Sunday, November 08, 2009

If it's Friday, it must be tension

Actors, directors, producers, and singers go through a wrenching time when their films are released on a Friday. Some follow rituals, while others pray hard for the most elusive thing on the planet: a box office hit

Photo: Director Lal Jose

By Shevlin Sebastian

In the early morning on a Friday if director Lal Jose is in Thiruvananthapuram he will go for a long walk on Shanmugham beach. Sometimes, he goes with friends, but most of the time he is alone. At other times he might step into a church when it is empty. “I go there for peace of mind,” he says.

Meanwhile, as the time gets closer for the first show of his new film on Friday afternoon, Lal Jose experiences an intense discomfort and unease. Unable to bear the tension, on a few occasions, he watches the film with the audience. By the end of the screening, the reactions come in: from friends, members of the audience, and acquaintances in the industry.

“When I get a positive feedback I feel a tremendous sense of relief,” he says. “However, if there is a negative reaction, I feel very tense. Immediately, I set out for my home in Kochi. I am able to bear this disappointment only when I am in the company of my wife and children.”

Actor Mukesh has a less intense reaction on the day of a film’s release. “I don’t have much anxiety,” he says. “Of course in films where I play the hero I do feel nervous. Sometimes, when I have played a role differently, I will be curious to know what the audience reaction is going to be.”

For Mukesh, it is only by Monday that he will judge whether a film has done well or not. “I don’t take into account Saturday or Sunday, because people usually go to see films on the weekend, but on Monday I will know for certain whether the film has succeeded or failed,” he says.

Singer M.G. Sreekumar does not follow any rituals for the success of a song that he has rendered for a film. “For a song to be a hit, a lot depends on the picturisation, the music, and the lyrics,” he says. “There also has to be good direction, powerful acting, and a strong script.”

However, if the song becomes popular, Sreekumar is euphoric. “It is similar to the delivery of a baby,” he says. “After nine months when a woman gives birth, she feels a sense of achievement and satisfaction. That is the same feeling I get when a song becomes a hit.”

If the song is not appreciated, Sreekumar puts the blame on fate. “Sometimes, the song is very good, but the picturisation is poor,” he says. “Or the film is a flop. Then the song might not do well.”

Of course, the industry, in every language, all over the world is looking for three letters to be attached to every film: HIT! But, unfortunately, nobody has any idea of what works, and what does not.

Mukesh tells a story. He had acted in a film called ‘Kouthuka Varthakal’. When he saw the preview in Chennai, he realised it was going to be a flop. So he decided to stay back a few days more in Chennai because he did not want to face the people after a failure.

“However, three days later I got calls from several friends in Kerala asking me why I was not coming to celebrate,” he says. The film had become a huge hit.

So, there is no guarantee which film will do well or not. “The reason is simple,” says Mukesh. “The evaluation is done by ordinary people.”

Director Siby Malayil agrees: “The audience, a mass of people, is doing the judging. We are unable to know their tastes, interests, likes or dislikes. We can only hope that they will enjoy watching the films we make. If they do, you have a hit. Otherwise, it is a flop.”

Suresh Kumar, who has produced more than 30 films, says that in his career the hit to flop ratio is 50-50. “Sometimes, despite the presence of superstars and a good script, the film will fail,” he says.

Actor Jagadish says there are several reasons why a film does not do well. “If four good films are released at the same time, only two will succeed,” he says. “The others will become failures even if they are good.” Sometimes, a spell of bad weather can damage a film’s prospects. Or school examinations, a sudden bandh, or the season when the temple at Sabarimala is open for devotees.

Because of this highly unpredictable reaction, the industry depends a lot on superstitions to ensure success. “For many years, an entire film would not be shot at Munnar because it was considered to be bad luck,” says Jagadish. But that myth got shattered when Siby Malayil’s ‘Summer in Bethlehem’, which was shot exclusively in Munnar, became a blockbuster hit.

The scenic location of Thodupuzha was a no-no for a long time. But it got a thumbs-up, when director Sathyan Anthikad shot his hit, ‘Rasathanthram’, starring Mohanlal and Meera Jasmine, there.

But no matter where a film is made, in Kerala, every morning, before the day’s shoot, everybody takes part in one ritual. “A coconut is broken and a prayer is said, and everybody participates, whether they are Hindus, Muslims or Christians,” says Jagadish. “It creates a good mood, and gives a chance for everybody to get in touch with God.”

And pray for a hit also.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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