(This article by Anna MM Vetticad was first published on January 7, 2014, on aljazeera.com)
INDIAN CINEMA’S NEW MOVES FOR 2014
Indian cinema clocked 100 years in 2013, but the year ahead promises more fun from Bollywood and south Indian cinema
By Anna MM Vetticad
It’s been around for a century now, but Indian cinema is more active than any 100-year-old you know.
Bollywood – the Mumbai-based, primarily-Hindi-language film industry – crossed several milestones in the year gone by.
The earlier benchmark for box-office success – net collections of Rs 100 crore ($16m) – became passé in 2013 as three films each earned double that figure within India according to trade reports: Chennai Express, Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3 (A Blast: Part 3).
In this hero-dominated industry, the star who raked in the most money at the turnstiles in 2013 was a heroine: Deepika Padukone was an equal partner to her leading men in critically acclaimed roles in three money-spinners, Chennai Express, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (This Youth Is Crazy) and Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram-leela (A Love Dance With Bullets: Ram-leela).
And independent cinema uncharacteristically made big news when the art-house English-Hindi film Ship of Theseus was marketed nationwide more heavily than any Indian indie before.
Despite these landmarks, arguably the most ground-breaking cinematic development of last year came not from Bollywood, but from Kannada language cinema in southern India.
The Kannada film industry created history with its first crowd-funded production, Lucia, the story of a cinema theatre attendant addicted to a mind-altering drug.
Writer-director Pawan Kumar approached the public through a blog post to raise approximately Rs 50 lakh ($81,000) to make the film.
India's independent films (those not made by production majors, and most often on a low budget) are usually confined to the festival circuit and are rarely released in mainstream theatres.
Lucia bucked this trend, and by the end of its 105-day theatrical run across India, the film's net collections had touched Rs 1.6 crore ($259,000), which is unprecedented for an Indian indie.
Kumar is now planning his next independent project while preparing to direct the Hindi remake of Lucia for Fox Star India with a budget “minimum 10 times higher than the original”.
Southern cinema sets trends
The Telugu film industry of Andhra Pradesh state and the cinema of Tamil Nadu rival Bollywood in scale and volume, but are rarely given their due by the Indian national media.
In 2014, though, Bollywood is likely to get stiff competition for the national spotlight from 63-year-old Tamil film icon Rajinikanth who stars in Kochadaiiyaan, the first Indian film ever to use 3D performance capture technology.
This animation technique – in which characters are modelled on live actors who are performing – has been used most extensively so far by Hollywood in Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin.
From among the 1,000-plus films that India produces every year, the emotional high point of 2014 too is likely to come from southern India.
Manam (We) will star three generations of Telugu cinema’s legendary Akkineni family of actors: 90-year-old Akkineni Nageswara Rao, his son Nagarjuna (now in his 50s) and grandson, the 20-something Naga Chaitanya.
Bollywood’s longest-reigning superstars – Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan – are headed for major milestones in the coming months.
Salman completes 25 years as a leading man in Hindi films this year.
His silver jubilee year will be marked by the release of Jai Ho (Let There Be Victory, a remake of the Telugu film Stalin) coming to theatres on January 24, Kick (another remake of a Telugu film) which is likely to be out in July, and an untitled film he is producing.
Aamir will star in P.K. helmed by Rajkumar Hirani who earlier directed him in the record-breaking smash hit 3 Idiots.
Shah Rukh too is reuniting with a tried-and-tested team for his next film: Happy New Year to be directed by Farah Khan and co-starring Deepika with whom he earlier created box-office magic in Om Shanti Om.
The Khans’ most serious competition from the new generation, Ranbir Kapoor has a string of films coming up including Bombay Velvet with auteur Anurag Kashyap and Jagga Jasoos (Detective Jagga) directed by Anurag Basu with whom he delivered the 2012 hit Barfi.
Bollywood’s leading ladies
The year 2014 could be a watershed year for heroines depending particularly on the fate of two Bollywood films starring Madhuri Dixit-Nene.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s production Dedh Ishqiya (One-and-a-half times Love) in January will mark the return of the former marquee queen as a leading lady after a seven-year gap.
This will be followed in March by Gulaab Gang (The Rose Gang), a film inspired by the true story of a group of women vigilantes who fight social injustice in northern India.
If either makes good money, it could marginally influence the way the industry views the box-office potential of female stars.
After a couple of insubstantial roles in big-budget films in 2013, National award-winning actress Priyanka Chopra will headline the biopic of Olympian boxer MC Mary Kom that’s being released in July.
Another National award winner Vidya Balan – that rare female Bollywood star who is acknowledged by the industry as a box-office draw in her own right – will be seen in February in the romantic comedy Shaadi ke Side Effects (The Side Effects of Marriage).
Actress Shilpa Shetty will make her debut as a producer with Dishkiyaaon this year.
Of remakes and adaptions
In recent years Bollywood has churned out unimaginative remakes of Telugu and Tamil blockbusters, and struck the financial bull’s eye with most of them.
In 2014, box-office Midas and director AR Murugadoss will remake his Tamil hit Thuppakki (The Gun) in Hindi with Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha.
Among the few to reverse the trend, Bollywood major Yash Raj Films will release the Tamil and Telugu versions of its critically and commercially successful Hindi film Band Baaja Baaraat (Bands, Music and Wedding Revelry) on February 7. Both are called Aaha Kalyanam (Wow! Wedding!).
Bollywood actor and fashion icon Sonam Kapoor is reprising Rekha’s iconic role in a retelling of legendary director Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Hindi film Khubsoorat (Beautiful).
Contemporary Bollywood has been accused of rarely adapting literary works.
Some of that criticism will be countered this December with the release of Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshi.
This period thriller stars young heartthrob Sushant Singh Rajput as the sleuth of the title created by Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay.
Director Abhishek Kapoor is adapting Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations as Fitoor (Obsessive Passion) starring Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapoor.
And contemporary Indian English bestseller Chetan Bhagat’s novel Two States is being made into a film of the same name starring newcomers Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor.
(Anna MM Vetticad is a Delhi-based journalist, teacher and author of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. Follow her on Twitter @annavetticad.)
Photograph courtesy: Raindrop Media