A close friend who saw Kites at a sneak preview disclosed that Guddu (Rakesh Roshan) looked a worried man. Another friend with whom Guddu was making dinner plans just before the release of Kites said that it was strange when he said, My release has nothing to do with our dinner date. Films come and go, some run, some dont.
Before the press show of Kites at PVR in Mumbai on Thursday, Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan mingled for a few minutes with the media. Theyve come only to check the sound, explained the PR in charge, just in case the media thought the father-son team had come to soften the critics. Weve just landed two-and-a-half hours ago from London, said Rakesh Roshan, pulling off his dark glasses to show bleary eyes. Hrithik kept his hat on and made a date for an interview the next morning. Did they look tense and nervous? In hindsight you can label any gesture the way you perceive it. But the truth is, no, at that moment you couldnt have predicted that what was to soon follow would showcase this famous team at its cinematic worst.
The failure of Kites reiterates a favourite theory of mine. A filmmaker must keep within the budget his kind of cinema requires. Anurag Basu has delighted us with small budget, well-made films like Murder, Gangster and Life In A Metro, all three being under-Rs 10 crore films that made a lot of money for its producers. Kites was a canvas his cinema was not used to. Like Priyadarshan was fine as long as he made Malamaal under Rs 5 crore and romped home with profits. But when he tried the same mayhem on a larger scale, shifting gears from a village to a five star hotel in De Dana Dhan, the collections couldnt reach anywhere near his budget. It is the same with say, Madhur Bhandarkar. His cinema has to be compact for it to be profitable.
Thats where Rakesh Roshan went wrong. You cannot take the director of Gangster and put him in Las Vegas on a lavish budget. The budget and the scale are so overwhelming to the director that the story and screenplay get dwarfed in the bargain. Aamir Khan was cleverer. After Lagaan where he really spent money because his subject demanded it, when he made his next one, Taare Zameen Par, the story and screenplay came first, the budget later. This one warranted only a small, cute cost and Aamir stuck to it. The bigger, the better principle doesnt work, only the foundation, that is, the script matters.
There also has to be some genuineness in the promotion. During Koi Mil Gaya, Hrithik Roshan had said, All my life, all the films Ive done so far, have been in preparation for this role. It worked. He said it again this time before Kites. Even before one saw Kites, one couldnt help feeling it lacked sincerity because it was just turning out to be a favourite line. After seeing the film, the feeling was vindicated because there is zilch in the performance to warrant that statement.
Just around the corner, theres Raajneeti ready for release. Prakash Jha is another filmmaker who started out with small budget films. His last two films Apaharan and Gangajal were gritty, socio-political subjects, something that is close to his heart. They were under-Rs 20 crore films that just about managed to break even. This time Jha has shot up his scale. His subject is still gritty, socio-political but hes crossed the Rs 40 crore mark in the making of Raajneeti. With an array of stars that include fresh blood like Katrina Kaif and Ranbir along with stalwarts like Ajay Devgn and Nana Patekar, the film looks really promising. With Raajneeti, Jha will have to prove that his cinema can fetch much more than Rs 40 crore to be called a winner. If he can manage that, he wouldve broken the budget barrier that filmmakers like Anurag Basu and Priyan dont seem to have been able to transcend.
By the way, Raajneeti is the only ensemble cast film that Ranbir Kapoor is a part of. The young man has steadfastly refused any offer that has any other major actor in it, opting to do only solo films. And why not? The word is that every filmmaker is ditching whoever his favourite actor has been to make a solo starrer with Ranbir. The list includes Anurag Basu whose next film after Kites will be with Ranbir. After Jab We Met and Saif Ali Khans Love Aaj Kal, Imtiaz Ali has signed Ranbir, yes for a solo lead. And the whisper is that after Raavan, Mani Ratnam will not opt for Junior Bachchan, it will be Ranbir alone in this filmmakers next. So watch for a Ranbir Kapoor festival all through the next two years.
Bharathi S Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal