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Away with filmi misogyny

celebrity circus

Personally, I have decided to never work on a misogynist film. I don’t want to associate myself or my music with something that riles me up inside like Tere Naam” — music director Ram Sampath (of Delhi Belly, Talaash) in Brunch dated Dec 30, 2012.

It’s just the kind of New Year promise that many more film people should be making to themselves instead of taking to the roads to rant against the failure of the system. Turn the searchlight inwards, as the cliché goes. But then Ram Sampath has always been a man unafraid to stand up for what he believes is right — he is, after all, the man who took Rakesh Roshan to court and got 4 crore out of him as an official settlement during Krazzy 4 for flicking one of his tunes without payment to him. At that time, it was feared that taking on such a big name would render Ram persona non grata in the lick-and-fawn film industry. It didn’t deter the music composer. Along came another fearless man, a biggie by himself, called Aamir Khan, and Ram Sampath of Bhaag DK Bose fame turned from untouchable to highly saleable.

We need the Ram Sampaths of this world to offset the boorish Sanjay Nirupams. And cinema does sorely need to clean up its own house before wielding a broom outside.

The argument by most would, of course, be that they are giving the audience what it wants. Entry into the obnoxious 100 crore club is all that matters. Besides, the film industry’s crusaders are themselves so camp-divided that their cries are debatable. You have, for instance, Shabana Azmi getting into a frenzy over “offensive” lyrics in “recent item numbers” (unlike Ram, she does not name Fevicol se… from Dabangg 2 but gives enough hints) while she declares Beedi jalaile from Omkara as sensuous and perfectly acceptable. Dabangg belongs to the (opposite) Salim Khan camp while Omkara maker Vishal Bharadwaj (who made Makdee, now Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola too with Ms Azmi) can do no wrong.

And so it is a fair bet to assume that this divided house will never really get going in the right direction and you will need many more Ram Sampaths to correct the many wrongs that have gone into building such a lopsided mindset about the two genders.

Until then, the obsession with the 100 crore club continues. The PR department of Dabangg 2 is happy to report that it has crossed the 125 crore mark and that its opening overtook even that of the original Dabangg. Cleverly, it is never revealed that Dabangg in 2010 was released only in 1,700-odd screens while they got 3,500 screens in 2012. Nor is it mentioned that there was over a 60 per cent drop in the second weekend collections. Once again, the reasons are not far to seek. The first Dabangg was directed by Abhinav Kashyap who walked out of the Khan camp thereafter. Brother Arbaaz Khan took over the reins of Dabangg 2. So pull out the stops to prove that Khan made a more successful film than the outsider who chose to stay out!

There is another Khan who is equally possessed by the 100 crore mark — Sajid Khan who has made three frivolous films — Heyy Babyy, Housefull and Housefull 2. That all of them have been successful is the only benchmark Sajid likes to preen on. Everybody knows that this Khan broke away from Sajid Nadiadwala (the producer of his three obnoxious movies) only because he did not get a respectable share of the box-office booty as had been promised to him. “He got only 5 crore for Housefull 2 as his share of the profits,” runs the inside news.

Vashu Bhagnani wrote Khan a cheque for more than four times that amount and their joint effort, Himmatwala with Ajay Devgn, is getting ready for a March release. Even before the film went on the floor in Hyderabad, Sajid had told me, “I promise you that it will be the biggest hit of Ajay Devgn’s career. But I also promise you that it will not be a good film.”

Fulfilling that promise, Sajid has crammed Himmatwala with anything that’s saleable, sanity be damned. Every time he frames one of those shots, he looks at the monitor and gloats, “That’ll be another 50 crore!” His highlights are thus all worked out in figures, not words. One of them will be current box-office mascot Sonakshi Sinha in a sizzling item number.

Even as we write this, her dad Shatrughan Sinha is in Pakistan for Zia ul-Haq’s grandson’s wedding. Doing his own number for Indo-Pak relations, I guess.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal

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