By Aditya Savnal. Posted on January 10, 2015
Barring a few films, 2014 saw Bollywood stick to the usual tiresome template. The audience seems to have had enough and despite higher ticket prices and apparently 'record-breaking' openings, for the first time in more than a decade, net box office collections (ticket sales less entertainment tax) declined over the past year. However wherever filmmakers put an effort into storytelling (Queen, Highway, Haider, PK, Mary Kom, Ugly) and came out with fresh stories or gave a new spin to older tropes (Two States, Heropanti, Mardaani), they were rewarded by the audience.
In an industry obsessed with leading men and opening day numbers, these films put the focus back on storytelling and were justly rewarded (although not always, as an Ankhon Dekhi or Citylights will attest). Maybe the viewer taste is changing. Maybe the tide is turning. Or maybe this year was just an aberration.
So when six of the best filmmakers of 2014 got together to discuss their cinema and the challenges they face, we got excited. Rajeev Masand got Vishal Bharadwaj (Haider), Rajat Kapoor (Ankhon Dekhi), Imtiaz Ali (Highway), Vikas Bahl (Queen), Rajkumar Hirani (PK) and Abhishek Varman (2 States) together and what followed was an enlightening discussion on filmmaking.
Despite making nearly Rs 600 crores in box office revenues amongst themselves (more than half by Hirani's PK) all of them are unanimous in their dislike for Bollywood's obsession with weekend numbers and believe that it negatively impacts their filmmaking process. According to Rajkumar Hirani the obsession with the numbers is bad as ultimately people remember films for its content and not its box office earnings. However Abhishek Verman had no qualms in admitting that the opening numbers mattered to him since it was his debut film.
The group agrees that the process of filmmaking is a complex yet satisfying journey filled with compromises. As has been said often and at various forums (including at the recent MAMI screenwriters roundtable) choosing a subject and script writing are two of the biggest challenges filmmakers in India face today. All of them consider filmmaking a tricky vocation, as the challenge always lies in expressing oneself without inviting anyone's ire. Besides this, they also speak about how filmmaking takes a toll on their personal lives.
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