The ensemble piece: falling into pieces
One genre of Hindi cinema that has gathered manufacturing, if not marketing, momentum is the young ensemble piece, featuring a cluster of unknown or virtually unknown faces getting together to whip up energy and zest.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The zest-is-the-best movement started five years ago when admaker Raj Kaushal turned feature director with "Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi", featuring a string of new faces including Dino Morea, Rinke Khanna and Sanjay Suri.
That was the first and last trendy ensemble piece to do well. Since then, romantic comedies with newcomers have become a lowbrow form of transient entertainment, best meant to be an impromptu audition for wannabes who might or might not be seen again.
In 2003, a gallery of faces none of which made any real impact were pitch-forked in ensemble comedies like "Nayee Padosan" and "Fun2shhh".
N. Chandra's "Style" featuring Saahil Khan and Sharman Joshi as two brain dead dudes made marginal impact, triggering off a chain of such films with unknown young faces in the lead. Not one of them proved successful.
Explains director Hansal Mehta, "The idea of casting a bunch of newcomers instead of a couple of marquee names is to beat the star system.
"It's also meant to make sure they don't give a filmmaker a hard time. But finally, when one or two of the newcomers make an impact, they become as insufferable as the stars they are supposed to replace."
Earlier this year we had some more hopefuls clamouring for attention in films like "Popcorn Khao... Mast Ho Jao" and "Dil Bechara Pyar Ka Mara".
But star aspirants like Vatsal Sheth (who made his debut in Abbas-Mastan's "Taarzan - The Wonder Car") and Sammir Dattani (who also made a high-profile debut in Rajshri's "Uuf Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai") shy away from the ensemble young-having-fun films.
Says Dattani, "It's okay for Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna to do such a film together. Their 'Dil Chahta Hai' is my all-time favourite. And I'd give anything to work with Farhan Akhtar. But for a newcomer it becomes a one-in-a-crowd thing to feature with other actors."
After his debut, Dattani has declined to do innumerable such films where he has to whoop it up on screen with other newcomers. "I'd rather go it alone and make sure that the space provided for me is used properly," he says.
This week another ensemble piece with a clutch of wannashines relegated to the position of also-rans gets a release. Ajai Sinha, who comes straight from television serials, has put together a group of eager-eyed hopefuls in "Stop".
The cast comprises some heartrending aspirants.
Tejaswani Kolhapure is the sister of well-known actress Padmini Kolhapure. She'd have made her big-screen debut two years ago if Anurag Kashyap's "Paanch" had been released. It wasn't.
Gauri Karnik was widely acclaimed for her performance in Tanuja Chandra's "Sur". But she was last seen in the miserable failure "Prarambh" as a beggar.
Ishita Arun made her debut in a forgotten 2003 film "Kahan Ho Tum" and Kiran Janjani faded away after playing a stripper in "Oops".
Along with first-timer Rocky Bhatia, these wannabes hope to create a youth market for their film.
But will "Stop" get a position even at the fringes? Is the audience interested in watching films about young trendy urban dudes and dolls going from banter to babble... or has the bubble burst?
These are also the questions newcomers Yash Pandit, Manjari, Abbas, Shreya and others would be asking when their film "Rok Sako To Rok Lo" releases Friday.
The fresh fun film, directed by economics guru Arindam Chaudhuri with an entirely untried cast and a totally new approach to the 'youth' flick, is all set to shoot a dose of adrenalin into the market.
Unknown youngsters with dreams in their eyes are capable of creating a quaint collaborative chemistry on screen. Too bad most of the films about the young are callow when they need to go beyond mere mo-bikes, Nike shoes and Armani bags.
"Rok Sako To Rok Lo" promises to set straight the record on hip young dreamers.