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When the biggie's got your back

The presence of A-list stars in a film, naturally, helps build the buzz among audiences. The biggest blockbusters this year - Ek Tha Tiger, Agneepath and Rowdy Rathore - starred the biggies of Bollywood and largely owed their nine-figure opening-day collections to the presence of big names in the cast and credits. The hullabaloo around Yash Chopra’s upcoming Diwali release, Jab Tak Hain Jaan, too, is mostly because of the presence of Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma.


Imtiaz Ali (right) has agreed to be the presenter of Mangesh Hadawale’s Dekh Indian Circus at promotional events

But not every good Bollywood film can rope in stars and big banners - they are first-time ventures, often experimental, which are initiated by bravehearts who prefer their cinema to be all about content. Fortunately, these projects no longer have to lose out at the box office anymore. An increasing number of Bollywood A-list stars now believe that these content-driven films must get an equal opportunity to be seen by the audience, and don’t mind extending their support to the smaller films. Cinema, it is hoped, is the biggest beneficiary.

Thanks to Imtiaz Ali’s offer to present his film, director Mangesh Hadawale’s Dekh Indian Circus is being spoken about at great length. Recently, Dekh Indian Circus was appreciated at the Indisches Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, too. “Imtiaz Ali loved the film, which stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannishtha Chatterjee. My team suggested that he get involved with the film too. Though he was initially hesitant about becoming being its presenter, he relented,” reveals Hadawale. Backed by a well-known name, Hadawale is now gearing up for his film’s release.

Dekh Indian Circus
A still from the film 

Nila Madhab Panda’s first directorial venture, I Am Kalam (2010), garnered a lot of praise from Amitabh Bachchan, which, according to the director, helped create the buzz about the film which went on to win the National Award that year. Incidentally, Aamir Khan has now expressed interest in watching Panda’s Jalpari and Nila is chalking out a plan to show the film to the actor who, he says, is currently shooting in Chicago.

Talent, pooled in
Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra, who are well-known for coming to the aid of several budding filmmakers, have even taken time off from their careers to back initiatives which aim to create a new pool of creative talent. Sudhir is part of Talenttube (.com), which allows aspiring artists to post their videos showcasing their talent online. Sudhir will subsequently make a film with the selected actors. And Anurag is gung-ho about India’s first all-directors’ company Phantom, which he supports along with Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl. Phantom is a production house that hopes to encourage directors make films in all genres. “The reason why I support Phantom is because its aim is to create better films. I support a cause which I believe in,” says Kashyap.

A still from Nila Madhab Panda's film, Jalpari
A still from Nila Madhab Panda’s film, Jalpari

A helping hand
And it is not all about personal returns either. “Prasoon Joshi, who has written the lyrics of the film, didn’t charge us for his services because he liked the story’s honesty. Even Shankar Ehsaan Loy didn’t charge us their normal fee. Vidhu Vinod Chopra saw my film’s promo almost seven times and said that he felt a younger version of himself had made the film. He then offered to have the Dekh Indian Circus promo included in his production, Ferrari Ki Sawaari.

The director adds that Ranbir Kapoor, too, is keen to watch the film. Ranbir had earlier done an item number in the small-budget children’s film, Chillar Party. Salman Khan was so taken in by the film that he made it his first production.

A big star praising your films helps a lot, says Nila. “It creates an interest among the audiences. Today celebrities also realise that it is essential to have some good films apart from the mindless entertainment. When we make a good film, it stands for itself. Small wonders (small films) can be breakthroughs in good cinema. We are beginning to create an audience for this kind of cinema and big names really help.”

A still from Student of the Year
A still from Student of the Year

The director’s second film Jalpari, which is based on the sensitive issue of female foeticide, was applauded by the critics but Nila laments that he wasn’t given too many shows. “Joker got more shows than my film but the audiences didn’t go to watch that film. They wanted to see Jalpari because of the positive reviews it got, but they didn’t know where to watch the film.” Nila has now shifted his attention and hopes that after Aamir watches the film, Jalpari will its due.

For the sake of cinema
While these efforts are commendable on the part of the Bollywood biggies, do they really believe it helps the smaller yet talented filmmakers? Sudhir, for one, does. “Anurag and I have a certain credibility in the industry. We are objective and filter real talent. It nudged people to see what exactly we are supporting, and they can form their own judgments later. We just draw attention to the new talent.”

Anurag explain, “Phantom will hopefully improve the quality of cinema in Bollywood. We will create films of every genre - comedy, romcoms, drama - with big stars and fresh faces. All the directors at Phantom have one goal - to create better films every year. That’s precisely why I came on board with Phantom.”

Sudhir believes it is a way of paying back people who had once trusted him. “When you help someone who is just starting out, you are just repaying a lot of people who helped you. When I came, there were a lot of people such as Kundan Shah, Vinod Chopra, Aziz Mirza, Shekhar Kapur, Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Bhatt, Nasseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi who helped me. They were very warm and supportive of everything I did and they gained nothing from that. You must stand by other people,” he asserts.

Stars need it too
Bigger films like Joker gain a lot from this practice, too. It got fillip when Shah Rukh Khan recently met the ‘aliens’ from the film at his residence, Mannat.
Social networking site Twitter has also helped celebrities applaud the work of their peers. Barfi! is still garnering praise from a lot of celebrities which includes Amitabh Bachchan, director Ken Ghosh, Arjun Rampal, Lara Dutta, Dia Mirza, Karan Johar, Shekhar Kapur … the list is endless. Ditto for the upcoming film, Student Of The Year, which was recently praised by Salman.
“If I help Anurag, he may help me in the future and I feel less lonely in the industry because he is around. You need similar minds who support each other. The notion of ‘profit’ must be redefined. I support newer talent because they will be assets to me tomorrow. Isn’t that good for everybody,” says Sudhir.

Nila Madhab Panda

Small is beautiful
Filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda made I Am Kalam in 2010 and released Jalpari in August. I Am Kalam created a buzz after it was praised by Amitabh Bachchan. “A star supporting your film creates an interest among the audiences. Celebrities also realise it is essential to have some good films apart from the mindless entertainment doing rounds.”

Jalpari, based on the sensitive issue of female foeticide, was applauded by the critics but Nila laments that he wasn’t given too many shows. “Joker got more shows than my film but the audiences didn’t go to watch that film. They wanted to see Jalpari because of the positive reviews it got, but they didn’t know where to watch
the film.”

Anurag Kashyap

There for each other
> Imtiaz Ali will present Mangesh Hadawale’s upcoming film Dekh Indian Circus
> Aamir Khan has expressed interest to watch Nila Madhab Panda’s August release, Jalpari
> Sudhir Mishra is part of Talenttube (.com) which allows aspiring artists to post their videos showcasing their talent online
> Anurag Kashyap, along with Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl, supports India’s first all-directors’ company Phantom, which is a production house that hopes to have directors make films in all genres

Bollywood News Service 

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