In yet another proof, Bombay Velvet shows that directing a mainstream movie needs a higher level of intelligence in directors. Mainstream directors like Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar, Sooraj R. Barjatya, Rohit Shetty and Rakesh Roshan obviously (and in most cases, even academically) possess a higher grade of intelligence.

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And this has always been the case. It takes exceptional intelligence to devise and make a movie that is liked by all—a poor, street-side vendor to the NRI sitting in USA or the highly qualified tycoon. Agreed Ranbir Kapoor before Bombay Velvet’s release, “If a film must please an all-India audience, a lot more thought and so much hard work are needed. It is a very difficult challenge to achieve that level.”

Bombay Velvet movie poster
Bombay Velvet movie poster

But Anurag Kashyap, director of Bombay Velvet, has never made a film whose business exceeded Rs. 25 crore (Gangs Of Wasseypur). And going by …Velvet’s performance, it might be hard to reach even that figure!

So we are really ‘Fox’ed at how a director definitely certifiable as ‘unfit’ to make a huge masala movie was allowed resources to make such an expensive niche movie, wrongly touted as a ‘mainstream entertainer’!

On the reverse side, let’s recall the hugely talented mainstream directors who went the offbeat way (for their sensibilities and for that of their times) to give us memorable hits. J. Om Prakash, producer of ‘formula’ hits in a row from 1961, changed course in the mid-‘70s to also direct issue-based movies like Aap Ki Kasam, Apnapan, Aasha and Aakhir Kyon?, doing better in this genre rather than his other mainstream efforts!

Shakti Samanta similarly changed tracks after thrillers with social blockbusters like Aradhana, Kati Patang, Amar Prem and Anuraag. Another ‘action’ man, Pramod Chakravorty, aced up his resume with the intense social Naya Zamana before reverting to his forte. Vijay Anand took time off for the bold Guide in the ‘60s and the sensitive Tere Mere Sapne in the ‘70s.

Entertainment sultan Nasir Husain fashioned the offbeat Baharon Ke Sapne (1968) in between as he loved the subject. Raj Kapoor made (and reportedly ghost-directed) Boot Polish, Manoj Kumar excelled in making the moving father-son story of Shor, and Prakash Mehra stepped into an grittily real groove with Zanjeer.

Raj Khosla’s train of crime and suspense dramas was interspersed by emotional masterpieces like Do Raaste and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, brilliant adaptations of powerful social Marathi stories.

As for the versatile V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan and B.R. Chopra, they forever kept oscillating between thorough entertainers and hard-hitting realistic stories.

But from the niche side, though many have had the guts to try mainstream movies out, Sriram Raghavan (Agent Vinod) and Tigmanshu Dhulia (Bullett Raja) are the latest of many casualties at making a mass entertainer. Others include Madhur Bhandarkar (Aan-Men At Work), Shyam Benegal (Zubeidaa), Govind Nihalani (Thakshak, Dev) and older stalwarts like Chetan Anand (Taxi Driver and its remake, Jaaneman, Funtoosh and Kudrat).

Vidhu Vinod Chopra was panned for 1942-A Love Story, Kareeb, Mission Kashmir and Eklavya-The Royal Guard after being applauded for Khamosh (though a flop) and Parinda. Today, he has produced four mega-hits only with Rajkumar Hirani at the helm.

Hirani, the high priest of a unique brand of larger-than-life-meets-real entertainment, states, “People influenced by art cinema have a strange idealism and think that such cinema is the best. Personally, I feel that we are doing better work here than in most countries. My ideals include Manmohan Desai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Vijay Anand.”

Writer-director Sanjay Chhel concludes, “Cinema changes in form with times, but in every era, it is still honest, passionate cinema in any genre that pays off and solid content that remains king.”

And that is what our best filmmakers always did, make diverse movies complete with great music, simple but solid scripts and—usually—leading stars.

– Rajiv Vijayakar, a Senior Journalist, Film & Music Critic and Historian for Hindi cinema and Film Music is also an Author and Twice Jury Member at 58th and 62nd National Film Awards.

Rajiv Vijayakar tweets @rajivvijayakar

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