A short film on how Shah Rukh Khan’s DDLJ transformed lives during historic run at Maratha Mandir is trending on social media

Novelist Pankaj Dubey’s short film looks into the unprecedented run of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge at Maratha Mandir and how it changed the lives of those living in the murky lanes of surrounding red-light area

By Manishaa R

Celebrated novelist and former BBC journalist, Pankaj Dubey, had never quite contemplated making a film on the iconic Maratha Mandir cinema, until his attention was drawn to an incident that set him thinking.  Dubey who had tracked some of the best international stories, during his stint with the BBC, received a call from a journalist friend working in Sydney three years ago, about protests happening outside Maratha Mandir. The protests were from crowds, who were upset about the management’s decision to discontinue the screening of the classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge on February 19, 2015, after completing an unprecedented 1009 week run at the celebrated theatre. That’s when Dubey decided to go out to Marathi Mandir and explore the truth, “I was aware of the fact that the theatre had many firsts to its credit in the history of cinema, including the fact that Maratha Mandir had hosted the premier of Mughal-E-Azam, when elephants were used to bring the prints of the film. Apart from the protests, it intrigued me about how a cult classic like DDLJ continued to draw packed houses in the matinee show for close to two decades.”

When he ventured out to decode the success of the film and its die-hard audiences, Dubey was taken aback, “What I came across was an eye-opener. I noticed that Maratha Mandir was situated in an area, behind which lay the second most densely populated red light area in India. When I delved deeper in the protests, I realized that this Shah Rukh Khan movie had made a great difference to the lives of several sex workers, who lived a hopeless existence in the dark and dismal lanes of Kamathipur.”

The prolific novelist soon noted that there was a strong social-cultural connect in the historic success of the film at the iconic theatre, which had celebrated many a jubilee, “I found out that these sex workers would regularly patronize the morning show of the cult classic every day all decked up, making it housefull and then disappear into their murky trade in the dark lanes. Those few hours would transport them into the world of romance and happiness which they cherished. They followed this practice religiously for 19 years and continue to do so even today after 22 years, after the management decided to resume the screening,” Dubey revealed.

I found out that these sex workers would regularly patronize the morning show of the cult classic every day and then disappear into their murky trade in the dark lanes”- Novelist and filmmaker Pankaj Dubey

This insight of a longest running classic at a famous theatre being instrumental in transforming several lives, led Dubey to take his first step into direction and make a short film. However the paucity of funds was a hurdle and that’s when his good old friend, veteran actress, Sarika came in, “Sarika had inaugurated my first book and I approached her for a very pivotal role in the film. I told her that I would pitch it to people who could come on board to produce the film but she offered to produce it. I also got another friend, famed Hindi movie writer and lyricist, Swanand Kirkire, to play a fantastic role in the film and it turned out to an engrossing fare,” Dubey recalled.

Moreover, he was thrilled when Manoj Desai, executive director of Maratha Mandir, went out of his way to help in the making of the film, “Manoj Desai did not even charge a single rupee for shooting in the real locations of his theatre. He is also a father figure to Sarika and has known her for a long time. He made sure that we faced no problems in the making of the film.”

Titled Maratha Mandir cinema, the short film which has been nominated for the Filmfare People’s Choice Awards, has got more than a record number of 1,30,000 views online so far. Irrespective of whether the film finally makes it, Dubey admitted that he is glad that he took the decision of making his directorial debut, “It is a tribute to Maratha Mandir, Yashraj Films and Shah Rukh Khan. I am quite kicked about it and am glad that I am bringing this to the audiences. I now intend to make all my novels into films. This is just the beginning,” he quipped.


Demonetization-Boon or Bane for Bollywood? Producers and exhibitors react

By Manishaa R

One year after the Government’s abrupt demonetization move stumped the movie-making industry, with business registering an all-time low, producers, distributors and exhibitors in the trade, who struggled for months together to cope up with the acute cash crunch and the idea of a cashless economy, now seem to have come to terms with reality.

Producer and trade film analyst, Rajeev Chaudhari says that despite the initial hiccups, a majority of filmmakers have now got used to the idea of cashless dealings, “It was a tough challenge for filmmakers in the first few months, especially since a majority of dealings were done in cash whether it was paying the spot boys, lightmen, make-up artistes and so on but producers have now settled down to the idea of doing most transactions by cheque. There are hardly any cash dealings today, even when it comes to making payments to the labour class,” Chaudhari insists.

