Tag Archives: mainstream

Om Puri brought the rural aam aadmi character into mainstream cinema: Amol Palekar

Om Puri had mentioned that he gave all the credit of his entry into film life to me. He had said that it was because of my success that people like him and Naseeruddin Shah could even dream of entering into films, doing good roles and being established. I don’t know how much of it was true but if at all it is to be considered, I would say that if I represented the aam aadmi, it was the urban aam aadmi. Om brought in the rural aam aadmi into mainstream cinema and Bollywood. He further took it to international cinema. His long journey reflects his acting powers and brilliant career.

Om Puri. News18

I want to correct the impression that he started his career from FTII. Before that, he graduated from the National School of Drama. In fact, my first meeting which I remember with Om was when we were both participating in a theatre festival in Kolkata. I had seen his performance in Udhavas dharamashala. This was a Marathi play which was being performed in Hindi and I knew that play very well. So, when I saw his interpretation and his performance in that play, I was completely bowled over and our friendship and association began from that day. So, his career had started from theatre. And his roots were always in theatre. He eventually went into films, then grew on an international level. But I think more than Ghashiram Kothwal, I would point out Udhavas dharmashala. In his acting career, Aakrosh was brilliant and in Mrinal Sen films, he was absolutely outstanding.

But I admire Om for his completely different portrayal in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and his role in Chachi 420 is very unlike his personality. He came up with such beautiful performances in comedy that one could see what tremendous range this actor had. Irrespective of the kind of role or the frame of the role he was given, he would still come across with flying colours. I think of the hard work which he had shown in the National School of Drama, in FTII and in his entire career. He could hardly speak English when he started his career but went on to act in Hollywood films, speaking in perfectly good English without getting brought down by this kind of handicap. This just shows his strength, his capacity, his hard work and his growth.

We did a film four or five years back and I made a film called Dhamkatha. It was a movie for children in which Om had played the lead role of a lovable grandfather. Again, we had some memorable moments during that period. We worked very hard during the day. And then, after a hard day’s work was over, we would sit down, chat, have a drink and discuss a lot of things over that drink. During that discussion, Om did not just talk about films. He was capable of talking about his point of view, his opinion on politics and his comment on social issues. This side of his personality was very fascinating. Therefore, we could connect a lot more and it was a very beautiful association, although we did not meet regularly.

I don’t remember meeting Om on a regular basis. But whenever we bumped into each other, we would mostly be shooting in a studio for different films. He would be shooting his film, I’d be shooting mine. We would be there, then we’d sit down and have lunch together, or we would bump into each other at a film function or a party. Even though there was a long gap between each time we met, there was never a feeling that it was after any gap. It was always with a kind of warmth and the feeling that we just met yesterday. And he always had respect, so our friendship was a very beautiful relationship.

Today is not the day to talk about controversy. But I don’t think people have an appropriate view about actors. I just saw yesterday that Akshay Kumar came out and commented on the Bengaluru incident. Why do people think that actors can’t do it? Anchors have always done it, actors have done it in the past when they felt that there was something wrong happening in our country. I think it is just the media’s perception that actors are only entertainers and they need not talk about any other issue, neither political nor social. But Nana Patekar has been doing such a brilliant work for farmers.

I have said that some actors don’t hesitate to come out and make a statement. Om was one of them. And therefore, we belong to the same gharana.

Should popularity of a mainstream film stand in the way of National Film Awards?

One of the instantaneous, and perhaps even anticipated, reactions to the announcement of the winners of the 63rd National Film Awards was that it’d have been too much to expect a Ramesh Sippy-led jury to look beyond popular Hindi cinema. Considering that films like Piku, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, and Bajirao Mastani picked up 10 major awards amongst themselves, this would have been an expected response. In the past, more often than not, whenever Hindi, or specifically popular variety or ‘Bollywood’, swept off the top honours it has had a similar effect but unlike the previous few instances when nothing could explain a Saif Ali Khan walking away with the Best Actor citation for Hum Tum even when there was a Shah Rukh Khan with a Swades in the fray, this time around few can question the winners. Of course, as with every single award, one can argue the choice of the winner in a few categories.

