The really dirty picture

HitList offers a delicious bite into the fascinating world of B, C, D and E-Grade films of Bollywood

While Neha Dhupia's famous quote 'sex and SRK sells in Bollywood' holds true for A-Grade-films, there is a blooming parallel industry of B, C, D and E-Grade films that can easily do without any Khan. All they need is a heavy dose of 'erotica and cheap thrills' to get the desired eyeballs.

A still from Miss Lovely

We chat up with a cross section of people a B-Grade-films-enthusiast Aseem Chandaver, the director of Miss Lovely (which pays tribute to C-Grade films) Ashim Ahluwalia, the king of B-Grade-films Kanti Shah, to find out the ABCs of the industry and what makes it such a cult.

What is a B-Grade film?
A B-movie is generally defined as a low budget film that is definitely not art house or pornographic. Ahluwalia, who has spent 10 years researching on this industry says, "It's actually a meaningless term. In its original usage in 1950s America, the term specifically described a film intended for distribution as the unknown; bottom half of a double feature, often in drive-in cinemas. It doesn't mean anything in India except it is often a raunchy film without major stars, although Dharam-ji has appeared in many." According to Chandaver, the evolution of B-Grade films started in 1987 with a film called Raat Ke Andhere Main.

Poster of Sheila Ki Jawani

Is B = Sleaze?

The popular notion is that B films are all about sex and sleaze. "They don't follow any rules," says Ahluwalia. Chandaver who boasts of a collection of 400 titles says, "The directors express their wildest fantasies through these films. In the 80s there wasn't much nudity in B movies except for films like Pyaasa Shaitan."

The ABC of B-Grade films

These films range from B, C, D to E grade.  What separates a D grade film from B and C is bad production and very bad actors. In D grade films if there is shortage of actors they cast their spot boys as well. There are also various genres in these films horror, daku, junglee, Tarzan, erotica, naag and action. "The horror genre inspired by the Ramsays is unfortunately dying." Ashim confesses, "C-Grade films are more honest and are characterised by violent, gory, and mostly sexual content and a minimum of artistic interest. They are not even trying to mimic A-Grade films and often have something unintentionally interesting going on."

The cult fan following
These films might be targeted at 'the jhuggi jhopri crowd', but has also managed to attract some cinephiles. Ahluwalia says, "Most people find them funny because they can be accidentally quite hilarious," and adds, "The target audience are the people who find Aamir Khan or Amitabh Bachchan boring and would rather see a Chudail rip someone's head off or have an erotic shower."

The Baaps of B films
The founding father of B grade films are Vinod Talwar, Mohan Bhakri and D films are Raj Kumar Kohli, Joginder and K Bapaiya. "The Khooni Dracula director-producer Harinam Singh is hailed as the God of D-Grade films. He defies every rule in the book," says Chandaver. Suresh Jain is the uncrowned king of erotica. He made a series of films titled Doodhwali, Machhiwali, Maalishwali, Kelewali, etc. Kanti Shah is one of the most notable names

The superstars
Chandaver says, "My all time favorite was Joginder Shelley who passed away in 2009. Ahluwalia says, "The actors I like from C grade films are mostly from the 1980s. Sapna, Poonam Das Gupta, Jyoti Rana, Sheetal, J Neelam and Joginder are all terrific. My favourite performance is  Harinam Singh in/ as Shaitani Dracula."

Bumps ahead
Producer of Sheila Ki Jawani Kanti Shah says that the industry is going through a rough patch due to the rise in multiplexes and the single screens shutting down. "My next, a horror film will release in a multiplex. The budget will be thtice of my other films," he adds saying, "Also now all the films are releasing on YouTube or digital media." Shah says, "Nearly 100 films release annually and the average budget of a B film is around 40 lakh. Their DVDs come at a cost of anything between Rs 25 to 99." As a rule these movies make profit. Shah says, "Most movies make double the amount invested."

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