Bursting with creativity
Queen (2014) is a nice film. When her fiancé ditches Rani a day before her wedding, she decides to go on her honeymoon all alone. That is how this middle-class girl from Rajouri Garden in Delhi, who can barely speak English, lands up in Paris and then Amsterdam. As she discovers the world, she also discovers herself. What I liked about it was there are no false notes. Rani changes, becomes more confident and sure of herself, but she remains what she was. She doesn’t become some hyper-hep, French spouting glamour doll. She is still Rani from Rajouri, only more sure of who she is and what she wants. Just like Kai Po Che (2013) last year, Queen is also made by a largely new crew. The only other piece of work from its director Vikas Bahl is Chillar Party (2011) which he co-directed. The only big name it has is lead actress Kangana Ranaut, who has done a brilliant job.
Paradigm shift: Queen is just another example of all that is right with the Indian film business in its 100th year
Queen also tells you once again the story of all that is right with the film industry in India.
The last five years we have seen all kinds of talent — directors, actors, writers, musicians among hundreds of others — coming out of the woodwork. You never heard of them and yet they are creating some good and successful films such as Queen, Kai Po Che, Vicky Donor (2012) or Peepli Live (2010).
Much of this has happened because the business has delivered. And that is the story that Queen among other films tells. An unknown Shekhar Kapoor made Masoom in 1983 while another unknown Mahesh Bhatt made Saaransh in 1984. Both of these lovely films had a hard time getting money, backing or distribution. Now studios such as Eros, Disney and Yash Raj are happy to pick these films and back them with distribution and marketing muscle. Theatre chains with hundreds of screens, such as PVR or Inox screen them. The last twelve years of corporatisation and building of studios has done this business a world of good. Remember that till the late nineties the Indian film business was a basket case, marred by chaos, black money and a complete inability to come to grip with changing audiences. In 1998 after it was given industry status, institutional finance started flowing in. Then came multiplex chains and digital theatres. They helped collect money at the last mile and bring it back into the system. As a result the film industry has grown over five times its size in 2000.
The FICCI-Frames 2014 report done by consulting firm KPMG shows that the industry grew 11.5 per cent over last year to R12,500 crore. That is good considering that the entire media and entertainment business grew 11.8 per cent going by the same report. It is this growth that is fuelling an era of enhanced creativity.
It is also fuelling good investment into the business. Almost every major studio from Disney to Viacom has invested in local film production, something they do not always do in other markets. (Queen incidentally is a Viacom18 film) This is because in India, only local sells. With no quotas, no import restrictions Hollywood forms just about 7 per cent of the total box-office revenues in India. And that too only because it dubs its films. The Chinese for instance, limit foreign films to 34 a year. That is how they ensure that local industry gets just over half the total box-office revenues.
Therefore, for a 100-year-old industry, which had no institutional funding, no state support for a bulk of its existence, the Indian film industry is doing a great job as it comes into its own, commercially and creatively.
Queen is just another reminder of that.
The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/vanitakohlik