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TWO NEW DIRECTORS AND 150 CRORES!

In the span of six months, over Rs. 150 crores have been risked at the Bollywood box office on just two movies. Great news! Indian cinema is getting bigger and costlier, but is it getting better? Can the budget boom ensure us that Indian cinema is taking a giant step forward? Yes, in a way. Now, we can be sure that we have the money to make what we want. But, do we have the right people to deliver with this kind of huge money? Three Oscars (even if they were sound and music) proved that we have the world class men who can deliver the goods. Now, is the huge money being used on the right men to deliver the right products? Well, down south, it does seem true with the experienced and proven men being given the resources to work with. Shankar was given Rs. 60 crores to translate the spectacular Sivaji onto screen; KSR was provided something similar to create Dasavatharam. Don’t forget that these movies had arguably the most iconic figures in Indian cinema at the moment. Now, Shankar has again been entrusted with Rs. 100 crores to pull off another stunner with the Superstar - Endhiran. Marmayogi, with its Rs. 120 crore budget, just about failed to take off, but it did have the right men behind it. Even traditional budget conservationist has broken past the Rs. 20-crore barrier with Pazhassi Raja, which was scripted by the senior most statesman of Malayalam literature, M.T. Vasudevan Nair.

So, what’s the issue? The problem is that up north there
  Blue

seem to be a few serious misallocations of available resources in 2009. What could or should be considered as the basic eligibility for being trusted with a budget that touches the Rs. 50 crore mark? A proven track record, a hit maker tag, years of experience or all of these put together. The least one can expect is prior experience in independently directing a film. But, apparently, such criteria don’t seem to hold much water for some of Hindi cinema’s top producers. Equal opportunity for all and an open arm for newcomers are understandable but it is difficult to fathom the fact that new directors are being given lavish budgets that even the most prolific directors strive hard to generate.

Released a few months back, Kambhakth Ishq was a more than Rs. 50-crore magnum. The first Indian film shot within Universal Studios, special appearances from many Hollywood stars including ‘Rocky’ Sylvester Stallone, songs which were shot at costs that could have funded a few small regional films and a marquee cast. The most important part of the movie, however, remained unchecked, which was the story. Inspired by Pammal K Sambhandam, the makers decided to more than just spruce it and scale it up for better results. Would anyone ever have imagined that Pammal K Sambhandham could be made at a Rs. 50 crore budget? Is there anything in the plot that even remotely demands such spending power? And will such a task ever be given to a newbie Sabbir Khan? Were there no experienced hands around?

Something similar transpired a few months later when Blue entered the box office. For all its technical expertise, it remains a film that lacks a soul, the script. Touted as the most expensive Indian film ever, one wonders whether a part of the roundabout Rs. 100 crore budget had been set apart for a good script. Again, the extravagant and unheard amount was placed in the hands of a new director, Anthony D’Souza.

These new directors might be hugely talented, capable of great things and might have worked in the film industry for years. But all that put together cannot make up for the experience of having captained a movie individually. They may not have actually floundered in their attempts at the box office. A large part of that credit must go to the producers and distributors for some whirlwind publicity and flooding the market with prints to garner huge initials.

But, how much ever credit they take for smart moves in publicity design and release strategy, they got their basics in the wrong place. Record-breaking budgets in the hands of men who are just finding their feet is like skating on thin ice. Make the amends! Spend the right amounts on the new guys and the big amounts on the right guys. Bigger budgets don’t make better cinema, better cinema paves way for bigger budgets. No chicken or egg here!

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