Promo of No One Killed Jessica is currently on air and it has wowed the nation within a week of its arrival. I too was amazed. I played it again. And then again. And honestly, it wasn’t just for the flowery comments made by Rani Mukherjee around her ‘a$$ being on fire at war front’ (translating in English a very mild version of what she actually mouths in Hindi) in the promo. It was for the promise of entertainment that the film seemed to be offering despite it’s serious issue – that of a real life cold blooded murder.
And this is what set me thinking. How come an issue based film managed to excite me? What was there about it that actually made me feel like shelling out some bucks and watch the film in theaters? Why didn’t I instead perceive the film to be one dark, gloomy and sad affair? After all, the story here was about a murder and some lost trials?
The thought became even stronger when I realised that just a week ago, a film with a much bigger cast, canvas, setting and budget had actually failed miserably at the box office despite it’s ‘issue based’ theme. Yes, it was Guzaarish. And here we are, expecting a moon from a much miniscule No One Killed Jessica.
Let’s ponder over the thought in this week’s ‘Reflections’.
I strongly feel that somewhere, it all boils down to the instant connect that a film makes at the subject level itself. Murder is something that we read about practically every day. Jessica Lal murder has been read even more due to all the spice, scandals, sleaze, politics and muscle power attached to it. No wonder, when the title itself goes as simple, yet effective as No one killed Jessica, an instant connect is made.
‘Yes, I have read about it’ – is the first thought that crosses your mind.
Now let’s look at Guzaarish. ‘Errrr Guzaarish? What is it about?’ – is the first thought that comes to mind this time around. And when someone tells you ‘Euthanasia’, you first go to Google and try to figure out what exactly does it mean. The moment you realise that it is about mercy killing, the ‘connect’ factor goes out of the window.
‘Oh, I have never even heard something like this’ – is the next thought that comes to mind. Soon, you are into your own world, which is far more real than the world created by Bhansali.
No, the point here is not to run down Bhansali or Guzaarish. I loved the film and believe that this is Hrithik‘s most superlative act till date. However, what was missing here was an ‘instant sense of connect’, something that went missing in Guzaarish but became pretty alive in No One Killed Jessica.
Let’s get serious
This connect of No One Killed Jessica makes one go down the next level and wonder around the oft repeated debate of ‘Do only comedies or love stories sell and whether serious cinema doesn’t quite have many takers?’
Well, many may have an argument here. Look at top five blockbusters of the current times – 3 Idiots (comedy drama), Dabangg (action drama), Ghajini (action drama), Golmaal 3 (comedy) and Raajneeti (drama). Majority of them have seen a fair amount of drama in them and except for Golmaal 3, none of them has been an out and out comic affair.
On the other hand, one can talk about countless comedies and romantic films that have failed at the box office in dozens. It would be embarrassing for these films to be named but the fact is that despite all the big names involved with the best of the promises, they didn’t deliver.
This is where one feels that cinema which tackles serious themes is not a bad bet after all. Yes, there would be an argument that Aakrosh didn’t do well at theaters. But then aren’t the promos to be blamed here? The film failed to convey what it was all about and the very USP of ‘honour killing’ didn’t come across strongly despite its topical appeal.
Of course, one can’t expect an Aakrosh to be doing a 100 crores business ever. Even if a film is excellently made, it will always have an appeal mainly for a niche audience which means that the film’s budget has to be controlled accordingly. One can’t invest 50 crores or more in a serious drama (Guzaarish, Raavan and more) when recovery is always a dicey issue.
Rest assured, if No One Killed Jessica would have cost 50 crores, it would have never ever dreamt of recovering its cost. Even today, when the film is creating buzz, it is for its target audience and not those who came together to make Golmaal 3 a 100 crore blockbuster already. However, tomorrow if No One Killed Jessica manages collections anywhere in the vicinity of 30-40 crores, it would be time for celebrations for its makers. After all the film would have stuck to it’s theme, created an initial hype, found it’s target audience and proved to be a winner out there.
Hence the winner
This is why clarity in theme, no pretence whatsoever, an ability to draw an instant connect and reasonable cost ensures that quite a few films in near future could well find acceptance amongst the audience. No wonder, despite a crowd of potential entertainers like No Problem, Band Baaja Baaraat and Tees Maar Khan preceding it, an unusual suspect like Yamla Pagla Deewana manages to find instant attention.
It is clear in what it is about (Deols saath hain, aur kya?), doesn’t carry any pretence (hum toh desi hain bhai), manages to draw an instant connect (hand pump sequence with Sunny Deol a la ‘Gadar’ has to be the biggest rage in January 2011) and appears to have been a controlled affair as well when it comes to it’s production costs.
On the other hand for Dhobhi Ghat, Aamir Khan could well be the first mainstream maker to actually tell the world that his film is as arty as it gets, doesn’t promise conventional entertainment and actually discourages people to have any expectations that one carries from him.
No wonder, the connect has happened where it ought to be!