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When off-beat filmmakers went commercial

The year 2015 saw many indie filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Sriram Raghavan and Dibakar Banerjee, shedding their “off beat” director tags and venturing into big budget Bollywood films to varying results.

It began with Navdeep Singh’s “NH10” with A list actress Anushka Sharma in the lead role, who also produced the film.

It was a huge leap for Navdeep who had previously directed the highly underrated 2007 thriller “Manorama Six Feet Under” starring Abhay Deol.

It took him nearly right years to direct another project.

“NH10” ticked all the right boxes and proved a success at the box office while also gathering critical acclaim.


Interestingly, it was not only the director who got big but also actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui who had a special appearance in “Manorama Six Feet Under”. He was seen in a parallel-lead role in this year’s “Badlapur”.

Directed by Sriram Raghavan, “Badlapur” was not a gradual progression from low budget to big commercial cinema for the filmmaker. Prior to “Badlapur” Raghvan had made Saif Ali Khan-Kareena-Kapoor-Khan starrer “Agent Vinod” which bombed at the box office.

In an interview to PTI, Raghavan had said that the bigger the film the bigger the risk of sticking true to the story and not getting swayed.

“I went bigger (in terms of budget) with ‘Agent Vinod’, but it didn’t work. The more you go bigger the more you try to accommodate everything. A big movie comes with a lot of restrictions which you impose upon yourself,” he had said.

“Badlapur” was comparatively a smaller film than “Agent Vinod” but had a rising star Varun Dhawan and a promising actor Nawazuddin leading from the front. It scored well with both critics and audience and became a huge success.

Another filmmaker who tried his hands with commercial cinema was Dibakar Banerjee who made “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!”

While the movie still had the sensibilities of Banerjee intact, what set it apart from his other ventures was his association with a big production house- Yash Raj Films.

The scale of the period-thriller was the biggest ever for Banerjee who had previously helmed “Shanghai “, “Love Sex aur Dhoka” and “Khosla Ka Ghosla”. The film chronicled the life and times of people during world war 2 in the backdrop of Kolkata. “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!”, however, was met with mixed reviews and failed to sizzle at the box office.

But no failure was as big as the one director Anurag Kashyap saw with his dream project “Bombay Velvet” . The film saw Kashyap venturing full throttle into commercial space with stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma in the lead, filmmaker Karan Johar in his full fledged debut role, international technicians, foreign locations, and experimental jazz music.

Kashyap, known to make small budget hard hitting films like “Black Friday”, “Gangs of Wasseypur”, “Gulaal”, made “Bombay Velvet”- his expensive film ever. The movie was panned by the critics and despite impressive talents on paper, the big budget magnum opus sank at the box office.

Interestingly, Raghvan, Navdeep and Kashyap, all three had made low budget movies in 2007- “Johny Gaddar”, “Manorama Six feet under” and “No Smoking”.

Another filmmaker, who tried going big but was met with a similar result was director Vikas Bahl. Coming after the universal success of his much-loved “Queen “, Bahl directed “Shaandaar” .

Unlike “Queen”, which was produced by Kashyap and starred Kangana Ranaut (who still hadn’t become a big name), “Shaandaar” was produced by Kashyap along with Johar’s Dharma Productions.

It had a bevy of stars like Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapur, was set in exotic locations, with extremely popular music. Yet, Shaandaar’s reviews and performance were anything like its title.

Inputs by PTI


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