One of the reasons for people reacting in a particular manner when commercial Hindi box-office hits end up winning big at the National Awards is that it, in all probability, is one of the few remaining platforms offering nationwide recognition for regional language films. Moreover, a National Award transforms the prospects of regional films, especially smaller or lesser-known ones by providing a shot at getting an audience and even transforms the commercial feasibility. Intriguingly enough, there is another side to the entire argument — should popularity or commercial success of a mainstream film stand in the way of a National Award? There can be little doubt in the jury’s decision to confer Kangana Ranaut with the Best Actress award for her double-role in Tanu Weds Manu Returns or a Juhi Chaturvedi and a Himanshu Sharma being jointly lauded for their writing in Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns respectively and so, therefore, it would have been unjust to let the commercial aspect of these films undermine the craft of the individuals.

Kangana Raut in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. IBNLive

While a jury chairperson holds some weight, in the end, most jury decisions are based on consensus. Although every jury decision can’t be ideal by being unanimous, it still ends up being a conclusion that majority agree to. Looking at the list of the winners across most categories, especially the technical awards, one can see how the jury went for something that was obvious. Both Tanu Weds Manu Returns andPiku were hailed as the writer’s triumph and despite actors across both films enjoying positive reviews, it were the writers who walked away with most of the glory. In that sense, the jury’s decision then to acknowledge both Chaturvedi and Sharma isn’t inconspicuous. Similarly, Bajrangi Bhaijaan evoked the same reaction from across the country and, therefore, it’s hardly surprising that it was adjudged the Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.

Film juries don’t exist in a vacuum and at times seem to give in to the general reactions or the wave created by some films. Take for instance Bajirao Mastani. The film’s near checklist-like production design where terms such as ‘grand’ and ‘opulent’ appear to be the only operative conditions, seemed to be reasons good enough to be awarded for cinematography (Sudeep Chatterjee), choreography (Remo D’Souza) and production design (Saloni Dhatrak, Sriram Iyengar, Sujeet Sawant).

For this writer, there is nothing extraordinary in D’Souza’s vision while executing Pingaand Deewani Mastani, two songs that fetched the award for Best Choreography. The energy in Pinga, an imagined situation where the two wives of Peshwa Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), namely Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) and Mastani (Deepika Padukone) prance around, is almost both a visual as well as conceptual reprisal of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s previous Dola re dola number from Devdas where his notional flight of fancy got both Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit) and Paro (Aishwarya Rai) together. In contrast, director Bala’s Thaarai Thappattai used choreography within songs and music interludes to show characters not only develop but also transform. The film depicts the plight of folk singers using the lives and times of a nadaswaram expert Sannasi (M Sasikumar) and his father Saamipulavan (GM Kumar) and its Best Background Score (Ilaiyaraaja) win notwithstanding, it’s a pity that the choreography went unnoticed. By the same token, this writer feels that Bajirao Mastani’s production design, too, could have been judged in isolation wherein by themselves the grand sets look breathtaking but at many places end up overburdening the narrative. Even though one could still substantiate these choices, the jury’s decision to honour Bhansali as the Best Director is tricky. Bhansali’s inimitable stamp is all over the film and agreed, that if one were to take him out, there would be very few things that could make Bajirao Mastani stand on its own but when seen next to the Malayalam film Pathemari or the Tamil feature Visaranai, the choice of Best Director seems shaky.

In retrospect, every jury seems to send out a subtle message about the context in which the nominations are viewed. Looking at the winners of the 63rd National Awards, one could be mistaken to think that somewhere, as always, it’s only the mainstream cinema that is readily recognised but this isn’t the case. The line dividing mainstream and others is getting finer and this can be seen from the manner in which young filmmakers in not only Hindi but also regional languages such as Marathi and Tamil are pushing the envelope. A Masaan (Best Debut Director) or a Dum Laga ke Haisha (Best Hindi Film, Best Lyrics), a Ringan (Best Marathi Film) and a Visaranai (Best Tamil Film, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor) are as lauded as a Baahubali. With the first three of the four films mentioned directed by first-time filmmakers, it wouldn’t be surprising if the slipstream is soon mistaken for the mainstream. Once the dust settles, the fact that there were 72 first-time filmmakers in the reckoning this year would leave us with the warm feeling that mainstream or what have you, Indian cinema is headed for good times.