And has it been truly laid to rest? Is the script the new hero? Do the suits call the shots? Is it a great time to be an actor? Can good cinema find an audience? Is distribution the final frontier to cross? Film professionals across the spectrum tell us what works in new Bollywood
Shoojit Sircar, 44
Director, Madras Cafe
From my first film Yahaan to Madras Cafe, I have been making reasonably populist films. But in India, my films are considered out-of-the-box. Honestly, that surprises me because I don’t think I’ve made anything remarkable. Hollywood has been making such films for 30 years now. Madras Cafe worked because of a novel story and it took the audience by surprise. This not just proves how starved our audiences are for good stories, it also shows how wrong we are about audience behaviour, our notion that “we serve them what they want”.
A large section of the urban audience has a certain amount of disposable income and they’ll watch a movie on a weekend. What kind or genre, we don’t know and truth be told, we never will. There are stress-buster films — our masala potboilers — and there are films like Madras Cafe, which give you stress. The audience can’t be gauged and hence cannot be taken for granted.
I’ve struggled to get producers for all my films because they were not “safe” projects. Even after Madras Cafe didn’t have any takers till John Abraham came in, which helped us get Viacom 18 Motion Pictures as co-producers along with my own production house, Rising Sun Films. Before the release of Madras Cafe, the producers were worried about the lack of buzz and marketing surrounding the film. It released a week after Chennai Express and it worked on its own merit.
I applaud the audience for proving the formula wrong.
When I was new in the industry, the whole number game and crore clubs scared me. I used to think I would never be able to make a film. I was wrong. The last two-three years have been encouraging. As Amitabh Bachchan rightly said, it is a very exciting time for Hindi cinema. Grand Masti and The Lunchbox can run simultaneously and make money.
But it’s still tough for an outsider to make a mark here. A certain bonhomie drives clans in the industry but it’s also true that some of us with neither a