The more things change in Bollywood, the more they stay the same

By Priyanka Khanna, IANS
6/7/2004 12:00:00 AM
A brave new Bollywood seems to have emerged but trade observers fear the change is superficial rather than systemic.

In spite of the infusion of fresh blood, corporatisation, new avenues of finance and the mushrooming of multiplexes across the country, it is the same old Bollywood if you scratch the surface, trade observers say.

Even as veteran director Subhash Ghai declared that for the first time, he had started shooting a film with a bound script, production houses that used to launch films on the basis of star names have opened vetting departments for scripts.

Other big moneybags of Bollywood are also seeking second opinions on their storylines - but some things refuse to change.

For instance, Madhur Bhandarkar, who made sensitive films like "Chandini Bar" and "Satta", succumbed to the diktats of commercial cinema in his latest film "Aan: Men At Work," a film that offers nothing beyond a good testosterone rush.

No wonder then, the common refrain heard was: "Commercialism triumphs over realism. One more bites the dust."

The film seems to carry the stamp of its producer Firoz Nadiadwala rather than its director as Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Shatrughan Sinha, Om Puri, Irrfan, Paresh Rawal and Rahul Dev unleash a feast of bullets.

The film is likely to do good business on account of its adrenaline pumping action sequences but is cinematically speaking, a let down as the story is staid and execution clich?d.

The film is technically competent, but does not pull at the heartstrings. The women -- Raveena Tandon, Preeti Jhangiani and Lara Dutta -- have blink and miss roles.

For an industry that is going to town boosting of a creative renaissance, "Aan" comes on the heel of another cop film "Police Force" and will be followed by other flicks on the men in khaki: "Dev" by Govind Nilhani starring Amitabh Bachchan, Fardeen Khan and Kareena Kapoor, and "Garv" starring Salman Khan and Shilpa Shetty.

This will give way to a series of films based on the men in olive green: "Lakshya" starring Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta, and "Deewar: Lets Bring Home Our Heroes" also starring Amitabh, with Sanjay Dutt, Akshaye Khanna, Amrita Rao and Kay Kay.

"For all the talk of innovation, the moment a filmmaker of the stature of Raj Kumar Santoshi or Mahesh Bhatt announces a film based on a unique idea, the next day other filmmakers launch five films on the same subject," says analyst Taran Adarsh.

Indeed, no sooner did director Karan Razdan complete shooting for "Girlfriend", his low-budget film based on lesbianism starring Isha Koppikar and Amrita Arora, that newcomer Ashish Chaudhary launched another film on the same subject called "Men Not Allowed".

Moreover, the latest box-office hit "Main Hoon Na" prides itself for being old wine in new bottle. The film even goes to the extent of putting lead actor Shah Rukh Khan in the college as an undercover agent.

Ditto for Mani Ratnam's "Yuva", where Ajay Devgan is cast as a college student leader.

The stealing of storylines apart, there is the decades old un-addressed issue of lack of safety on film sets that claimed another victim in Briton Nadia Khan who was allegedly killed by a train while assisting director Kaizad Gustad in his film "Mumbai Central".

Looks like Bollywood has a long way to go before it can be called truly professional.