Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Scorecard: Indie-1, Mainstream-0

Alright, alright, I saw this line between 'Indie' and 'Mainstream' blurring in 2012 with fresh and newer ideas in commercial films with regular naach-gaana or even without it. Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, Vicky Donor, Gangs Of Wasseypur, English Vinglish being the path-breakers. Those films had set an example for mainstream film production. But, that line schism between Indie and mainstream seemed resurfacing again, this year, dividing the films into these two different categories. Only good thing, perhaps the best thing, to happen this year, is that 'Indie' films are getting theatrical releases and their audience. But, on the other hand, mainstream went back to churning out crappy action, mindless films in forms of remakes, sequels or whatever. The race, in fact, grew bigger from 100 crore to 300 crore. It grows to 500 crore in 2014, I wish. But what kind of films will participate in that race, you know. And I'm afraid of that. 

2013, in my opinion, was a weaker year than its predecessor. We had just another "Friday movies". No new ground was broken. Only milestone achieved was in terms of box-office collections. I still haven't seen the top 3 grosser of this year (Chennai Express, Krrish 3, Dhoom 3). Evidently, there is an audience for all kinds of cinema in our country. You now know what kind of audience I am. I saw Ship Of Theseus twice. It released across limited no. of screens in multiple cities across nation past July and ran for over 5 weeks. This is huge for a film produced on such a small scale. This film coming out of festival circuit and made accessible for wider audience is itself a huge step. Now that they are accessible, I want them to be acceptable. Will Ship Of Theseus get any Filmfare award (Actually, I don't even care about the Indian award ceremonies, but many still do), or will it just remain on top 10 lists of countless bloggers? 

I had first seen Ship Of Theseus at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival in 2012 where as a part of Young Critics Jury, I was supposed to nominate one film for the Best Film award. SoT was my choice, but majority went with the US based indie Beasts Of The Southern Wild (My short reviews of both the films here and here). Beasts... went on to win a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. SoT could have been our best bet for Oscars too, this year, for its cinematic richness. It also had strong competition from The Lunchbox. No one made the cut. Not even our official entry The Good Road now. The Good Road, too, is an indie that had theatrical release in Gujarat. Many, outside Gujarat, hadn't seen or even heard about this film, despite of it winning a National Award already, till the news of it being sent as India's official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film for Oscars broke. Many, like me, then somehow managed to see this film after that. With an award in hand and rounds of theaters done already, this small indie had to face accessibility and acceptability hurdles both.

Other indies that released to good reviews this year were Bombay Talkies, The Lunchbox, B.A. Pass and Shahid. Each distinctively different, telling stories from our own gritty world, making their makers find their voice in cinema and had others listening to it attentively. Films that worked with larger Indian audience were: emotionally overdrawn Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, passionate romanticism with kitsch (RamLeela and Lootera, both adaptations), sexually repressive mockery in Grand Masti, a charming classic killed and served dead with plastic (Chashme Baddoor; RIP, Farooque Saab) among others like R... Rajkumar. Thankfully, Himmatwala and Boss bombed.

Mainstream films, this year, successfully found their new roots with stories based in small towns- either reflecting the state of those small town (Raanjhanaa) or projecting them as newer India (Kai Po Che and Shuddh Desi Romance), or let's say finding those small town like characters and their crave to make it big in an urban Delhi (Fukrey and Mere Dad Ki Maruti). Reasonably, these are my top favorites commercial films of 2013.

2014 will be different, much like 2012 with bigger scale, I'm expecting, as Imtiaz Ali's Highway, Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet, Dibakar Bannerjee's Byomkesh Bakshy, Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider are highly awaited. Even Vikas Bahl's Queen looks like an unlikely rom-com with Kangana Ranuat and Rajkummar Rao in pairing. Genuine indie films like Ashim Ahluwalia's Miss Lovely and Nagraj Manjule's Fandry (Marathi) are releasing early in January. Hopefully, that line will be blurred again.

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