In January this year, a film about five students representing their college in an international talent competition, made by a debut director with an ensemble cast of fresh faces, collected close to Rs 40 crore. In May, another film, which explores how far a young boy will go to protect his friends, grossed close to Rs 50 crore. Apart from their success stories and the fact that they were both made with debutant actors, the films — Yaariyan and Heropanti, respectively — have one more thing in common — at their centre is the youth.
Heropanti director Sabbir Khan views this as an indication of the huge gap in the market in terms of content for young adults. “They are looking for stories that are entertaining and they can connect with. They often watch the same films multiple times for a lack of options,” says Khan.
Filmmakers, however, are waking up to this fact and attempts are being made to create content for this audience. Recently, films such as Purani Jeans and Kabir Sadanand-directed Fugly have also attempted to explore these worlds. In July, Illuminati Films’ Lekar Hum Deewana Dil will tell the story of a married couple in their early twenties dealing with the consequences of their decisions.
Such content, Fugly’s producer Ashvini Yardi believes, is the need of the hour. “The older generation was loyal, if they liked a certain star, they would watch all his or her movies. Nearly 70 per cent of the multiplex audience in India comprises youth. They are quick with their decisions and exposed to a variety of content on the internet. We need to churn out fresh concepts all the time,” says Yardi, who was the Programming Head at Colors TV channel before she launched her production house Grazing Goat Pictures with actor Akshay Kumar.
Each of these films has been made with rank newcomers. If Purani Jeans had Rati Agnihotri’s son Tanuj Virwani, a debutant, in the lead, Fugly was boxer Vijendra Singh’s first film — apart from casting a bunch of other new actors — and Heropanti served as the launchpad for Jackie Shroff’s son, Tiger. “The audience can no longer be taken for granted. If a film revolves around a 20-year-old, you have to cast actors who look the part,” says Dinesh Vijan, who cast Armaan Jain in his production, Lekar Hum Deewana Dil.
Working with newcomers, on one hand, reduces a film’s cost, thereby cutting the risk on investment. On the other hand, it takes a lot of work on the part of directors and producers to ready their actors before they even face the camera for the first time.
When Khan first met Tiger, the latter had a shoulder-length curly mane and a physique fit for a bodybuilder. The director chose to focus on Tiger’s unconventional looks and eyes, which, he felt, stood out for their earnestness and worked for the character he wanted Tiger to play. “It took nine months to prep him. In that time, I exposed him to cinema from across the world, acting techniques and conducted all kinds of grooming workshops,” says Khan.
Yaariyan director Divya Khosla Kumar explains that the newcomers display potential but their energies need honing. “Even aspects such as body language and walk need to be brought in tune with that of the character’s,” she says, adding that it is best if the off-screen personality of the debut actors is closer to that of the character they are to play.
Of the four films that have released, none has found endorsement in film reviews. Yet, the youth has queued up at the box office for tickets. Purani Jeans and Fugly haven’t been able to match the earnings of Yaariyan and Heropanti but this, say Khan and Khosla Kumar, isn’t going to deter filmmakers from attempting the genre. “Bollywood has only a handful of A-list stars who can’t act in more than two films each year. This has compelled the industry to create new stars using fresh content,” says Yardi.