Anupama Chopra’s Bollywood dreams for 2020
Empowered writers, original music, an exchange of ideas across languages... a wishlist for the year ahead.
As we embark on a new year and a new decade, here’s my wish-list for Bollywood!
More empowered writers: The writer is the backbone of any project. This fundamental fact has been largely ignored by the film industry for years. The legendary Salim-Javed used to have their names on hoardings, but in ensuing decades, filmmakers often treated writers like indentured labour. Thankfully, with the emergence of streaming platforms and writing rooms, these feudal attitudes are changing. In 2018, Karan Johar announced his historical epic Takht, and the writers’ names – Sumit Roy and Hussain Haidry – were on the posters along with the formidable cast. I increasingly hear that writers are getting more money and, critically, more respect. I hope this continues. Because the writer is every film’s superpower.
More inventive promotional strategies: We need the marketing heads of studios and filmmakers to rethink and reinvent the promotional cycles of films – every film can’t be plugged with standard interviews on general entertainment television channels, advertorials, city tours and mall visits. One size doesn’t fit all. We need innovation and custom-made marketing strategies that enable films to reach wider audiences.
More osmosis between Hindi and other Indian film industries: The bitter truth is that better films are currently being made outside Mumbai. Some of the most innovative films of the past decade — the Baahubali franchise, Super Deluxe, Village Rockstars, Kumbalangi Nights, Sairat — came from outside Bollywood. There is a vast pool of brilliant artists in non-Hindi industries. I hope there is more of an exchange of ideas, talent, processes. Bollywood could only gain from this.
More original film music: Music is Indian cinema’s great differentiator. It is what gives our movies their unique form. Film music permeates and punctuates our lives in myriad ways, playing everywhere, from birthday parties to night clubs to religious ceremonies. Over the years, film songs have taught us how to express emotion, how to drown in sorrow and how to declare love. But Hindi films are increasingly doing away with lip-sync songs. And the multi-composer format (several composers contributing to the soundtrack of the same film) and the remix trend are reinforcing mediocrity. Songs are no longer about poetry, originality, longevity. It’s mostly hook-led music designed to bring people into the theatres in the first weekend. Film music has become the equivalent of fast food — disposable and barely nourishing. Someone — filmmakers, perhaps — needs to stage an intervention.
More Shah Rukh Khan: For the past year, Shah Rukh has taken, to steal a line from the great film critic Roger Ebert, a ‘leave of presence’ from the movies. Every month, we hear rumours of a project announcement. Photos of him with potential directors make news — I was thrilled to see him with Tamil whizkid Atlee and Malayalam maestro Aashiq Abu — but then all is silence. Over more than 25 years, Shah Rukh has given us countless hours of joy at the movies. The second act is a tough transition for most actors — even Amitabh Bachchan took years to figure it out. I hope Shah Rukh finds a script and a storyteller who can both reinvent the Shah Rukh Khan myth and honour it. We need him back on screen.