From the impact of ’90s cult classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, the mass appeal of filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani to the gritty realism of a Dibakar Banerjee film and the changing language of cinema — the launch of The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta’s book 50 Films That Changed Bollywood at Delhi’s India International Centre was dominated by these topics. The film is a part of the Express Book Series and has been published in collaboration with Harper Collins.
Apart from the official release of the book, Gupta was in a conversation with author and historian Mukul Kesavan, and the two meandered through the various talking points associated with Bollywood from 1995-2015. In the book, the published reviews of the 50 chosen films appear, as well as a following chapter each on the relevance and impact of those films. About revisiting the films, Gupta said, “When I began work on this book, I went through all the films I had reviewed in that period. Each film is a testament of its time. I also realised that the parts that made me happy then in a film still make me happy.”
Gupta had earlier shortlisted 100 films and then “ruthlessly cut it down to 50”. Apart from talking about the ones that made it to the book, she also spoke about the ones she couldn’t include, such as Ishqiya, Masaan and Court. As a part of the discussion, Kesavan also commented on the political nature (or the lack) of it of the films that released in those 20 years. The two also spoke about the parallel existence of unrealism of Karan Johar’s NRI-aimed films and the hyper-realism of Ramgopal Varma’s Satya.
Interestingly, Kesavan and Gupta also delved into topics such as films made by industry outsiders, the kind of television at the time, the role of multiplexes in the nature of films that are now being made, and the changing geography of the characters. The book was best summed up by Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, Managing Editor- Harper Collins India, in his introductory speech, “The book talks about things beyond reviews; and is important because in the last 20 years, there have been more changes in the Hindi film industry, than in the 50 years before that.”