According to him, the demonetization move has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for producers, “That’s because every bit of expense is now accounted for. Earlier the budgets used to go haywire as cash used to be given indiscriminately to production controllers. Cash vouchers would get lost and there was no record. Now we can have a clear idea about the expenses incurred on various heads. Also, you can claim all these expenses while filing returns,” Chaudhari states.

The same cannot be said about the exhibition sector. According to a leading exhibitor who controls several theatres in the interiors of North India and spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Government’s overnight decision dealt a big blow to the single screens, “It was like a bolt from the blue. Business was a total wash-out and we saw our theatres going empty for months together.  I know of quite a few theatres which closed down during this period after running empty since these theatres were patronized by the labour class,” this exhibitor revealed.

“Earlier the budgets used to go haywire as cash used to be given indiscriminately to production controllers. Cash vouchers would get lost and there was no record” – Rajeev Chaudhari

However Nitin Datar, former President and current Executive member of the COEAI (Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India) has a different take, “There was a problem in the beginning for the first few months but slowly and steadily, the collections were stable. Also the problem had more to do with the content of some films. The films which scored on content did score at the box-office. One of the films which beat the demonetization blues was the John Abraham starrer, Force 2.”

According to Datar, the exhibitors should have ideally taken advantage of the facilities extended by the Government for cashless dealings, “They had offered several incentives to encourage the move one of them being installing paytm wallet and digital booking of tickets online. The exhibitors should have availed of it,” Datar avers adding that some exhibitors are actually finding it a better way of transacting.

“One of the films which beat the demonetization blues was the John Abraham starrer, Force 2” – Nitin Datar, Former President, COEAI

Exhibitor Manoj Desai has the last word, “I don’t deny that demonetization cut severely into the business of films but the bigger problem for the box-office is the rampant piracy that is cutting into the business. Demonetization is just one of the problem but there are bigger issues that need to be looked into,” Desai quips.


I and A.R. Rahman treasure every moment of our creative collaboration, says ace sound designer Resul Pookutty

The two are teaming up once again for Rajnikanth’s Robot 2

By Manishaa R

They are both Oscar winners and celebrated names on the international circuit and they are both reverred in their respective fields. Few people are however aware about the equation that ace music composer, A.R. Rahman and legendary sound designer, Resul Pookutty share with each other in real life. While Bollywood celebrities were busy catching up with each other to make the best of Friendship Day on August 7, sound engineer Resul Pookutty was reminded of his close friend Rahman in Chennai, with whom he has shared a great camaraderie over the years.  “We are more like brothers than friends. When we work together we don’t know whether we are working together as colleagues, brothers or as simply as a sound-designer and music composer but we treasure every moment of our creative collaboration in reel and real life,” recalls Pookutty, adding that they are once again teaming up in the forthcoming Rajnikanth film, Robot 2.

The bonding between A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty began way back in Slumdog Millionaire, after which they worked together in Ghajini, Blue, Robot and several other films. “We never met each other during Slumdog though I recommended Rahman for the film. Danny Boyle and I would travel from one location to the other when the film was being planned and he would listen to some of the finest Indian music. One day he played 28 tracks out of which 22 turned out to be Rahman’s. I told him that he was the Mozart of Chennai, India and advised him to meet Rahman if he was planning for an Indian composer. That’s how it all began.”

Subsequently they developed a great rapport with each other over the years, According to  Pookutty, “When we work in a film together, I move my entire studio to his studio in Chennai, after which he keeps scoring music through the night and I mix it during the day. It is one of the best camaraderie that I have ever shared with anyone. The best part is that we work with a great creative understanding without exchanging a single word.” So much so that during the making of Blue, they came to be known as the formidable ‘Blue Brothers’.  According to Pookutty, their creative pursuits are almost similar so are their thinking patterns, “Whenever we meet, I always realise that Rahman and think similarly and ideate in parallel patterns whether it is writing scripts, planning projects, planning a sound school or even getting into production.”  More interestingly Pookutty also considers Rahman as his spiritual guru, “I have never been a very religious person and religion never played an important role in my life but it was Rahman who prodded me to start doing rojas in 2010. He felt it was the best way to thank God.”

The two would now be spending a lot of time together in the days ahead when they work on Rajnikanth’s Robot 2 and Pookutty is looking forward to it. More recently he flew down to Chennail to meet Rahman when he learnt that Rahman’s mother was ailing. “We caught up over our work and spent a lot of time together. Some friendships are there for keeps and I feel I am blessed to have his company.”