Vasan Bala, is currently basking in the critical acclaim that comes his way Netflix movie Monica O My Darling, is back with an unscripted docuseries titled Cinema Marte Dum Tak that takes viewers back to the B-movie era. Vasan is aware that the meaty cinema is the fodder of social media memes, but claims that even that kind of filmmaking has a lot to learn. Feeling inspired by their passion to make movies in minimal time and budget, he also shares his story of how he was introduced to the world of B movies as a kid. Read also: Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota makes Toronto history, see comments
In the Amazon Original reality docu-series Cinema Marte Dum Tak, the filmmaker brings four ingenious filmmakers from the 90s: J Neelam, Vinod Talwar, Dilip Gulati and Kishan Shah to recreate the fascinating and thriving world on screen. He spoke to Hindustan Times about the new concept and everything worth mentioning about the era. fragments:
What is the concept behind Cinema Marte Dum Tak?
There were so many different types of filmmakers and so many markets for movies in the 80s and 90s. With the advent of apps, it’s a level playing field now. Speaking of meaty cinema, it’s the world that exists on the periphery, but nobody really knows much about. It brought in a lot of money and at one point had a huge impact. We were very intrigued and went back to that movie theater – the industry that you know exists but you don’t know much about. So we decided to dive deep and bring them to the forefront, understand who they are and why they do what they do. We got into the really meaty, underground movie theater that existed in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s almost died with the advent of the multiplexes.
Are we talking B movies here?
Yes, it’s a term we use loosely. Here we call them B-class, in Hollywood they are called B-movies. They’ve become really cool in Hollywood because they’re the blockbuster movies. We prefer to call them meaty cinema, we don’t look down on them, but capture the essence of what they pursue, for instant gratification.
The current generation laughs at such videos, their glimpses are mainly seen as memes on social media.
Our responsibility wasn’t to look at them that way and stay away from judgments, show them in real light, which would probably be an interesting conversation with the eventual viewer and got them laughing. After they get to know them, they can probably create a certain kind of empathy or understanding for who these people are. The show failed to capitalize on the industry’s spoof value. The viewers are allowed to have their own opinion about it.
You’re moving away from that era of meaty cinema.
The biggest win was how efficient they were at finishing their movies. They could have one white wall and 50% of their film could be shot on that one wall. That was a great learning experience, telling a story is not about the premises or the background, but it is what a maker wants to do. In that sense, they were so efficient. All of these filmmakers are great editors. When actors aren’t around for the shoot, they just make sure through editing that you feel like they’re all in the same room interacting with each other at the same time. While one actor would have given only half a day to shoot, the other would have given 3 days after 3 months. And all in one movie. Sometimes it makes perfect sense and sometimes it makes no sense. But the fact that they tried and had an ambition is what is so fascinating about this world, which we try to show through the series.
Is there a tip you’ve picked up from making this docuseries that you’d like to incorporate into your own style of filmmaking?
Of course, I’ve only made movies like this. My first movie, Peddlers, I tried to get under €60 lakh. There was no money so we painted the same wall over and over again. If you’re desperate to tell a story and have no resources, these are the movie theater hacks to use. It’s heartwarming to know that cinema is such a great equalizer where you have to use your mind and tell a story. Even the greatest filmmakers must have used these techniques when they started out in the industry. James Cameron, when he made The Terminator, he should have used these techniques.
How would you describe the films you saw in your childhood?
I discovered them (pulpy cinema) through VHS. If we were going to rent the Ramsay Brothers movies and they were already rented, the VHS guy would push these movies and say ‘these are horror too, actors look alike’. This is how you discover a kind of Harinam Singh or Mohan Bhakri. These are the movies you got when Ramsay movies weren’t available.
In 2008, Richa Chadha held screenings of these films in her home like Harinam Singh’s Khooni Dracula and discussed and let her friends watch them. That tribe was always there. There’s a nice group of people who invest in them, watch them, talk about them, and take their passion for seeking them out very seriously. In certain centers, these films made more money than a Subhash Ghai film. Gunda exploded and became the most successful pulp.
Today, objections are raised against almost every film. Can these movies be made today without the censorship commission ordering multiple cuts?
Then they had the same problem. Did couple of jod ke reel bachate them (they would beg to save their movie roles). Sometimes they would go with a two hour movie and come back with a half hour movie. Now the connotations have become much more different.
Can such films now be released in theaters without protest?
Jisko halla karna hai wo to karenge hello. Log tabhi halla karte hain jab koi bada insan juda hota hai. Chhote mote logo mein headline banegi nahi (Those who want to shout will shout. People only make noise when a big name is associated with it. Focusing on small names doesn’t make headlines). It’s not really the morals they propagate, it’s the name they go by. The noise is not for the content, but for their own names. They are on the apps. Jiskoheera dhundna hota hai wo dhundh lega (Those who seek the diamond find it).
You just directed Monica O My Darling, which had so many interesting Easter eggs.
There were also Easter eggs in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, but people didn’t pay much attention to them. Easter eggs should always be in the background, not in the foreground. It’s a surprise, not part of the story as such. It won’t affect the way you watch the movie. When you notice them, there is an extra layer of interaction. Easter eggs are for me, for those who discover them there is a connection.
Your films become cult over time. Can these films do better commercially?
I’m so far from commercially evaluating anything. Main bhi bangley mein rah raha hota (I would have lived in a bungalow), which I am not. i have no knowledge. What I know are my movies and stories I want to tell. I don’t know about the business side. Commercially, I have no idea. How things work and how they should be put together. I like the creative side more and am just protective of them.