The winsome brigade
At a time when runaway hits in Hindi cinema are a pipedream, the children's film, "Makdee", shows the sure way to success, states ZIYA US SALAM.
A scene from "Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone"
IN THE year of "Ek Chhotisi Love Story" this is one little story, which has not hit the headlines just did good commerce. Yes, the big little news at the time of the year when the film industry is reeling under the effect of incessant flops is the heart-warming success of sweet, little films for children.
From the magician of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who entranced us all, taking us back to the times of Cinderella and the magic shoes, to Monstropolis where we met good, squeaky clean monsters, and Tobey Maguire's man who told us "Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, everything will be fine. There is God above and Spider-Man in between", it has been a joyride cinemagoers could not resist. Joining the bandwagon is Vishal Bhardwaj whose "Makdee", a rare Hindi film for children, accomplished a feat rarer still it was commercially released at cinema halls across the country this November. That, in itself is an accomplishment for this niche cinema considering that in the past such fine films as A.K. Bir's "Baaja" and Amol Palekar's "Kairee" had to be satisfied with just a screening at international film festivals.
Thus even films like "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones", "Men In Black-II" and "Ali" might have failed to rake in the moolah at the turnstiles, but there is no stopping the children brigade. These films might dwarf reason, mock at relativity and turn logic on its head, but they manage to strike a chord somewhere down the line with the audiences blessed with an open mind and a young heart. The child in many of us is alive and kicking.
Capitalising are the intrepid directors who have dared to make films which might have been dismissed as nothing but concoctions from fools' paradise but for the impressive figures they have notched at the box office. In their own ways they take us back to the times when we were young. No, not in the sense they bandy about the term for any romantic film targeting the college-going, whistling, woofing crowd. But young as in young. To the times when you and I, half apprehensive, half adventurous, sneaked in comics between books of Composite Mathematics into our classrooms. Times when the greatest joys of life were provided by Spider-Man demolishing evil in our comic books and Phantom rescuing many a do-gooder. To the times when a Cinderella tear evoked more pity than a wailing grandmother at home.
Take "Harry Potter" that take on the sorcerer's stone that left many in the audience speechless and others waiting for an encore their prayers have just been answered abroad. Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ensnared the senses, bewitched the mind. It mattered little to the cinemagoers that Chris Columbus took some liberties with the text to bring it to the silver screen. What he did was he managed to keep the viewers engrossed all through. So much so, that a special show of the film was organised on Children Day, this time specially for children with special talent.
Shabana Azmi in "Makdee".
Or "Spider-Man". He braved the bullets much like a Hindi film hero, thereby enhancing the film's acceptance bested the beasts and demolished Evil. With time he just seemed to have grown and walked into the silver screen from the comic books. All along the audiences, among them more than a handful adults unaccompanied by children, waited for the final denouement. And no, there was not a murmur or protest or pooh-poohing when Spider-Man met his lady love but failed to express the best human emotion. It struck a receptive chord haven't we had a similar experience with our ladylove somewhere down the line?
Or "Monsters Inc." which made its presence felt at the Oscars last year and won over our countrymen this year. The kids loved the monsters, which brushed their teeth in the morning, ate at a dining table and wore beautiful green and blue clothes. They had their crushes too. The kids clapped and indulgent adults look on, half amused, half smiling.
Just like "Stuart Little - II" released in November this year. This was the tale of a spunky white mouse, which lived with a cat, loved a bird, slept in a bed, drove a car and could almost pilot a plane! The mouse sequel defeated the dog of "Scooby Doo" in the rat race at the box office. Not quite the runaway hit the original was, it still managed to rake in better figures than some of the big budget Hindi films released around the same time. While Mahesh Manjrekar's "Hathyar", a sequel of sorts to "Vaastav" was washed out, Vashu Bhagnani's "Jeena Sirf Mere Liye" with Kareena Kapoor and Tusshar as the lead pair was also worsted by this intrepid mouse, out to rescue his little friend Margalo from a falcon.
The success of this film, at a time when the trade pundits were blaming the downfall in the number of visitors to cinema halls during the festive season of Diwali, was just a reiteration of the old adage: Class prevails.
Jonathan Lipnicki with the little mouse in "Stuart Little".
But honestly, the writing was always there on the silver screen. Only thing is the film producers, distributors and exhibitors were not prepared to read it. It was as early as April this year when Columbus's "Harry Potter" got the masses queuing up outside the theatres, holding its own in front of Ramgopal Varma's critically acclaimed "Company" which got knocked out at the box office sweepstakes though.
The following month provided clinching evidence that small, little films for children meant big business at the turnstiles. Patronised by adults too, they were safer propositions than Bollywood potboilers and even Hollywood's much-hyped films. Though it did not rain audiences for "Cats and Dogs", there were no such problems for either "Monsters' Inc" or "Spider-Man". Again while the monsters defeated the rivals from "The Crimson Rivers", Govind Nihalani's much-awaited futuristic film on organ transplant, "Deham" also bombed at the same time. A couple of weeks later we were certain of what we always suspected - any Hollywood film with a David versus Goliath formula will worst the best of Bollywood.
So it was with "Spider-Man" which was dubbed into Hindi with some pleasantly surprising results. The film was pitted with K.C. Bokadia's Shah Rukh Khan-Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit starrer "Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam". Though Bokadia's film did not do badly, yet in a couple of weeks, across the country, the number of cinema halls screening "Spider-Man" had increased while those playing Bollywood's yet another love triangle had dwindled.
This is no mere fad. It is probably a sign of things to come with a pertinent message: Want a runaway hit? Target children. They are the ones who will bring in the parents. Just like the advertisement world. Now with children taking to "Makdee" - there have been block bookings at many halls for school children and Tabu's long-in-the-making "Bhagmati", arguably among the earliest Bollywood's animation films, ready for release early next year, the best place to be is inside a hall playing a film for the young, and the young at heart.
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