From the impact of ’90s cult classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), 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 titled 50 Films That Changed Bollywood (Rs 400) at Delhi’s India International Centre on Tuesday was marked by these talking points. The book is a part of the Express Book Series and has been published in collaboration with Harper Collins.
Gupta was in conversation with author and historian Mukul Kesavan, and the two meandered through the various themes associated with Bollywood from 1995-2015. In the book, the published reviews of the 50 chosen films appear, as well as a following chapter 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.”
The book begins with DDLJ, and comprises films such as Aamir Khan-Urmila Matondkar starrer Rangeela, Mira Nair’s wedding drama Monsoon Wedding, Bandit Queen based on the life of Phoolan Devi, Banerjee’s Khosla ka Ghosla, Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi, and ends with Salman Khan’s mega hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Some unlikely names also make it to the coveted list — from Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal, AR Murugadoss’ Ghajini to action blockbuster Dhoom 2.
Gupta had earlier shortlisted 100 films and then “ruthlessly cut them down to 50”. 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 the unrealism of Karan Johar’s NRI-aimed films and hyper-realism of films such as Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya. During the course of the conversation, Gupta often spoke about the time she spent as a part of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), and how that acquainted her with the rigours of actually making a film and getting a certificate. Interestingly, Kesavan and Gupta also delved into topics such as films made by industry outsiders, the kind of television at the time, and the changing geography of the characters. About the role of multiplexes in the nature of films being made today, Gupta said, “If multiplexes didn’t exist, a lot of these films would not exist. It’s not easy to fill a 1000-seater hall, after all. The only filmmaker capable of doing this in India right now is Rajkumar Hirani.”
The book was best summed up by Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, Managing Editor- Harper Collins India, “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.”