Anurag Kashyap’s second best!

What is common between Govind Nihlani, Shyam Benegal, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Mira Nair, Aditya Chopra? How are Anurag Kashyap and Dibankar Banerji different from these filmmakers?

With the buzz now about 100 years of INDIAN Cinema (yep – let us get that one correct), and the buzz about the upcoming movie ‘Bombay Talkies’, I remember watching a TV programme “Bombay Talkies” in NDTV. The guests were Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah. While the chat itself was enjoyable, I particularly was interested in one thing that Naseer said. He said that in case of ALL filmmakers, their first film is their best. He quoted examples of Govind Nihlani, Shyam Benegal, Vinod Chopra, Mira Nair, Aditya Chopra etc. (Later, he jokingly quipped that Vinod is yet to make a good film!! “Sazaye Maut” is the name of his autobiography, he said!). Ratna Pathak Shah said the ONLY film-makers whose second film was better than their first were Anurag Kashyap (Black Friday) and Dibankar Banerji (Oye Lucky Lucky Oye)!

Now this set me thinking…is it really so? Do I agree with Naseer and Ratna? Wait. Wait. How does my opinion matter? It does not. It does not to anyone but me! But if I could compile a list where I think the film-maker’s first film is not necessarily his best, I could at least initiate some interesting discussion. That’s the objective of this post. So here’s why I think Naseer and Ratna are wrong!

Ashutosh Gowariker: He made Baazi with Aamir Khan. It was boring and forgettable. Then he wrote a script and showed to Aamir. Aamir did not like it. He showed it SRK and SRK also did not like it. That made Ashutosh think. He rewrote the script, added colours to characters and went back to Aamir. Aamir was simply bowled over by what he heard and agreed not only to act in it but also produce it. And so the film got made and it went on to win the nomination for Academy Award in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category. The film was Lagaan. I remember watching Lagaan in Hyderabad. It simply was fantastic. In a country where cricket is a religion, Ashutosh was able to create such wonderful underdogs who had to win the match to survive! Most of the second half was allotted to the match and what excitement it created. Have you guys ever watched the first ball being bowled in World Cup? Do you remember the feeling, the knot in the stomach? Ashutosh recreated that magic in his film!

Mani Ratnam: Mani’s first film was Pallavi Anu pallavi in Kannada. It certainly gave glimpses of what Mani was capable of. Then came Unaru, Pagal Nilavu, Idhaya Kovil and Mouna Ragam. Interesting films, some great scenes, excellent work extracted out of his technicians, but none that would be called Mani’s best. During Diwali 1987, Mani’s sixth film got released. And it went on to be listed in the All time top 100 great films by Time Magazine! ‘Nayakan’ created ripples not only in Indian cinema but also internationally. Naseer saw the film in Bangalore and he simply could not stop talking about Kamal Hassan’s performance. Kamal gave some great performances before Nayakan, but he simply went on to another league after Nayakan, leaving most of his contemporaries behind.  The first thing that was striking about the film was, that the film actually resembled the period that it was set in! The film showed Mani’s class and Kamal’s genius. Take the scene of the death of Velu Naicker’s son. Naicker is not aware of it, he walks into the house from his garden and he sees all his friends. He keeps exchanging pleasantries with all of them and slowly he realizes that something is wrong. And then he sees his son’s corpse. Now, this scene is a straight copy from another Tamil film, Nallavanukku Nallavan. Rajnikanth’s wife dies and that scene is structured exactly. But when you see Nayakan, you don’t remember Nallavanukku Nallavan. You just come out saying that it is one of the best scenes ever created in Indian Cinema. That’s the success of Kamal; that’s the success of Mani. Nayakan, Mani’s sixth film, in my opinion, remains his best!

