Bollywood’s Storytellers

Cinema, like life, is always evolving and that's the way it should be," said filmmaker Ramesh Sippy. He, along with filmmakers Anurag Basu, Govind Nihalani, Habib Faisal, Abhinav Kashyap, Sriram Raghavan and actor Rishi Kapoor, was on the panel of Screen Big Picture — held on October 18, at Express Towers, Mumbai — to talk about the evolution of storytelling in Bollywood since its inception 100 years ago.

Kapoor, who belongs to the first family of Bollywood, spoke about how his family has been a part of the industry for 84 years. "We (the industry) made 91 silent films before we started making talkies," he said. "After that we made mythological films. The trend changed when India won its independence. We were a young, budding nation with a lot of problems, and this transcended into socially relevant cinema. When I came into films, the audience was extremely forgiving, and most of us ended up doing three to four films in the lost-and-found genre. Now, when I see my son Ranbir working, I see the competitiveness prevalent in the industry," he added.

Nihalani, one of the pioneers of the parallel cinema movement in India in the '80s, noted that storytelling, over the years, has also been influenced by the source of funds.

"I made films for NFDC with zero interference. I could do whatever I wanted," he said.

While the narrative of storytelling has evolved over the years, Faisal and Kashyap believe that trends keep recurring in Bollywood. Talking about his portrayal of the common man in his film Do Dooni Chaar, Faisal said, "The common man was the protagonist during the phase when Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee made movies. Somewhere in between, he got lost and it seemed that putting a visa stamp on your passport was crucial to making any film, even if it meant going to Brunei or Maldives. But now, the common man has been rediscovered." Kashyap, who has been attributed for getting the rural setting back in vogue in Bollywood with his directorial debut Dabangg, added, "I realised that in the last 10 years Indian villages and small towns had fallen off the map. Nobody was talking about them. So I decided to take the path which nobody was treading. The success made me realise that diversity is a must."

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