Bharathi S Pradhan
When reviewing a slew of big-ticket movies like The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Batman Vs Superman or London Has Fallen, one common lament that I found myself making was about the jumbo budgets kept aside for special effects without spending a healthy percentage of that on the content ie the writing.
One certainly doesn’t have a fight with modern technology or computer graphics. But good cinema is about compelling story-telling and special effects should ideally be used to enhance the appeal of a story, not to hide the lack of it. Timeless films like Star Wars and Jurassic Park effectively combined both – they stunned the viewer with dazzling sci-fi technology that gift-wrapped a novel idea. In recent times too, films like Captain America, Independence Day Resurgence or Arrival were visually spectacular and told a neat story.
However, technology cannot replace a story. Whether you look at substantial films like Whiplash or The Danish Girl that came from the West or at homegrown cinema like certain Mahesh Bhatt films of yore (Arth, Zakhm), RajkumarHirani’sLageRahoMunna Bhai, Salman Khan’s BajrangiBhaijaanor Aamir Khan’s Dangal, it was the straightforward and fresh storytelling that overwhelmed you. Even if one were to look at Baahubali which was so strong in its special effects and technical wizardry, director SS Rajamouli couldn’t have held millions in thrall if he didn’t have his father KV Vijayendra Prasad’s sturdy writing to provide the foundation for the superstructure. If two years later, the audience is still asking, ‘Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?’ it’s because the story furnished the compelling twists and turns.
Vijayendra Prasad, incidentally, wrote the story and screenplay of BajrangiBhaijaan too, proving that whether a film is told with the aid of sophisticated technology (like Baahubali) or narrated without larger-than-life computer graphics, it’s solid writing that’s the immovable bedrock of good cinema. In Rajamouli’s previous films like Eega (Makkhi in Hindi) too, he had the good sense to pick up an unconventional idea and then use computer graphics for his narration.
It’s a basic truth that a few actors like Aamir Khan and now Salman and Akshay Kumar seem to have come to terms with. The days when say, Akshay signed a film because he liked the poster that had been designed for it, are truly over. The days when ‘proposals’ were made and not films, are also being consigned to history. AamirKhan who is one of the most script-savvy actors of the day, spends more time on picking up the right script than on actually filming it. Today, even a completely commercial actor like Akshay Kumar who was once driven only by the pay cheque he’d get for a film, ensures that he has an array of different subjects rolling out with regularity. His report card in 2016 was impressive – he moved from Airlift to Housefull 3 to Rustom with a chuckle-worthy guest appearance in Dhishoom, providing variety in his themes and enough entertainment either by way of humour or a gripping story. But if Akshay has grown as an actor, it’s only because he has understood the importance of writing (which starts with a good story idea) in cinema.
However, what continues to the ail cinema is that despite acknowledging how vital writing is to cinema, writers still don’t get their due in the Hindi film industry. They neither get the really big bucks nor the runaway credit that they deserve. For instance, would Karan Johar or the producers have the foresight or courage to put up hoardings all over town that KV Vjayendra Prasad’s Baahubali: The Conclusion is on its way? Salim-Javed did get that kind of attention in the 70s. Alas, that was more than 40 years ago.Author Bio. The editor of magazines like Savvy, Movie and writer for Mid-day, Reader’s Digest etc. She has been an ideator for Balaji Telefilms, on the panel of judges for many awards, the Chairperson of the National Awards for Best Writing On Cinema and a writer of fiction and non-fiction books.The editor of magazines like Savvy, Movie and writer for Mid-day, Reader’s Digest etc. She has been an ideator for Balaji Telefilms, on the panel of judges for many awards, the Chairperson of the National Awards for Best Writing On Cinema and a writer of fiction and non-fiction books.