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Cinema In General
Editorial: Bollywood, clean up
BOLLYWOOD'S NEFARIOUS ACTIVITIES are now out in the open, or so it appears. The arrest of producer Nazim Hassan Rizvi has strengthened a long lingering suspicion that there were rotten apples in Mumbai's cinema world. Rizvi - who produced the yet to be released Hindi film, ``Chori Chori Chupke Chupke'' (which ironically translates into ``slyly, slyly, quietly, quietly'') - has been held for his alleged links with gangster Chhota Shakeel, an associate of the dreaded Dawood Ibrahim. First reports talk of actors and actresses being coerced into accepting Rizvi's terms and dates for the movie. And, at least one other film, that of Ajay Devgan, was forced to reschedule its opening. The Rizvi episode is part of a script which has been playing since that day when music baron Gulshan Kumar was shot dead a few years ago in the streets of Mumbai and in full view of tens of people. The man accused of being behind this gruesome murder, Nadeem, is now in Britain facing possible extradition. The brutal attack on the producer/director/actor, Mr. Rakesh Roshan, early this year created tremendous panic in Bollywood that led to innumerable requests for security, the cancellation of ``muhurats'', even projects, and an attempt to cut ostentation out of celebrations.
But, in a way the movie people themselves are responsible for what is happening to them today. Many of them fraternised with underworld dons, freely seeking largesse from them, including crores of rupees, in exchange for making films of the mafia's choice. Often, it was the mafia which decided whom to cast and how the plot should run or be altered. If an artist could not give dates for the production, he or she was threatened into submission. What is more, the dons also wanted overseas rights. With some of the pictures doing extremely well in the West and in Southeast Asia, foreign business is highly lucrative. Obviously, Bollywood sank into a quagmire, and to escape from it seemed increasingly difficult in the face of a vicious cycle of favours and demands. With just one out of every five movies that popped out of the cans breaking even, the crisis turned messier. In desperation, a few banners decided to go public. With a largely supportive Government at the Centre - which declared cinema an industry, paving the way for institutional loans - the move to raise money by selling shares may well lead Bollywood out of the dark tunnel. It may well salvage its reputation.
But much more needs to be done if Hindi films are to survive with decorum. Even in such bleak times as these, stars continue to call the shots, asking for and getting vulgar amounts as fees. Often, 60 or 70 per cent of a movie's budget goes towards paying them. A good part of the rest is spent on giving a positively distasteful gloss and sheen to the celluloid canvas. It is common to find Bollywood freely copying Hollywood, caring little for originality. Even renowned directors are guilty of plagiarism. Actors work in several films at the same time, reporting late on the sets and usually in a state of fatigue, which is hardly conducive to an artistic profession. Obviously, most of what one sees on the screen is cliched nonsense, and if the audiences still throng theatres, it is only because they really have no choice in a country where the medium is still the most inexpensive form of entertainment. But Mr. Soumitra Chatterjee, renowned Bengali actor, says, ``the public is fed up, and most pictures do not run''. Well, Bollywood has no alternative but to clean its stables before it can even hope to keep the killers away.
(This editorial appeared in The Hindu dated December 19 2000)