One cannot discuss the brilliance of Kangana Ranaut’s Queen without sparing compliments for the realistic performances given by Lisa Haydon as the vivacious Vijaylaxmi, the recently acclaimed Rajkummar Rao as the chauvinistic Delhi da puttar or Rani’s jolly set of roomies in Amsterdam – each one of them added a new color to the palette with which this classic was painted. The textured characterization given to each member of the supporting cast added more meat to Kangana’s character.
Similarly, Gauri Shinde’s directorial debut English Vinglish had multi-faceted actors, both Indian and international, play characters in Shashi’s journey to self-redemption. Since movies like these movies brought in all the fame and fortune Bollywood needed, why is it that Bollywood never acknowledged their presence?
For the last decade or so, Bollywood has inclined towards the concept of singling out and celebrating the lead protagonists of their movies post a film’s success. Be it Kangana Ranaut’s Queen or Tanu Weds Manu, Sridevi’s English Vinglish, Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year, Kahaani and Rock On (the first instalment), all these made superstars out of their protagonists for their box-office success. The lead actors in these films were duly given their due. But somehow, these films never really cared to spare a word or two for their immensely talented supporting cast. A Deepak Dobriyal, Gauhar Khan, Parambrata and Adil Hussain never got the limelight they really deserved.
Come 2017, tables have changed!
Being a Hindi movie lover, this year to me has been a year of heart ache! From an Imtiaz Ali who gave us gems like Rockstar and Tamasha, to a brilliantly talented Ranbir Kapoor and our 90’s lover boy Shah Rukh Khan taking us on a guilt trip for buying some expensive multiplex tickets.
On the other side, this year we the rise of the “supporting cast” in Hindi cinema. Bollywood this year cherished the value of some real characters that eventually form the crux of a good film.
The ultimate backbone!
This year the audience decided to give filmmakers few reality checks! Films that did well, both critically and commercially, had the supporting cast receive the greater share of appreciation. Audiences adored the Pankaj Tripathi’s winsome role as a father, empathized with a mother’s concerns portrayed by Seema Bhargava in two different movies, enjoyed the badass babua in Rao and giggled to the one liners delivered by Divyendu Sharma.
A brilliant example of a movie, crafted by an exemplary bunch of actors is A Death in the Gunj. Konkona Sen’s directorial debut ensured that every person in the frame added something to the narrative– from its male protagonist to even actors playing the servants in the movie.
Dear Bollywood, why are you so self-obsessed?
Hindi movie makers and actors must realize that a good film is not restricted to the razzmatazz around its heroes and heroines. Films helmed by legendary film makers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee or even the best of classics like Sholay, Mr. India, Rang de Basanti, Andaaz Apna Apna, Gangs of Wasseypur are remembered for the nuanced characterization of the entire star cast. Audiences have not failed to remember names like Calender, Crime Master Gogo, Mogambo or the Angrezon ke Zamaane ke Jailor!
Today, when Indians are exposed to a plethora of digital content, it’s important to realize that one is no longer privy to intelligent cinema. We are done with movies featuring sole attention seeking stars and are gradually moving towards some content hungry products; the shift is slow but it’s happening! The emergence of web series and the return of shows like Sarabhai online is witness to the fact that viewers today have more than enough options to explore and are intelligent enough to judge the right package.
Indian film makers should get over their “star hangover” and script writers must spare their ink for the entire star cast and not just the lead cast.
Remember, an Alice would be incomplete without The March Hare or the White Rabbit and a Mowgli emerged along with Shere Khan or a Bagheera! Let the story be the hero and the characters do the storytelling.