Ha Ha Bang Bang
By Khalid Mohamed
Friday, July 27, 2012

So what’s the latest trend in Bollywood blockbusters? Laughfests manifest with a lot of gun-toting — and inane — violence

Currently, trend-spotting of the feverish kind is on in Bollywood. From January to June 2012, as many as 70 films were released, toting healthy collections of Rs 850 crore 
(1 crore = 10 million), at least Rs 240 crore more than ticket sales last year.

With every week signalling a decline or a renewal of a certain genre, the year, so far, has witnessed a major renewal of interest in the good old action flicks — never mind if they are often full of sound and fury signifying precious little.

Concurrently, films of the risibly humorous kind have clicked too. Not surprisingly, the verdict is that films which are crammed with jaw-breaking violence marinated with comedy of the slipping-on-the-banana-peel variety, are the safest bets at the box-office. The gore-plus-ha-ha formula, it is believed, ensures a guaranteed hit.

Nothing exemplifies this more clearly than the two monster hits of recent months: Prabhu Deva’s Rowdy Rathore and Rohit Shetty’s Bol Bachchan. Meanwhile, romance appears to have gone for a full toss, demonstrated by the disastrous reception of Teri Meri Kahani, in which Priyanka Chopra and Shahid Kapur were paired in a cross-generational love story. Rumours about their extinct off-screen romance appear to have put audiences off, despite a publicity drive claiming that they were still “good friends”. The on-screen chemistry just didn’t gel.

The more sophisticated Cocktail has found a sizeable audience, but mainly in the urban centres. Campus crowds thronged to watch the triangular frisson between Saif Ali Khan-Deepika Padukone-Diana Penty. The romcom, shot in London, Cape Town and New Delhi, however, met with mixed reviews from the cognoscenti because of its second-half which lost the plot entirely, swivelling from an upbeat mood to excessive verbosity.

Clearly, then, Bollywood is set for a series of extravaganzas which combine hardcore action with farcical comedy. Here’s a mega-mixed genre which has made its two most successful practitioners — Rohit Shetty and Prabhu Deva — the hottest and highest-paid directors in show-town. Quite coincidentally, both are 39 years old. Moreover, both come from film families: Rohit’s father MB Shetty was an action director and actor, and Prabhu Deva’s father, Sundaram Master, a veteran choreographer.

Also, the two in-demand directors have the support of A-list actors, ensuring visibility and the most-talked about projects in the works. Prabhu Deva has the backing of Salman Khan, whom he directed in Wanted. As for Shetty, Ajay Devgn and he are inseparable, and have announced a sequel to last year’s action blockbuster Singham. Shetty is also scheduled to direct Shah Rukh Khan in a project titled Chennai Express. Strange that, because the director’s buddy Devgn is known to be at-daggers-drawn with the Khan.

Be that as it may, Rohit Shetty has appropriated the title of the numero uno action director from Abbas-Mustaan. They have been going through a rough patch of late, what with the collapse of their Players, a terrible remake of Hollywood’s The Italian Job. But who knows?

The duo could still make a comeback with Race 2 which is being shot extensively in Turkey. Till then Rohit Shetty rules the domain of half-funny, half-violent potboilers. As a craftsman, he is serviceable at best. And the gags, written into his scripts by a team of writers, are retreaded, frequently from the uber fertile source of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol Maal. In fact, the 1979 Amol Palekar-Utpal Dutt laugh-raiser has inspired the plot premises of Shetty’s three Golmaal series as well as Bol Bachchan.

But then, whatever-
works has been the age-old credo of Mumbai’s films. Similarly, Prabhu Deva merely repackaged the Telugu crowd-pleaser Vikramarkudu, without a shred of originality or finesse. Today, the actor-director-choreographer is somewhat of an Alice in fantasyland. He doesn’t know what has hit him, with producers queuing up outside his new Mumbai apartment. The style he has opted for comprises garish visuals, lengthy fist-bouts and gun blasts, supplemented with corny jokes and double entendres.

Incidentally, with Rowdy Rathore, Akshay Kumar’s dwindling career has been revived, just one of the results of an incredible story which featured the actor in the double role of a street smarty and police officer.

The more incredible, the merrier perhaps. That’s Bollywood entertainment for you right here, right now.

(The writer has been reviewing Bollywood for decades, has scripted three films and directed three others.)



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