Monday, October 29, 2007

When success is a two-edged sword

This article was originally written for and published on on 27th November 2007:

Some months back I read the book review of 'Orson Welles: A Biography' by Barabara Leaming.

I have always known Welles as the creator of the great 'Mars Attack' hoax on radio. This article however was focussed on Orson Welles, the director of 'Citizen Kane' (for those who don't know, this movie repeatedly tops the list of 'Greatest Movies of All times').

Barabara Leaming has argued that the initial acclaim that got associated with 'Citizen Kane' and hence with Welles has been a double edged sword for the prolific writer-actor-director-producer Welles. On one hand, it established him as one of the 'greatest' creative geniuses in the cinematic world and on the other it robbed him and the world of so much that he could have done. (She says that many film critics feel forced to include 'Citizen Kane' in their favorites' lists because it is 'considered' to be such a great film!)

According to Leaming, after the grand success of 'Citizen Kane', Orson Welles spent many years and many millions (of studio money, ofcourse!) trying to recreate something as grand and successful. But very few of his works after 'Citizen Kane' got to see the light of the day, and they too were hardly a patch on his on own previous work.

I have always thought of similar stories in Hindi cinema where too much early acclaim has had not-so-good impact on the makers.

Mahesh Manjrekar : I have not seen 'Vaastav' (actually I went inside the hall, but had to leave because my sister was with me and I thought obscenities were too inappropriate!) but I remember that almost all the critics hailed Manjrekar as hope of new generation 'aggressive' cinema. He changed gears and delivered 'Astitva' and proved that he could handle sensitive issues as deftly. But after that the downfall started! 16 flop and insipid films tell tale.

Vikram Bhatt: He could have at the top of this list but for an occasional hit like 'Awara Pagal Deewana'. With 'Speed' Vikram just scored his 10th consecutive dud. Sample his recent outings: Speed (2007),Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee (2007),Red: The Dark Side (2007),Ankahee (2006),Deewane Huye Paagal (2005),Jurm (2005),Elaan (2005),Aetbaar (2004),Inteha (2003).Vikram Bhatt is one of the topmost DVD directors of India and one of his most successful films Ghulam was a ripoff of 'On the Waterfront'. So were 'Kasoor' and 'Raaz'. He is still busy ripping Hollywood but whatever happened!

E. Nivas: 'Love ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega' was bearable, but the man who debuted with 'Shool' seemed to be finished with first outing itself! What followed were disasters like 'Dum' and 'Bardaasht'! Surprising indeed. Let's hope 'My Name is Anthony Gonzalves' and 'De Taali' are better.

Sujoy Ghosh : This may seem pre-mature and I WANT that it proves to be. Because I loved 'Jhankaar Beats'. This was a farm fresh film with a farm fresh attitude and amazing style of narration. Everything that could go right was, and I can watch reruns as many times as they show. But what was 'Home Delivery'? Ghosh got lost in his own style and delivered such a great dud, not only commercially but also creatively that it was almost heart breaking!

Ram Gopal Verma: Ahem! I know you are ready to kick me for this one, but I really think that if someone has been spoilt by acclaim, it is this gentleman. He is supposed to be a 'maverick' and taking risk with new themes and newer talent is his favorite pastime, but has it gone to his head? I think it has. Making inane movies and then remaking them (anyone remember 'James' and then 'Shiva'?) hardly sounds to be the stuff coming from the director of 'Rangeela', 'Satya', 'Company' and 'Sarkar'. But then 'truth is stranger than fiction!'

Also mentioned:
Farhan Akhtar: Surprised? Well, though I believe 'Lakshya' was not as bad as critics made it to be and 'Don' also was ok, I don't think these two came anywhere near the cult status quality that 'Dil Chahta Hai' earned rightfully. But I believe he has still lot to deliver.

You may agree, you may disagree with my list. I am ready for the brickbats, but all I would want to say is that I would be more than very happy if these people make me eat my words!