Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Year Of Surprises

The regional film scenario saw many ups and downs during the year 2009. While some films were blockbusters, there were some critically-acclaimed films that did not do wel

Shivajiraje, a benchmark in Marathi

Mahesh Manjrekar’s Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy was the first Marathi film to break all records in the first week of its opening. It was released just before the stalemate between producers and multiplex-owners and the message-oriented film struck the right chord. Considered a benchmark in Marathi cinema, it starred Sachin Khedekar and Mahesh Manjrekar in the main lead. It was also the first Marathi film to run at regular shows on all days at Movie City Cinema at New Jersey.
Gabhricha Paus highlighted the issue of suicides among the drought-stricken farmers in the Vidarbha region of Maharash-tra. Directed by Satish Manwar, and starring Girish Kulkarni, Sonali Kulkarni and Jyoti Subhash, it did the rounds of many film festivals and won several awards. Other films on the same subject were Goshta Choti Dongarevadhi and Made in China.

Bokya Satbande revolved around a 10-year-old boy and was an attraction for kids. Ayan Narvekar, actor Sanjay Narvekar’s son, played the main role. Filmmaker Sachin Kundalkar’s attempt at making a film with an ensemble of three stories was appreciated at film festivals - Gandh was inspired by Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Malayalam film Naalu Pennungal that revolved around four women. Supermodel Milind Soman made his acting debut in Marathi films.
Another highlight of the year was Renuka Shahane’s debut into the field of direction. Rita was an adaptation from Shanta Gokhale’s novel Rita Welingkar that narrated the tale of protagonist’s journey from a young girl to a woman of 40 years. Produced by Pooja Shetty-Deora’s Walkwater Productions, it starred Pallavi Joshi in the title role with Jackie Shroff making his debut in Marathi films.

Sanjay Surkar’s Sukhant was an issue-based film on the sensitive subject of Euthanasia or mercy killing. However, the film did not make much impact in the minds of people. Atul Kulkarni played the emotional role of the son who is forced to plead in the court for the mercy killing of his ailing mother Jyoti Chandekar.
Eminent filmmaker duo Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhantar had two releases this year. While Gho Mala Asla Hava was about a young village girl revolting against the age-old custom of matchmaking in the most hilarious way, Ek Cup Chai is about a bus conductor who questions authorities using the Right to Information Act (RTI) and its provisions when he is slammed with a huge electric bill.

Amol Palekar was back to facing the camera in Samantar. He also managed to convince Sharmila Tagore to act in a Marathi film, that was directed by himself. However, even with the backing of Reliance Big Pictures, the film did not manage to make an impact.
Continuing with their trend of releasing films in the first week of the year, Zee Talkies released Ek Daav Dhobipachad on January 2, 2009. In Pune the film was pitched against Aamir Khan’s Ghajini that released in December 2008 and while Ghajini ran for 19 weeks, Ek Daav … completed 26 weeks.

It was also the year when video companies came into the production field. After 25 years in the audio and video world, Video Palace stepped into production with Be Duni Saade Chaar, a multi-star film, Ultra Video produced Saline Kela Ghotala, Houn Jau De and Lonavla Bypass. Kanbai Majhi Navasachi and Kalubai Pavali Navasala was by Krunal Video. Everest Entertainment Company produced Mee Shivajiraje Bhosle Boltoy which was Eros International’s first Marathi presentation. Their next is Shikshanacha Aaicha Gho. Tya Ratri Paus Hota was from Shemaroo Entertainment.
Surprisingly, there were just three devotionals this year. Kanbai ..., Mata Ekveera Navasala Pavali and Kalubai ... were duds at the b.o. The film that was enjoyed by senior citizens was Tinhi Sanjha which was about the problems of old people in the society as well as homes. Of comedies that were worth mentioning are Ek Daav ..., 9 Mahine 9 Divas and Be Duni .... This year several Marathi films made the rounds of national and internaitonal film festivals and received rave reviews.

Year of plagiarism

Bengali cinema in 2009 has had a record number of film releases. A total of 77 films were released across theatres in West Bengal. But a rise in quantity does not necessarily mean an improvement in quality of production. And that is what ails Bengali cinema today. Of the 77 films, most faded away from the theatres within a week of its release and a bare three percent of the total were big hits.
The three biggest hits of the year, surprisingly, do not feature Prosenjit in them. All the three films star Dev in the male lead. These are Challenge, Dujone and Poran Jaaye Joliya Re (PJJR). Challenge is directed by Raj Chakraborty, who gave the biggest hit Chirodini Tumi Je Amaar some time ago. Dujone, plagiarised from Yeh Dil, is directed by debut-making Rajeev Kumar. Yeh Dil (2003) in turn is a remake of a Telugu blockbuster Nuvvu Nenu. PJJR, directed by Ravi Kinnagi that emerged from an out-of-court settlement with Vipul Shah is an unabashed copy of Namastey London. Both Challenge and PJJR have the same pairing of Dev and Shubhosree. They had the freshness of youth to back them.

These hits show that plagiarisation has its advantages, especially if a regional film is copied from a slightly old film that either did not do well at the box-office, or has relatively new faces in the main cast or both. Sometimes, the plagiarised regional version fares much better at the box-office than the original. Dev is rapidly rising up the popularity and box-office charts and is going to give the numero uno a run for his ranking soon. On the other hand, Raja Sen’s Teen Murti released in December, is drawing crowds with every passing show.

