My old dedicated driven and sensitive filmmaker friend Onir is heartbroken. This week his latest film Kuch Bheege Alfaaz bravely and defiantly produced by the music giant Saregama’s film branch Yoodlee Films, opened in the most unearthly shows in selected multiplexes while all the primetime shows went to Padmaavat, PadMan and Aiyaary.
This is known as the big fish eating up the small fish. Unapologetically. It is the rule of the jungle. Only the mighty survive. I’ve seen so many “small” films with a large heart being a victim of theatre-bullying. How many oeople actually saw the highly-laudded Masaan or Newton in the movie theatre?
So what happens to the small but significant film , the kind that has always struggled for space since Bimal Roy made Kabulliwala and Raj Kapoor made Jagte Raho? Today when the number of theatres has grown so dramatically and the theatres are sophisticated venues of enjoyable engagement , the small significant cinema is still suffering in silence.Like the neglected wife of a bullying husband.
Last year there was Milind Dhaimade’s Tu Hai Mera Sunday that big-little charmer the odd gem which we are lucky enough to get at least once a year in our cinema-going experience. That film got cent-percent positive reviews with critics raving over the work.
But did it help? No! Why would a critically acclaimed film not get an audience? Because critics seldom make a difference to a film’s boxoffice destiny. If they did , the Oscar-nominated films would be flooded with audience attendance . Instead the theatres across the country screening Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water and earlier Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread wore a gloomy deserted look while Black Panther the comicbook contraption of hideously inflated dimensions conveyed a seriously festive look as audiences clapped and cheered at the 3D monstrosity where everyone and everything was larger than life. It’s what the ticket-paying audience wants.
It is very simple, really. If you want to conquer the masses a movie , fill the theatre with sound and fury signifying a “nothing” beyond the “something” that cinema was always meant to convey. As for Onir and his Kuch Bheege Alfaaz it must find an audience beyond the massive infrastructure of the film bazaar.
Maybe the internet is a solution. But then I saw this delicate fragile tender film first on the small screen and then in the cinema.All the delicacy, fragility and tenderness is lost on the small screen. So what do we do? Where does Onir take his creative impulses?