New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) When the original maverick of Hindi film industry gets outmanoeuvred by a newcomer, then one knows that change is here to stay.
In a week that was expected to belong solely to a chilling horror tale from Ram Gopal Varma who left no stone unturned to pitch "Phoonk" as the scariest Hindi movie ever, it is Nishikant Kamat's off-beat "Mumbai Meri Jaan", a small-budget fresh take on terrorism, that has set people talking.
Release of "Phoonk" was accompanied by innovative promotions and publicity stunts. The hair-raising promos did succeed in raising the curiosity level in a way that no recent horror flick has done.
News reports say that the traffic to the film's website outnumbered that to any of the other recent releases, including a hit film on teenage romance. But it is "Mumbai Meri Jaan" that is raking in all the critical acclaim and is making a mark among the most critical category of viewers -- the Gen Now. Kamat had earlier made "Dombivli Fast".
After a spate of big-budget archetypical Bollywood potboilers, it is heartening to see that the faith in low-budget tales told from the heart is very much intact. The phenomenon that made small-budget film "Aamir" a success, though it was released alongside "Sarkar Raj" that had Amitabh Bachchan his son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, was not a flash in the pan but is here to stay.
"I don't hold a grudge against blockbuster filmmakers. I only want all kinds of cinema to coexist," says filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. "The industry needs a blockbuster like 'Om Shanti Om' to fund my kind of movies," he adds.
The sheer diversity in this week's releases goes to show how far Hindi cinema has come from the days when films strictly followed formulas and points to where the industry is headed.
"Phoonk" hit the marquees along with three other diametrically different films. On one hand was a sequel to the popular animated feature "My Friend Ganesha 2", on the other was "Maan Gaye Mughall-E-Azam", based on the most box-office-friendly format of a bumbling romantic comedy.
While not much was expected from "My Friend Ganesha 2", "Maan Gaye..." had got many people excited. In the final analysis in "Maan Gaye...", Mallika Sherawat does unleash all her oomph while Rahul Bose becomes her perfect foil even as Paresh Rawal did what he does best. But the film about a small-town drama company's rendezvous with terrorism is far from a scorching success.
The film has its funny moments but filmmaker Sanjay Chhel could not manage to keep viewer's interest till the end.
In contrast, Kamat's take on terror "Mumbai Meri Jaan" has emerged as the dark horse among this week's releases. The more intense and in your face film explores the impact of the devastating serial bomb blasts of 7/11 that paralysed life in Mumbai two years back. It has powerhouse performances by R. Madhavan, Irrfan Khan, Soha Ali Khan and Kay Kay Menon.
For upcoming directors, the appreciation being showered on "Mumbai Meri Jaan" is confirmation that the industry and the box-office has finally let go of old prejudices and is welcoming new ideas with open arms.
With so-called multiplex movies like "Mithya", "Jab We Met", "Khosla Ka Ghosla", "Bheja Fry" and "Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na" - doing well, the day when independent expression and mainstream masala films begin to co-exist at the turnstiles are not far. The Hindi filmdom will no longer call filmmakers who harbour this dream, maverick or the unbecoming fool.
Among the bratty brigade of new-age directors who are getting dime-a-dozen producers willing to finance them are some who are as young as Kunal Deshmukh who directed the box-office hit "Jannat" at only 26.
"Bheja Fry" director Sagar Bellary says: "The audience has grown up. With more than eight channels beaming the best of cinema -- local and global -- right into your living room, movie consumption has tripled, so exposure is tremendous."
All eyes are now on writer Sachin Yardi's directorial debut "C Kkompany", Kabeer Koushik's "Chamku", which is coming after his brilliant directorial debut "Sehar", hype-sounding "Rock On" by newcomer Abhishek Kapoor, debutant Neeraj Pandey's "A Wednesday" that brings together Naseerudin Shah and Anupam Kher after 12 years, Bellary's next, "Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!" by Dibakar Banerjee of "Khosla Ka Ghosla" fame and interesting sounding "Ru Ba Ru" by Arjun Bali.
All this before the Diwali and Eid big offerings by Bollywood arrive - biggies include Goldie Behl's Abhishek Bachchan-starrer "Drona", Yash Raj Film's animation film "Roadside Romeo" with Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor voiceovers and Priyadarshan's comedy "Billo Barber" with Shahrukh Khan, Irfaan Khan and Lara Dutta - all are schedule for October release.
November will witness another burst of big ones like "Dostana", "Golmaal Returns", "Yuvraaj" and later on "Chandni Chowk To China", "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi" and "Ghajini" hitting the big screen. The newcomers have until then to prove their might.