Bombay Velvet was again a masterpiece but it failed to garner eyeballs. It was a big setback for him. So much that he had to comeback to make small budget films again. I have not yet seen Raman Raghav 2.0 but having read and heard mixed reviews, I understand that filmmakers like Kashyap are fighting a war of finding a target audience. This brings us to a simple question – Can a filmmaker in India sustain by making films across all genres?
Like Bombay Velvet, unlike Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, was a historical period drama but very unlike what India has seen. Audience was not ready for it. While talking to Varun Grover, who has written the lyrics for the film, he said that songs of BV will become popular after 10 years. It has happened with many other songs in the past too. Bombay Velvet came too soon and at an age, when the audience was not ready for it.
It is a co-incident that three of the most distinct filmmakers of our times have failed massively with their big projects, not in terms of content, but in terms of box office collection. Dibakar Banerjee with Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Anurag Kashyap with Bombay Velvet and Vishal Bhardwaj with Rangoon. All these three big-budget film, involving big names tanked and major reason for it to happen is lack of connectivity. There is one more common factor between all these three films. All of them are set up in historical backgrounds when India was about to get independence or had just became independent.
We relate to the stories of Indian Independence in a different way altogether. This relativity is more direct than in undercurrent. Byomkesh Bakshy talks about many things in its undercurrent, like the political climate in pre-independence India, the famine in Bengal among other things. The same can be said about Bombay Velvet, where Kashyap connects politics, business, crime, and media in one jar, in the pre-independent India setup. How many of us see India that way? Not many.
When Dibakar started making film, he chose the deep-rooted human values stories. Khosla Ka Ghosla has a universal approach. It has characters which people relate to. Same was the case with all Kahsyap films which did well at the box office. Even with Vishal, we knew what he was talking about in Makadi, Omkara and Haider.
When we look at people like Rohit Shetty, Imtiaz Ali, Karan Johar and now Kabir Khan, we see their films catering to one set of audience and this audience is massive. Kabir had to juggle here and there to find what will work for him. For him, things became quite easy with Ek Tha Tiger, which did not pan out to be how he wanted. However, it gave him a blue print of his upcoming films. Kabir, in a recent interview, revealed that he brought his touch in Bajrangi Bhaijaan and it got mixed well with Salman’s recipe of films. Now, with Tubelight, he looks to be back on the same path, which he had lost earlier with Phantom.
Same with Imtiaz, who wants to tell different stories with romance in the background. In highway, he tried to keep romance ahead of the undercurrent, and somewhere he did fail. He was back to the basics in Tamasha.
You will never see a Karan Johar going out of the box or a Rohit Shetty trying to be different. Not many filmmakers around the world dare to do make films across different genres. Except maybe the likes of Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorcese. I don’t know any filmmaker other than Scorcese who has broken barriers such a genres through his films and has been appreciated each time.
In the same light, it is very right to say that it is very brave to be a Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Bannerjee and Vishal Bhardwaj in hindi film industry. They are breaking shackles and they are failing because the right audience is not there to appreciate their cinema but from here, where do they go?
At the same time, I don’t feel really bad when they fail because they are not settling for mediocrity.