Content is King: The King is Missing!

Content is king is the belief the film industry has thrived upon all along. An appropriate casting as per the needs of the story completed the basics of making a film. A director craved for a good performer rather than a star and did not chase a star just for the sake of it.

It was because of content that films with no star value such as ‘Saraswatichandra’ (Manish), ‘Kora Kagaz’ (Vijay Anand, otherwise a film director), ‘Dosti’ (Sudhir and Sushil) and ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ (Salman Khan) went on to become hits. These are just a few examples.

Rajesh Khanna had delivered many flops before he could give his first hit and so had Amitabh Bachchan. When a good script that matched their talent and persona came up, it made them a star.

When a star is born thanks to a few huge hits, everybody wants to cast him and this phenomenon causes the downfall of a star. Because, everybody wants to cast him in the same mould.

Because content is king, along with these superstars, there were also many others who came up with hit films at the same time. Dev Anand, Jeetendra, Rishi Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra, Feroze Khan, Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra, Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet, Mithun Chakraborty and Amol Palekar ran their careers parallel to Khanna or Bachchan and continued to give hit films at the same time as the two superstars.

That was the golden era of the Hindi film industry. So many stars, so many jubilees each year.

Then came the era of whizkid directors and writers. They thought in English and wrote in English. While shooting, the content and the dialogue were lost in the translation.

The budgets moved into crores from lakhs as corporate houses – Indian as well as a few from overseas – entered the film industry. The language that did justice to Hindi films was Urdu. Writers of merit vanished when the makers chose new gen kids. An actor like Amitabh Bachchan was reported to say that he had to engage his personal translator to decipher the lines he was given for his films!

Can you imagine that music companies also came out with cassettes of a film’s dialogue tracks and not only of its music! That was because there were some great writers who also wrote equally great claptrap dialogue. The dialogue cassettes of films like ‘Sholay’ and ‘Deewaar’ are the prime examples. People watched a film again only for its dialogue and that is how powerful the writing was.

The name of the writers appeared prominently on a film’s street publicity and promos. That can’t happen now. Because, we have no script writers of merit.

The filmmakers felt having a star was enough to draw the crowds. But that does not seem to be working anymore. Without a solid script, you can’t make even your star sustain.

If you discount the highly manipulated box-office figures, where are the real hits? The ones that people who watched them appreciated, took a part of the film with them. Like say, “Kitne aadmi the” or “Dawar saab, aaj bhi main phenke hue paise nahi uthata”. These and such other lines became immortal.

Hindi filmmakers follow one of these three approaches to making a film. A South remake, a sequel (even if it is not in sync with the original in any way) or pick pieces from foreign films and join them up as one full Hindi film.

First, we started with basing our films in a foreign country, mainly the US. About an Indian family there. How was it supposed to help? Even with crime films shot abroad, the hero and villain were Indian, but why even the cops? That was ridiculous. Don’t other countries have their own cops?

This love for shooting abroad, naturally, did not last long.

The trend now is sequels. And there has been a line-up, the latest being ‘Tiger 3’. In this film, the hero, Salman Khan embarks upon a mission to save the prime minister of Pakistan! Pakistan, of all the countries? How ridiculous can a film be?

Who are you catering to? Your audience is in India and the feelings about that country are not at all sympathetic. The watchword in our filmmaking was always about making a film with universal appeal. But, lately, like our politicians, some makers are indulging in comparing communities.

Many films try to force a Hindu-Muslim unity theme into their films. There was one sequence in Rohit Shetty’s ‘Sooryavanshi’, which depicts Hindu-Muslim unity in the background of terrorism! Aarti and namaz in adjoining places of worship. Are such scenes really necessary? Such concocted sequences neither help the cause of national unity, nor the film.

There was a time, during the single-screen era, when the Muslim population, being compulsive film lovers, filled up the cinemas and drove the box office up. But films that were made then carried universal appeal. They did not try to appeal to any particular community. If films were to be made for the Muslim population, with religion as the theme, they were designed for release during Eid.

There was also a system of making Muslim socials or love stories. They were accepted by all. To name a few, there was ‘Shahjehan’, ‘Taj Mahal’, ‘Benazir’, ‘Jahan Ara’, ‘Anarkali’, ‘Mirza Ghalib’, ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’, Mere Mehboob’, ‘Mere Huzoor’, ‘Deedar-e-Yaar’, ‘Ba