Some meaningful films with solid storylines and unusual treatment have recovered costs though they might not have hit the box-office charts within the mainstream. Among these are Aniruddha Roy Choudhury’s slickly made Antaheen that marked the smash debut of music composer Shantanu Moitra in Bengali films, Goutam Ghose’s Kaalbela and Atanu Ghosh’s debut film Angshu-Maner Chhobi which made it to the Indian Panorama at the IFFI this year. Some of the youth films, such as Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha’s Cross Connection and Anjan Dutt’s Madly Bangalee found favour with the young audience and managed to cover costs.
Good films that did not click at all at the b.o., their niche audience tag notwithstanding, are Rituparno Ghosh’s Shob Charitro Kalponik that features Bipasha Basu totally against her Bollywood grain, Bappaditya Bandopadhyaya’s autobiographical feature Houseful and NRI Sumon Ghosh’s Dwando. New directors sprung up every other day like mushrooms and spoilt every film they dared to direct.

Fruitful year for South
For South Indian Cinema, the year 2009 proved to be fruitful and eventful too. If the Ram Charan Teja’s Telugu film Maghadheera turned out to be one of the biggest hits in the country itself, Suriya’s Ayan did wonders at the Tamil box-office. Malayalam cinema had Pazhassi Raja creating ripples while Kannada cinema had its own share of hits, beginning with Veera Madakari and Ambari.
The S.S.Rajamouli-directed Maghadheera, made at a budget of over Rs 35 crore, has raked in over 100 crore and is reportedly the second biggest hit in India in 2009, after Aamir Khan’s Ghajini. Ayan, directed by K.V. Anand and with Suriya and Tamannaah in lead roles, proved to be the top-grosser in Tamil in 2009. Made at 15 crore, the film generated revenue of over 80 crore and is one of the all-time top-grossers too.

Pazhassi Raja, the period film produced at a never-before kind of budget in Malayalam and directed by Hariharan and based on a script by MT Vasudevan Nair, has reportedly collected over Rs. 40 crore in Malayalam itself. The film was a multi-star project with Mammootty playing the title-role and Sharath Kumar in a key role.
After Ayan, the Tamil hits in 2009 include Padikkathavan (directed by Suraaj and starring Dhanush and Tamannaah in lead roles), Unaipol Oruvan (directed by Chakri Toleti, starring Kamal Haasan and Mohanlal and a remake of A Wednesday), Nadodigal (directed by Samudrakani and with Sasikumar donning the lead), the Sasikumar-directed Pasanga, Bala’s Naan Kadavul with Arya and Pooja in the lead, the S.P.Jananathan-directed Peranmai with Jeyam Ravi in the lead role, Vikram.K.Kumar’s Yavarum Nalam with R.Madhavan and Neetu Chandra in the lead (which was also released in Hindi as 13 B), Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu, directed by debutant Susindran and with debutant Vishnu Vishal, Kishore and Saranya Mohan in lead roles. Also in the list of successful films are Kandein Kadhali (the remake of Jab We Met), Adhavan, Ninaithale Iniykkum (the remake of the Malayalam hit Classmates), Naan Avanillai -2, Sivamanasulla Sakthi, Maasilamani and Eeram. As for the Susi Ganeshan-directed Vikram-starrer Kanthasamy, though there are claims that the film is a hit, the reports from various sources place this big-budget movie among flops.

Telugu cinema, which worked wonders at the box-office with Maghadheera, also found big hits in Arundhati, Ek Niranjan and Kick. Arundhati, directed by Kodi Ramakrishna, has Anushka Shetty in the lead role. Made at a budget of Rs 13 crore, Arundhati collected more than Rs 50 crore. Prabhas-Kangana Ranaut starrer Ek Niranjan (directed by Puri Jagannath) and the Ravi Teja-Illeana D’Cruz starrer Kick were followed by films like Baanam and Arya 2.
Kannada cinema found the biggest hit in Veera Madakari, which Sudeep directed and acted in. The film was the remake of the Telugu Vikramarkudu and was produced by Dinesh Gandhi. The other major hits in Kannada were Ambari , the youthful Josh, Manassare and the Pooja Gandhi film Anu .

Malayalam cinema this year got noted of course with Pazhassi Raja, which still runs successfully at all centres. The next big hit was 2 Harihar Nagar, the Lal directed entertainer, which was a sequel to the 1989 blockbuster In Harihar Nagar. The film, which was not a big-budget movie, rocked theatres and emerged a real big super-hit. Passenger, with Sreenivasan, Dileep and Mamta Mohandas in the lead, surprised everyone by having a steady run and emerging a clean hit. Also in the list of hits are the Diphan-directed Prithviraj film Puthiya Mugham, the Saji Surendran directed Ivar Vivaahitharaayaal, Bhramaram (with Mohanlal in the lead), the Satyan Anthicaud-directed Bhagyadevatha, V. M. Vinu’s Makante Achchan and Jayaraj’s Loudspeaker. The Lal Jose directed Neelathamara, released recently (which is the first remake in Malayalam, being the remake of an old film of the same name) is on its way to become a hit.

While 2009 was important for Kannada cinema as the 75th anniversary year (celebrations were held in grand style), South Indian Cinema also lost gifted artistes like Nagesh, Murali, Lohithadas, Rajan.P.Dev etc, who had made their presence felt in different South Indian languages and who all passed away this year.
2010 holds promise for South Indian cinema with all kinds of films being in the pipeline, big-budget commercial flicks as well as offbeat, experimental ones. New and talented technicians, directors, writers and actors are all set to take South Indian cinema in their sway and make the best of it all.

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