Kamal Hassan: Kamal made his directorial debut with Chachi 420, a remake! That was not his intention, though. Like what is being claimed to have happened with Taare Zameen Par, Chachi 420 had Shatanu Shorey as the Director. But Kamal took over after he saw the initial rushes. And Kamal is more ruthless than Aamir, he did not make Shorey the Creative director of his film, he just threw him out. He also threw out Ashwini Bhave and took in Ayesha Jhulka. The movie was a big hit (the last big hit of Kamal Hassan in Hindi) but it was just another film, just another comedy (though unlike other comedies that are coming out these days, it was truly funny). His second film was ‘Hey Ram’. In my opinion, this remains Kamal Hassan’s best film (not only Kamal the director, but also Kamal the actor). A classic ‘what if’ idea was brilliantly made to make a social comment. (What if there was another killer hiding to Kill Gandhi on Jan 30th, 1948, eventually had a change of heart and watched Gandhi getting killed by Nadhuram Gotse! (Digression Alert – Another brilliant ‘what if’ idea by Kamal, which unfortunately did not go the distance was – ‘What if that Tsunami that killed millions on Dec 26th 2004, actually succeeded in saving the human race’ in Dasavatharam!!) Hey Ram was an epic in all senses of the word. It traveled across the country, it traveled timelines, it had sweeping cinematograpy, one of Ilayaraja’s best background scores, Outstanding performances by the entire cast (who can I single out? Everyone was so good. But if I had to name, lets say, 10 actors, then I’ll go with Kamal, Shah Rukh, Saurabh Shukla, Naseeruddin Shah – whose Gandhi had a Gujarati accent, Rani Mukherjee, Atul Kulkarni, Vaali, Vikram Gokhale, Hema Malini and the new girl Vasundhara Das. An interesting thing that happened with Hey Ram. L. Subramainam was the music director of the film and the songs were recorded. After which there was a difference of opinion between Kamal and LS and LS walked out. Kamal in the meantime had picturised all the songs. He could not use the songs composed by LS but he could no way go for reshoot as it involved many artists dates and combination dates (SRK, Rani, Saurabh, Iravati Harshe, Vasundhara etc). So Kamal went to Ilayaraja and what Raja did was something only he could do. He used the same lyrics, same tempo (so that lip sync matched) but with another tune and another song!! In the song, Shayad Pandit ho, when Kamal is shown playing the piano (as LS had used piano in his version), Raja used Piano but with the same pace and different notes! This is mind boggling stuff!

Ramesh Sippy: “Released on 15 August 1975, Sholay ran in theatres for over five years, and altered the course of Indian cinema. Even today, it remains the box office gold standard, a reference point for both the Indian film-going audience and the film industry. For Sholay is not merely a film, it is the ultimate classic, it is myth. The characters – Veeru, Jai, Gabbar, the Thakur, Basanti, Radha, Soorma Bhopali and Sambha – are the stuff of folklore. Even the starring animal, Bhanno the mare, has been immortalized.” – Anupama Chopra in her book, Sholay – The making of a Classic. Ramesh Sippy’s third film continued to entertain us after 37 years of it release through Anupama Chopra’s book and RGV’s remake ( I know, I know; I can hear people disagreeing about RGV’s Sholay entertaining us. But let me tell you, I never had so much fun reading about any other film as much as I did for RGV’s Aag! After all, it was the ONLY film in World Cinema which merited egg throwing in a TV review!!)

Ram Gopal Varma:  He came in with a bang – Shiva, followed by interesting films – Kshana Kshanam, Shiva in Hindi, Rangeela, Daud and some duds – Govinda Govinda, Drohi, Raat. The year 1998 saw the release of Satya. And I was simply blown. The characters, the setting, the writing, the direction, the shot compositions and the music, everything fell in place and Ram Gopal Varma created a masterpiece. Satya remains RGV’s best work and after Gabbar Singh, it had the most interesting character in Hindi Cinema – Bhiku Matre. (And to my horror I saw the best supporting actor (Film fare) going to Salman Khan for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai!).

I have tried to list people who have created more than 2 masterpieces. Of course there are others, who’s best is yet to come but their second films were better than their first. Abhishek Kapoor – Rock On, Imitiaz Ali – Jab We Met, Sriram Raghavan – Jhonny Gaddar, Shimit Amin – Chak De India, Rakesh Omprakash Mehra – Rang De Basanti!! The list is not complete – I know. Naseer Saab and Ratna Ma’am – Pardon me if I had sounded disrespectful for that was not my intention!!

By: Anand
Posted: April 30, 2013, 3:17 pm


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