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Is India's alternative cinema on the upswing?

By Priyanka Khanna, IANS

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Download Hulchul WallpapersOne is credited to be the reason for the box-office bonanza of filmmaker Priyadarshan's third comic caper in a row and the other's piercing and eloquent eyes have both genders mesmerised and longing for more.

Paresh Rawal, without whom films like "Hera Pheri", "Hungama" and "Hulchul" are unimaginable, outshone even Amitabh Bachchan in "Aankhen". Internationally felicitated Irrfan Khan may be the antithesis of the conventional Hindi film hero. But they are fast becoming household names across the country and beyond the borders.

Promos of Irrfan's next film, "Rog", are flooding the airwaves and the film could be his ticket for the title of thinking women's pinup boy. The film's brooding music by M.M. Kreem is another plus point, which is making the Pooja Bhatt production a hot proposition.

That the promos focus more on Irrfan than on debutant South African model Ilene Hamann is an indicator of the former artiste's screen dominance. "Rog" is directed by Himanshu Brahmbhatt whose directorial debut was "Vishwasghaat" (1996), starring Suniel Shetty and Anupam Kher.

Irrfan, who plays an emotionally scarred detective in "Rog", was noticed by Hindi filmmakers only after his startling performances in Asif Kapadia's British film "The Warrior" won two British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards. And when he single-handedly caused "Haasil", a film about college politics, perform at the marquees, Mumbai-based film producers began to take note of him.

Download Rog WallpapersThis National School of Drama graduate's work in "Maqbool" had caught the attention of maverick filmmaker Mira Nair, who offered him a key role in her next film, "The Namesake", co-starring Konkona Sen.

Film critic and editor of Cinemaya Aruna Vasudev says the demands of the box-office lead film trade to ignore more talented actors, dismissing them as "character" or "supporting" or "side" artistes even as they kowtow to non-actors who are projected as "stars". With more than a 100-year-old history of cinema behind them, Indian audience is not swayed by the way actors look on the screen but by how they emote. However, our dream merchants refuse to realise this.

Even after making films run exclusively on his shoulders, Paresh Rawal is yet to be considered for nomination in best actor category when the award season starts rolling.

But change may well be round the corner, as more and more on the audience tilt towards offbeat cinema. "There is a marked increase in the number of people, particularly, college goers, who flock to film festivals in the metros. What began as a status statement has become a habit for them," say organisers of Cinemaya film festivals. This augurs well for the future of offbeat cinema and with arty cinema doing commercially well, we could see a revival of meaningful cinema.

Download Hulchul WallpapersIndeed, at the ongoing 35th International Film Festival of India the crowds were flocking to as many films from the offbeat genre as from the Mumbai-studios. Images of 'other' India, as apposed to images from dreamlands.

With the recent commercial success of character actors like Paresh, Irrfan, Rajpal Yadav, Boman Irani, Arshad Warsi and Raghuvir Yadav, hopes for mainstreaming of art-house cinema are also running high. Favourable box-office report of these handfuls of actors set them apart from other greats like Motilal, Balraj Sahni and Sanjeev Kumar and in recent years character actors like Amrish Puri and Anupam Kher.

It would not be wrong to say that the character actor is finally poised to enjoy certain amount of stardom. It is about time Bollywood began to appreciate the actors who are not necessarily glamorous stars, given the fact that the four Khans can do only that many films in a year and none of the other crop of new recruits have shown the calibre to replace them.

In days ahead, perhaps, Naseeruddin Shah would not get roles completely unworthy of his talent like in the film "Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao" and Mita Vashisht would not have to work in films like "Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi". And unconventional looks would work just as well as actors like Joe Pesci and Danny DeVito work in Hollywood.


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