Bollywood king says new age dawning for Indian film

Indian Bollywood film director Rajkumar Hirani, left, and actor Ranbir Kapoor during a screening of the Hindi film ‘102 Not Out’ in Mumbai on May 1. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Bollywood king says new age dawning for Indian film

  • ‘Before there was a belief that you had to have songs’
  • ‘Now people are completely experimenting with the subject matter’

BUSAN, South Korea; Bollywood box office king Rajkumar Hirani believes a new golden age is dawning for the Indian movie industry as filmmakers look outside the box to tell more varied stories.
“Before there was a belief that you had to have songs,” said Hirani, the man behind a string of Bollywood hits including the global sensation “3 Idiots.”
“Now people are completely experimenting with the subject matter.”
Even those directors who continue to include songs are also exploring “much darker themes” — and still enjoying massive box office success, he said.
A case in point is 55-year-old Hirani’s latest offering, “Sanju,” which the director has brought to this year’s 23rd Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, the largest of its kind in Asia.
“Sanju” is based on the real-life story of the rise and fall of Indian star Sanjay Dutt, who was born into Bollywood royalty but was jailed after being accused of involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks of 1993.
The director admits the project was a risk given the often-grim nature of the story, which includes gritty scenes of drug taking and its lead character’s descent into depression.
But the strong box office returns have convinced him that audiences want a wider range of options from Hindi language films.
“Sanju” has so far grossed $80 million, placing it third on Bollywood’s all-time global earners’ list, according to The Times of India newspaper.
“It’s very much a human-interest story about battling your demons,” said Hirani. “It’s a very different kind of film than I have done before.
“While I was making it, everybody thought it was a mistake.”
But Hirani said he was more confident the film might succeed after seeing the reaction of Dutt, who was released from jail in 2016, at a preview screening.
“He saw it three days before its release and I was watching him,” said Hirani. “He was crying and after that he sat at home and drank for three days, so I knew it had worked.”
As a director and producer Hirani has reaped box office gold with a diverse range of films, from comedies including “3 Idiots” (2009) and alien-on-earth hit “PK” (2014), to the sports drama “Final Round” (2016) and now on to “Sanju.”
Experts say the Indian film industry is on track for record earnings in 2018, after surpassing last year’s $2.1 billion mark by the end of the first quarter.
Across all languages, India now produces more than 1,000 movies a year — several hundred more than come out of Hollywood.
Increasingly these films are finding a global audience.
Hirani’s “3 Idiots” — the tale of three friends struggling with the pressures of getting an education — was a ground-breaker in terms of international box office success, with around $30 million in international takings.
Hirani said Bollywood filmmakers are expanding their own horizons as their audience grows, both domestically and globally.
But the filmmaker stressed he had found no magic wand for making great cinema.
“I don’t think there’s ever a formula for success in film,” said Hirani. “If there was, everyone would share it. I’ve been fortunate
“I guess one of the principles I work with is make the film for yourself not an audience. At least then one person will like it.”
“You can’t judge what the world will like,” he added. “If you laugh at the jokes you are writing, if you can cry at the emotional scenes, then hopefully the audience will too.”
But for all the guidelines, Hirani says, early on it’s hard to predict what the final product will look like.
“Every time you start a new film it’s like digging a new well. You are not sure what you might find.”
The Busan International Film Festival runs until Saturday.


Oscars 2019: Arab nominees at the 91st Academy Awards

Updated 34 min 56 sec ago
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Oscars 2019: Arab nominees at the 91st Academy Awards

DUBAI: The Oscars countdown is almost over - both fans and critics have already locked in their favorites over who will take home this year’s trophies.

It is a particularly exciting season for Arabs and Muslims, as a few Oscar contenders are set to make history for the region. 

Rami Malek for Best Actor

It would be a big upset if Rami Malek does not win the coveted Best Actor trophy on Feb. 24, as his epic transformation into rock legend Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been recognized in every awards show preceding the 91st Academy Awards: The Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and SAG.

Born to immigrant parents, the Egyptian American is poised to make history as the first actor of Arab descent to clinch the top acting prize at the Oscars, seen as one of the highest recognitions in the field. In 2016, he scored an Emmy for his performance in the hit TV show “Mr. Robot.”

Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor

A frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali is heading strong into the Oscars with multiple wins on his resume for his role in the historical dramedy “Green Book.”

The 44-year-old made headlines in 2017 when he became the first Muslim to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars in its 91-year history. Ali could replicate this success this year.

Capernaum for Best Foreign Film

Oprah Winfrey, a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has said Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum,” nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, is a must-see.

Ever since the Lebanese drama won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, more and more people, including colleagues in the film industry, have been praising Labaki’s work.

But it is going to be an uphill battle as her film competes with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which has won all foreign-language film recognitions ahead of the Oscars.

Of Father and Sons for Best Documentary Feature

Berlin-based Syrian director Talal Derki took it to a different level when he lived with a Daesh family to shoot his award-winning documentary “Of Father and Sons,” which depicts radicalization from a very personal viewpoint, and is nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

But the courageous Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner is up against a tough bunch, including fan favorite “RBG,” which documents the life of US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a living legend in American law.

Critics have also placed their bets on “Free Solo,” a sports documentary that depicts the athletic feat of professional rock climber Alex Hammond.