By Vinod Mirani
Nationalism and social issues, which the ruling government had promoted over the last five years, created new genre of themes for filmmakers. During the last five years, especially so in the last three of the Modi/ NDA era, the most successful films turned out to be the films on these genres. That was once Prime Minister Narendra Modi was accepted all over India as the leader the country needed.
One who inspired.
The filmmakers took the cue from Modi’s tenets, programmes and policies to base their films on! One could never have imagined that a film like Padman, based on the subject of sanitary pads for women, could be produced for the mainstream market. Similarly, to think of a film about having an in-house toilet in a traditional family in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha! These films were made on commercial basis and proved to be successful at the box office. These are the two examples of films made on social issues giving a boost to the Prime Minister’s social drive.
There have been quite a few producers earlier who took up national issues. They made nice films but the people were not convinced about the plausibility of such themes. An interesting film, D Day, about kidnapping Dawood Ibrahim from Karachi, and bringing him to India was made but not accepted. The audience was not convinced India had it in her to accomplish it. That was 2013.
Then came, Uri: A Surgical Strike. A no face value film, it went on to do business of up to Rs 265 crore! That was early 2019!! That is the belief in the leader.
Starting 2014, Hindi films started going the nationalist way and depicted a sort of self-pride, sacrifice, glory,
nationalism and so on. It started with Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty, Jai Ho followed by a line-up in the following years. Baby, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Dangal, Sultan, Airlift, Neerja, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Tiger Zinda Hai, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, The Ghazi Attack, Naam Shabana, Newton, Padman, Raazi, Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran, Gold, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Kesari, Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi.
For example, the Pokhran test was carried out in 1998 but why did nobody think of projecting the story on screen for the masses? Because, even if true, the audience would not have believed it to be plausible. When the film released, the people were ready to accept it. Their belief in India was restored. The filmmakers have worked a great deal promoting the Modi government as ideal, willingly or unwillingly so far. Or, to put it the other way, filmmakers have been greatly inspired.
What now? Rarely does a leader inspire film themes. Indira Gandhi did but those were anti establishment stories. Lal Bahadur Shastri’s short tenure inspired a few patriotic movies.
Making films, even biopics, inspired by the nationalist and patriotic fervour is fine but to make a biopic on the in office Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was a bit farfetched and premature. Modi’s real life image has been strong enough and he did not need a biopic in his name. Not only was the decision and the time wrong but also bad was the idea of casting Vivek Oberoi as Modi. He just does not have that kind of bearing and would have harmed the real life Modi image. Just as well that the film was held back by the Election Commission of India. The purpose seemed to cash in on the Modi magic and election frenzy than to promote Modi. Incidentally, one of the producers of the film, Anand Pandit, was actively involved with the party during early 2000s.
What helped these themes work was also due to the fact that even the big stars like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgn went with the tide and minted big time. Shah Rukh Khan was the one who kept out sticking to self-glorification (Fan, Zero) or romancing young lasses like Alia Bhatt and Anushka Sharma or glorifying an underworld goon, Latif of Ahmedabad!. No wonder that while the rest are still in contention and have a draw at the box office, Shah Rukh seems to have lost his following.
Trends are something one is meant to follow, especially so in the film industry. Now that the same dispensation of NDA has come back to power and nationalism as a national fervour has only grown over the years, what next for the filmmakers? But, as film content, are nationalism, patriotism and all such sentiments still worth stretching?
Actually, too much of anything leads to tedium. For it to work, such a film will have to be really interesting and inspiring. All that the Prime Minister and his men did these five years was inspiring, what they will do for the next five is expected from them. May be even more is expected.
The film folk had better get back to feel-good, music-oriented entertaining films. A chief propagator of such films has already asked his producers for action, adventure, romance subjects after his next and last nationalism themed film.
@The Box Office
*De De Pyar De, starting with its paid previews, till Sunday, did well. Thereafter, Monday till Friday, it maintained an average level to end its first week with collection figures of about Rs 56 crore. Not much is expected as the film entered its second week.
*Student Of The Year 2 continued with average performance in its second week. The film added close to Rs 10 crore in week two taking its two week tally to Rs 65 crore.
*The much hyped film on Narendra Modi, PM Narendra Modi is poor. Comes across as a purposeless, overhyped work on the life of the PM.
*India’s Most Wanted, an action film, which brings Arjun Kapoor to the screen after some time, does not draw the required number of footfalls on day one.
(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst)