Aspiring to cross the glorified figure of Rs 100 crore at the box office is proving to be a “poison” for the Indian film industry, says acclaimed veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah, who believes making content-based movies more economically will be a step in the right direction.
Just last month, Naseeruddin featured in two films — “The Blueberry Hunt” and “Waiting”.
“The Blueberry Hunt” just came and went, but “Waiting” — a story on a special bond established by two people from different walks of life, who befriend each other in a hospital while nursing their respective comatose spouses — found many takers.
“This Rs 100 crore club has poisoned our filmmaking sensibility. It is as if we are finally admitting the real reason why we make movies… It is important that content-based movies must be made economically,” Naseeruddin told IANS.
His reason: “You cannot expect a guy who plies a rickshaw or works on the road all day to go and see films like ‘Waiting’. He will not. He will go and see a ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ or a ‘Happy New Year’ because he needs that.
“You cannot expect him to see a film about his own life … It’s unfair to even expect it,” said the 66-year-old, who in his four decade-old career, has featured in a mix of commercially entertaining as well as niche movies.
He doubts if niche movies would ever appeal to labourers and factory workers.
“These films will always be a niche activity. So, if these movies start aspiring to enter the Rs 100 crore club, then the quality of such films will suffer,” the Padma Bhushan awardee added.
The actor says a lot of filmmakers succumb to the “temptation of bigger budgets” very quickly.
“When a small film succeeds, in the next film they want Amitabh Bachchan in it. So it’s a dismal scenario. I would agree that there are a lot of films coming which stimulate your thinking, but at the same time I would say they are still less ratio-wise as compared to the 1970s,” said the actor, who impressed viewers with his work in films like “Sparsh”, “Aakrosh”, “Masoom” and “Mandi”.
Drawing parallels between the 1970s and present times, he said that if earlier there were two or three content-based films, now there were 20 or 30.
“But the number of rubbish movies have also proportionately increased. The percentage of people making new-age cinema is still very small. And I am afraid they will always be small. That is something experimental cinema-making people will have to live with… They will never have it easy,” he added.
He, however, has high hopes from the regional film market.
“It is important that regional cinema develops. It is certainly happening in Marathi (cinema). In Kannada, the alternative cinema has always been there and also in Malayalam. The signs are good, but trouble is that everybody is looking at Rs.100 crore,” Naseeruddin said.
He feels the revival of Marathi and Punjabi cinema is great.
“Marathi cinema went through a very bad phase because of the low comedy that was being made. It has been recently revived. And Punjabi cinema has revived too as they make more popular kind of stuff,” he said, praising his “A Wednesday” co-actor Jimmy Sheirgill for his contribution to reviving Punjabi cinema.
Asserting that regional cinema must flourish because “today there is no longer such a thing called a pan-Indian movie”, Naseeruddin said: “The days of 50-week run are gone forever. ‘Sholay’ ran in the same theatre for two years in Mumbai… That era is gone. Now every movie is a niche movie.”