My friends and family members are aware how much I admire you as a person and as a filmmaker. You brought a new wave in cinema ever since you debuted as a director. Your film raised some important points and still they were hugely entertaining. I always wondered how come you managed to make intense films like Arth, Saaransh, Zakhm and at the same time light-hearted entertainers like Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, Aashiqui and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin so beautifully. The manner, in which you showed loneliness in your films, even in your productions not directed by you, was very touching.
But since the last few years, I and millions of other viewers have been let down by the films churned out by your prestigious banner, Vishesh Films. In 2013, your production house stunned everyone with the touching saga, Aashiqui 2. Many in media and trade had concluded that Bhatts can never make a film without erotica. You proved them wrong and how! Nobody expected this film to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the decade. A year later, you guys gave a touching film in the form of Citylights, again a ‘clean’ film sans sensuousness. From hereon, Vishesh Films could have gone on a high. Sadly, it went downhill. In 2015, three films came out of your banner – Khamoshiyan, Mr X and Hamari Adhuri Kahani. The last mentioned film despite flaws was a decent watch and moving. But at the box office, it failed to work. As for Khamoshiyan and Mr X, the less said the better. Khamoshiyan was silly while Mr X was sillier with no plot or logic. Things got worse in 2016 with Love Games, a film riddled with senseless twists and turns. Then came Raaz Reboot, which was no way close to the well-made earlier films of Raaz franchise. It took a fine opening which showed that viewers were ready to give it a chance. But soon it came to light that it is repetitive and poorly made and hence flopped.
In 2017, you turned to Bengali cinema for inspiration. You remade Rajkahini into Begum Jaan. The film could have been a fine piece of cinema but was too unconvincing and too gory and no wonder, most moviegoers gave it a miss. And then one and a half year later, you returned with Jalebi, last week’s release. This is also a remake of a Bengali film, Praktan, a lovely, layered flick while Jalebi is an apology in the name of a film. What exactly is it trying to convey? How did it get approved by you? Didn’t you realize making this film was a very bad idea? In the beginning, Anu (Digangana Suryavanshi) breaks the ice of with Ayesha (Rhea Chakraborty) by observing, “Wow. Aapka naam bhi ‘A’ se chalu ho raha hai and mera bhi…what a coincidence’! It will make sense if two people whose name starts with ‘X’ meet and call it a coincidence But Anu and Ayesha?! Why such dialogues and why such lazy writing in the film? The few moviegoers who were present in the cinema hall were shocked with such absurdity or were laughing at the goings-on. Couldn’t your team think of something better? The film falls further as it moves. The subplots of other passengers in the train served no purpose. In Praktan, it was a highpoint especially the track of the members of the now defunct band, ‘Bhoomi’. In Jalebi, we were made to suffer as these characters added nothing to the film. Then there’s a sequence of the lead married couple deciding to go to Kashmir but instead we see only the wife heading there. The husband follows her and stalks her like a creep. It was nonsense at its worst!
There was a time when your small-budget (and high-concept) films always got noticed and talked about even if they might have not generated interest before release. I remember how Kalyug released on December 9, 2005 and clashed with Ek Ajnabee and Neal N Nikki. Ek Ajnabee was a hot film then as its release coincided with Amitabh Bachchan’s sudden hospitalization. Neal N Nikki also carried a lot of buzz thanks to YRF’s brand name and oomph factor. Kalyug, starring three new faces with Emraan Hashmi in a small role, took the least opening but emerged as the biggest grosser of all three majorly due to great content. At that point, I had passed through Eros Cinema in the afternoon couple of times and would be happy to see viewers queuing for tickets or to enter inside for the matinee 1 pm show. This is what Vishesh Films was and always has been. Its films might not star the biggest names but yet, they got public appreciation as they were entertaining.
Music was another plus point of all films of Vishesh Films. Even today, songs of films which are decade or more than a decade old are heard regularly by people. Remember the excitement among your fans in May this year when Jannat completed 10 years and how they were still going gaga over its music? When I wrote a piece on the film’s 10th anniversary, my team was a bit amused but were then pleasantly surprised to see that the article worked big time. This is the impact of that film and its soundtrack! Again, in this regard, you guys reached a high with the music of Aashiqui 2 that’s sure to go down in history. Post that, this department took a beating. Barring ‘Muskuraane’ from Citylights and the title track of Hamari Adhuri Kahani, not a single song from your films have been memorable in the last five years! That’s quite an awful thing for a banner that is synonymous with chartbuster songs.
I remember how you and your team have moved with the times and reinvented yourself. With Raaz and Murder, you guys made horror and erotica mainstream which was earlier dominated by B-grade cinema. Even with music, you guys brought a new kind of wave and even made Atif Aslam popular in India. Such kind of breakthrough has been missing from your side. It’s high time you realize that something, somewhere is going wrong and you ought to do something about it. If possible, please revisit your old films like Murder, Gangster, Jannat and even the older flicks. Read the thoughts of the people with regards to these movies so that you can get an idea of what were the aspects that worked with the people. Secondly, you need to do something about the music. It seems like with every film, you’re trying to create the magic of Aashiqui 2 as the songs in Jalebi, Raaz Reboot etc were on the same lines. For a change, try something different now. Give new musicians a chance or get back the ever dependable Pritam Chakraborty once he’s out of his vanvas. Similarly, get directors whom you have launched in the past and who are doing well now. Give them a chance to bring back Vishesh Films on track. Anurag Basu, Mohit Suri and Hansal Mehta have given some great films with your banner and they’ll surely do a great job. If in case bridges have been burned, it’s time to rebuild them and patch up. And you can do it quite easily with your lovely talk! If I may also add, you guys have launched several actors like Kangana Ranaut and given chances to those who were starting out then like Irrfan Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Rajkummar Rao etc. Break your ‘we-don’t-work-stars-rule’ and get them on board.
And very importantly, please weed out nonsense dialogues from your scripts like the coincidence bit mentioned above. It just makes your films a laughing stock and dilutes the impact made by the other well-directed scenes.
My words might be harsh but they come out of love that I have for you and your films. You are getting back on the director’s chair after 22 long years with Sadak 2. I and millions of your fans don’t want this much-awaited and special film to be riddled with the problems faced by Jalebi, Raaz Reboot etc. After all, it is a sequel to a great film and features an ensemble cast ncluding Alia Bhatt who enjoys massive trust from the audience and moreover, even you have been loved as a director. Hence, the idea is to let you know our thoughts so that Sadak 2 and other forthcoming films of Vishesh don’t suffer the similar fate of your recent films. All the best!
I hope this letter is taken in the right spirit.