Thursday, April 13, 2006

Celluloid myths busted

Hollywood's biggest blockbusters have been - believe it or not - costume dramas. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Harry Potter series...there is something about Hollywood and their mega-budgets that makes their glorious past so watchable on celluloid. Everytime.

Just a few moments ago, I got over with perhaps one of my most educative and entertaining movie watching experiences of all time. No, it wasn't Yash Chopra (he's too senti-types), nor was it Karan Johar (Gimme a break!) nor was it some sci-fi action thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. It was Hanuman.

The recent Bollywood animation flick broke all records at the box-office and when it did so, it left me wondering why. And how, could a nation that has always boasted of tacky SFX and poor records in home-made animation films boast of such an achievement? Today, all my doubts were cleared. I am sure that not only did the film keep kids hooked to their seats, it also must have given a welcome break for family audiences from A-rated Hashmi flicks.

We all know it - children don't watch the films as we do. You need something to grip them into their seats in the form of arresting visuals, groovy music and enrapturing storylines. All with a coating of humour. Hanuman does all of that. And more.

The current generation that is growing up is not being nurtured in homes where Ramayana and Hanuman are the first things that they'd get to watch on Sunday mornings. They need to be informed of the glorious mythology that India boasts of, the great epics armed with elements that would give any run-of-the-mill Bollywood saga a run for its money. Last but not the least, the greatness of each of these epics lies in their underlying ability to teach us morals, which are unfortunately being milked away to doom in this materialistic world.

I, myself am one of those unlucky ones, who's missed out on it. I've been hooked to storybooks right from my child-hood and watching a saga on TV wasn't something I've done ever. The result is that, today, I'm one of the most ill-informed people about Ramayana and Mahabharata. You should have seen me hide my face, when the Big-B would ask questions relating to these two epics on KBC and everyone in my family would create expressions saying, "Hey..that's such a simple question!"

Imagine how these stories would look on celluloid. Think Troy, LOTR and think Mahabharata. Visualise the great battle sequences...the multiplying arrows...,dragons, snakes, the monkey army of Ramayana, Hanuman's antics...the eye-popping SFX that would make films on these epics such a visual treat! It would be create path-breaking opportunities for artists from all over the world to come together and make such a celluloid project possible. We need not dwell on Ramanand Sagar technology anymore. The latest technology is available and more importantly the investments can be procured.

But caution must be alerted from a few past examples of such costume dramas, since they've not always tasted success. Although investments and production values can be hiked up, it remains uncertain whether returns will be equally fulfilling. Asoka by Santosh Sivan was an affluent product with steep production values, but it bombed miserably. Its a different issue that the movie didn't have an engaging story to tell either.

However the point that I'm trying to put across is that, there is a generation which lies unaware and uninformed of the glory of our epics. And neither would they be inclined to watch a marathon run of their old episodes on Doordarshan. However, these epics could be fodder for great trilogies and war-films. Say, if LOTR, King Arthur, Braveheart, Troy can attract packed houses, in India, thanks to brilliant starcasts, fine direction and eye-popping SFX, I don't see any reason why our epics wouldn't work either. But lets not convert them into animation again, like Hanuman. Pigeon-holing them into animation creates a huge block in inflow of a large section of audiences.

People say today's films have weak scripts and poor storylines. Critics say, that most of our films today do not put across any worthwhile message. (How can they? We rush towards the Exit doors at the Intermission itself!!) Lets look back into history. There are two epic scripts with flawless narration, that are educative, informative, thought-provoking (I could go on...) - all stories waiting to be told. Once again.


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