I can never forget November 9, 2007. It was the day Om Shanti Om was to release. There’s no way I’d not watch the film’s first day first show as it seemed like the event film of the year. When I realized that November 9 was a Diwali day and hence nobody has time or inclination to watch it with me, I ventured out alone. As expected, the early morning show at Apsara Multiplex (now sadly closed) in Grant Road, Mumbai was packed. This was also the pre-Dabangg era when seeti-taali fun had more or less ceased to exist in cinemas. But it got a revival with this film. The audiences went crazy from the first scene itself, when surprisingly, Rishi Kapoor appears performing to ‘Om Shanti Om’ from Karz and Shah Rukh Khan was seen enjoying as a junior artiste! What an unexpected start and how nicely done! Then came the much-talked about ‘Dard-E-Disco’ in the second half and once again, viewers went crazy. But the best was reserved for the song ‘Deewangi Deewangi’. As many as 31 stars were a part of this track and the euphoria in the audi at that time is difficult to explain in words. I couldn’t hear half of the words of the song as there was constant hooting, whistling and clapping going on. In no time, I also began and so did other reluctant viewers! There came a point in the song when I didn’t want it to end! But no complaints because as the song comes to an end, the older Arjun Rampal re-enters the narrative. The music, the impact, the goose bumps were far more extreme in this sequence than the song, in my opinion! At that moment, I knew that this film is going to be a blockbuster and there would be no stopping it.
The year 2017 hasn’t been great particularly because most of the big films like Tubelight, Jab Harry Met Sejal and even Raees didn’t have a pan-India appeal. As Om Shanti Om turns 10 today, one can’t help but think about this film and why it worked so well with the audiences and stood the test of time.
The tastes of the Indian audiences have definitely evolved as they have been exposed to different kinds of cinemas and TV shows. But at heart, almost all of them want a film that tells a simple, heartfelt story coupled with entertaining, massy elements. Om Shanti Om successfully followed this ‘formula’. Director Farah Khan, before this classic had made Main Hoon Na that had everything in the correct doses – action, drama, tragedy, romance, music, humour, tear-jerking moments and even patriotism! Barring patriotism, since it was not needed, Om Shanti Om also was made on the same lines. And the icing on the cake was that it was based on the film industry. Yes, it did take a dig at Govinda, Mithun Chakraborty and Sooraj Barjatya. And yes, also at Manoj Kumar, which snowballed into a huge controversy! But more than a spoof, it was an ode to Hindi cinema. Farah Khan was merely showing her love for Bollywood that has made her what she was.
And that brings us to the second important factor. You can have all the entertaining elements in your film but if you are making it just for the heck of it or without passion, it would show and even the audiences would get that. The fact that Farah Khan grew up watching masala Hindi films made a deep impression on her and that has worked big time in her favour. She proudly says in her interviews that she used to enjoy Manmohan Desai, Vijay Anand and Nasir Hussain’s films. Then there’s another commercial blockbuster Rohit Shetty who also said that he looked up to Vijay Anand and Manmohan Desai. He even said that when he was an assistant, his idol was Mukul Anand! Co-incidentally, just like Farah Khan, Rohit Shetty arrived this Diwali with Golmaal Again that just like Om Shanti Om, also shows a ghost coming back and taking revenge. And just like Om Shanti Om, Golmaal Again emerged as the biggest Hindi blockbuster of the year, at least till now!
Sadly, most of the new-age directors today would take the names of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan etc. when asked about their idols. They have grown up watching these films and hence, their sensibilities are bereft of the ‘desi’ touch. Most of them do make good films but their reach is extremely limited.
And that’s not good news at all. Our filmmakers should understand the pulse of the audience and should know what would work in Mumbai as well as in Moradabad. A film should have something that will impact not just the high-end viewer in PVR Juhu but also the one watching it in nondescript Puja talkies in Dhanbad. Om Shanti Om was one such film that entertained everyone. The auditoriums erupted with seetis and taalis throughout the country and not just in ‘B’ or ‘C’ centres. That was the power of this film and its entertainment quotient.
Let the 10th anniversary of Om Shanti Om not go waste. It’s a great opportunity for the industry to look back and ponder why this film worked so well and why it still entertains audiences. At the same time, also understand where filmmakers like Farah Khan come from. Let’s give those filmmakers who worship Amar Akbar Anthony a chance. Aditya Chopra in his book ‘Aditya Chopra Relives…Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ revealed that he threw away his collection of western music CDs when he realized that he can’t let western influences colour his filmmaking sensibilities. Let’s find such gems and give them the required understanding and support. Our industry is in a crisis and it is films made on the lines of Om Shanti Om and Golmaal Again – pan-India films that entertain but also have an emotional connect – that are required to take it back to its former glory!