Who wants to be a Bollywood insider?
By Vijaya Pushkarna
Sushant Singh Rajput was definitely overqualified for the Hindi film industry. Know anyone who comes close to him, in terms of education, interest, passion, knowledge etc? What drove him to end his life is a secret that he has carried with him. Over the last few years he showed that a young lad from a small town middle class background with no Sugar Daddy in Mumbai can make it big in the Hindi film industry which deserves the silly name it has got—Bollywood. Luckily, Sushant was not a girl, otherwise “they” may say he slept his way to the success he achieved. In his death , he has raised an issue that never got the serious discussion it deserved –other than as the “casting couch” talk that comes up periodically.
That issue is “insiders” a mafia of sorts, entrenched in the industry, sometimes over two generations, and sometimes even more-- long enough to call it home, claiming it as their exclusive territory. The first generation stars who have made it to the top do not mention in their struggle stories, others ganging up to thwart their entry, as if the film industry is a gated community. But by now they have got entrenched and forgotten their own stories.
But technology is a great leveler. Now more than any other time, these biggies –whether a producer like Karan Johar or Aditya Chopra, or actor like Amitabh Bachchan or Salman Khan, or director producer like Mahesh Bhatt or anyone else--- are not essential to the rise of a boy like Sushant Singh Rajput.
Technology has opened cinema to practically everyone, bringing down the costs to peanuts, taking up by notches the ability to connect directly with the audiences. More people are watching films that are streamed directly into their mobile phones through OTT platforms than are likely to visit the cinemas.
The mafia may be there, in that platform, but their impact is going to be minimal. A bunch of talented people need only to get together with the right story and other skills, and get rave reviews, in what could be start up cinema. Ok, it may not be as simple or easy as that. But it is way easier than it was a couple of years ago.
When Irrfan Khan lost the battle to cancer on April 29, I felt that seeing him in celluloid would make a loss I felt , wee bit less. That was when one of those “promo” channels of Tata Sky grabbed my attention. And the pinch was no more than Rs75 a month. Called ”Bollywood Premiere” it was going to air films of Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor, back to back for a whole week.
The Irrfan movies apart, some of the films I randomly picked over the next fortnight , seemed altogether new. Their names and posters had hardly been visible when they were released two to five years ago. None of them had the grand box office ingredients, the actors were not stars, the locations were real, drab and dry—as the Indo-Gangetic plane is in the scorching summers. Daas Dev”, director Sudhir Mishra’s interpretation of the classic Devdas, was set in Uttar Pradesh, and targeted corruption in the form of violence to protect dynastic politics. And “Mirza and Juliet”, also set in Uttar Pradesh, gave one the impression of being a desi take on Romeo and Juliette, but we learn it is inspired by the Punjabi Mirza Sahibaan! Gutsy performances by unknown actors, and real , raw films on life. And yet another, shot in Benares was a psycho thriller , Kashi in Search of Ganga
The lockdown films showed one thing. Mainstream life before Covid19 had good films that we missed , simply because they were not made on big budgets with big star cast by the film industry biggies, they were not promoted on a huge scale .
The Hindi film industry mafia is not only injurious just for aspiring actors without the Bollywood pedigree, but also for viewers who have been made to believe that every story has to be set in London or New York, be picture perfect with a star instead of an actor.
With streaming technologies, everyone can tell beautiful, real stories, honestly, to rave reviews and success, which will catapult the people behind these movies to the top.
Sushant Singh Rajput is dead .Long live the Sushant Singh Rajputs.