As an ardent cinegoer, what rocks my boat is (sometimes brilliant) films I get to watch week after week. But this year, nine months have passed and I haven’t seen a film that either comforts me, or disturbs me. As a person who watches films for a living, it is highly disappointing to not remember one great film from 2017 that came and left an impact on my heart and soul.
Films with megastars have not been able to please their fans this year. I have either seen mediocre films or ones where the actor shines and the narrative doesn’t.
Recently, Kangna Ranaut’s Simran was stuck in a dichotomy of sorts: the narrative is so bland and the actor is just terrific. But here’s a pressing question. Do we worship the act or the actor?
As I watched Simran, the backlash of the writing credits was running in my mind and I thought to myself: who actually wrote the film? Can the brilliance of an actor’s performance disguise mediocre filmmaking?
The multi-faceted actor, director, singer, producer Farhan Akhtar absolutely doesn’t believe in this statement. He doesn’t buy into the idea that a brilliant performance can save a sinking boat.
Another film which looks delicious is the upcoming Chef, starring Saif Ali Khan directed by Raja Krishna Menon. As I keep my fingers crossed about the fate of the film, I probe him about performances and filmmaking, and he says
“That depends on how you define filmmaking, doesn’t it? A brilliant performance often is related not only to that particular performer but to the entire environment created. I define a brilliant performance as one that is consistent to the character and the story in which that character exists.”
A point well made, isn’t it? Many actors who refer to themselves as ‘director’s actors’ are called lazy. So if we turn around the situation, is depending only on the actor for a film’s brilliance a little unfair?
R Balki — who has made the wonderful Paa with the ever so inspiring Amitabh Bachchan and is amidst making Padman with Akshay Kumar — feels,
“Brilliant performance is also a part of filmmaking.”
But as audiences, we want to watch a wholesome film which doesn’t see-saw between technicality and instead warms the heart. The last time that happened was the end of last year, with Aamir Khan’s Dangal.
On this, Raj Nidimoru says,
“When you put a brilliant actor on stage, there’s usually no director or set design or music or any film elements around. And she/he will still win your heart. When you look at all the great films made, they always have brilliant performances first. Then comes film-making. So yeah, you could make a mediocre film or leave the camera unattended if you’d like and a great actor will carry the film.”
Is it the actor’s objective to successfully accomplish all acting tasks and deliver a successful scene or could the actor’s goal be to allow the character to exist so profoundly and fully that acting techniques disappear?
Homi Adhijania, someone who takes the approach of a Gabriel García Márquez novel in his films, answers this tough question:
“A brilliant performance can definitely help disguise a mediocre screenplay as it serves as a distraction. Case in point being how Deepika’s (Padukone) adept portrayal of Veronica lifted Cocktail’s predictable narrative. But when it comes to technically mediocre filmmaking, it’s tough to disguise that if the basics of visual storytelling are missing to begin with. When the audience experiences the overall picture, any performance can’t be isolated from the rest of the film, so a brilliant performance won’t matter in terms of the audience’s overall takeaway.”
When you are a director on a film set, juggling egos and creative energies of so many people, the stakes are very high.
Meghna Gulzar is one such director who brings out the toughest of nuances with ease in her actors and she disagrees with what is written above. She strongly sticks to her guns and adds,
“Nothing can disguise mediocre filmmaking. But mediocre filmmaking can certainly compromise a brilliant performance.”
The year that has gone by has certainly been a forgetful one for the film business and the only film that might be able to change the game could be Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor. But then again, will it just be good performances taking the film forward, or will it shake the system that seems like it has been sleeping all year long? Only time will tell.
The article was first published on Firstpost.