A slice of reality in Hindi cinema

In a change from candyfloss romances and over the top action flicks, Bollywood is doling out a slice of reality in a slew of films releasing this month.

Having dabbled in every sort of fantasy and escapism, Hindi cinema is now trying to burst the bubble with several films based on real life incidents.

The first such soul searing film is "Jaago" that released Friday.

Director Mehul Kumar, better known for violent potboilers like "Nafrat Ki Aandhi", "Krantiveer" and "Kohram", recreates through cinema the rape of a young girl on a local train in Mumbai that hit the headlines and shocked.

Raveena Tandon and Sanjay Kapoor play the traumatized parents in this song-less docu-drama. Manoj Bajpai is a cop in the film.

Bajpai, who is extremely proud of the film, says: "'Jaago' is a wake-up call. The little girl who plays the rape victim wasn't told about the nature of her role. The child and the mother realised the enormity of the goings-on during the dubbing.

"They got so upset they left without completing the girl's dubbing on the first day. 'Jaago' is film that revolts audiences into a revolution. This is what cinema was always meant to be."

If "Jaago" does even minimally well at the box office, it would indicate a smooth release for the season's other new reality-based film.

Puneet Sira's "I: Proud To Be An Indian", which opens a week after "Jaago", tackles the serious issue of racist attacks on Asians in Britain.

Though adhering to the popular entertainment format, "I: Proud..." hardly abides by rules of populism. Leading man Sohail Khan, who has so far had no luck at the box office, hopes to change his fortunes with this patriotic pitch.

And on Feb 20, new director Shrey Shrivastava's "Insaaf" takes us back to an infamous case in Bihar where a politician was accused of repeatedly raping a civil servant's wife. Namrata Shirodkar plays the traumatised wife in the film.

For the last week of February, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma has lined up a hard edged cops films.

New director Shimit Amin's "Ab Tak Chappan" is the semi-biographical tale of Mumbai's senior cop Daya Nayak, known as an "encounter specialist" for killing a large number of gangsters in gunbattles known as "encounters".

"Ab Tak Chappan" (the title refers to the 56 criminals eliminated by the cop in the film) contains what according to producer Varma is the best performance he has ever seen by Nana Patekar.

A film based on the same cop, "Kagaar", was unsuccessfully released a few months ago.

Reality based cinema has never had an easy time at the box office.

"And why should it?" reasons Hansal Mehta, known for his gritty look at metropolitan life in "Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar" and "Chhal".

"Audiences come to the cinema to escape the wrath of the rut. Why should they pay money to watch films that look like news bulletins?"

If any of the four headline-inspired films next month make an impact on the audience then filmmakers would be encouraged to swerve slightly from fantasy in search of a more authentic voice of cinematic expression.

Bollywood has other reality-based films lined up in March, like Ashok Pandit's "Sheen" about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits after the rise of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, and Manish Jha's "Matrabhoomi" on the life of rural women.