Small budget films are proving to have an edge over bigger star-driven films

“Mamu kahaani sunaate rahe aur ladke ne chaand choom liya” – this dialogue from Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday, beautifully describes the state of big and small budget films in India. The first Friday of August 2017 saw two releases. On the one side of ‘the ring’ (pun intended) was Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal that features the lead pair of Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, while on the other side was debutant director Shanker Raman’s Gurgaon that has a humble star cast of Pankaj Tripathi, Ragini Khanna, Akshay Oberoi and Aamir Bashir, among others. As expected, the audience swarmed to Jab Harry Met Sejal (JHMS) while Raman’s Gurgaon managed to gather the hard-core cinephiles much because the poster boy of indie cinema, Mr. Kashyap heavily promoted the film in his social media capacity.

However, things took a wrong turn for Jab Harry Met Sejal when people were left disappointed because they couldn’t find the Imtiaz charm in the film and soon, (unnecessary) hate started pouring in for the film from all possible directions. By end of the day, the film became a hot property for meme creators across all social media platforms and, its fate was sealed with the final nail in the coffin by the critics.

For a big film like JHMS, that generated a lot of curiosity with its trailers and songs, it took just one day to be deemed unfit for viewing by critics and audience alike. Gurgaon on the other hand, stepped on the gas pedal and registered a growth in its second day collections. Though it didn’t pile up 100 crores in cash, it definitely pulled the audience who were looking for an escape from JHMS. Essentially a dark thriller, Gurgaon coruscates excellence because of multiple bioluminescent shades of its characters. Despite a simple story and dangerously slow pace, Gurgaon leaves an impact on the mind. It’s the brilliance of Shanker Raman and DOP Vivek Shah that the film drives home its target of telling a story without using any kind of gimmicks.

Earlier also, small budget films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Masaan have tugged the audience’s heart and have emerged as game changers in their respective zones. Whereas, a Tubelight, a Jagga Jasoos or a Dilwale have all been heavily shunned by the audience. This points to the fact that in this age, star power alone may not guarantee success for a film, it’s the content that goes a long way.

Big films come with a baggage of their own. The demands of both stars and a big director need to be met, while keeping the grandiloquent visual appeal of the film intact within the profit & loss dynamics. The resulting Venn diagram has too little space for innovation & novelty factors. Hence, the content suffers from asphyxiation thereby giving rise to entropy.

While big films comfortably slip into their formulaic storytelling, small films dare to go to the most unusual places in search of their stories. They live and breathe different cultures and use them to metabolise their stories. A film like Khosla Ka Ghosla clicked with the audience, even way back in 2006, because it brought down its clout of realistic content upon the viewers. The audience invested its faith in the characters because they saw familiar faces and mannerisms in them. In a situation like this, the filmmaker has full control on his/ her film. He/ she has the authority to distillate & condense the subject matter after a rigorous enriching process and also to subject the characters to an electrical arc in order to bring out indestructible curvature in them. The freedom to experiment adds up to the self-discovery of a filmmaker during the creative process and that in turn helps in bringing out the nuances beautifully.

With the advent of digital content, the audience also has evolved. They look for a well-packaged film of which the stories and narratives form an important part. In today’s age, where the content is available at your fingertips, it becomes even more important and challenging for filmmakers to bring audiences to the theatre and hook them with their stories. An honest story with its heart & soul in the right place will undoubtedly soar to great heights. Otherwise, the film will get fossilized and will be lost somewhere in the crowd of thousands of films that release in our country each year. Finding stories is not a monumental task, the stories may well be somewhere in your vicinity just like Anushka’s ring in JHMS. What it needs is an eye for detail, and the fervor to present it in a phenomenal way.

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