No One Delivers a Message Wrapped In a Fun Story Like Raju Hirani
Birthday boy Rajkumar Hirani always delivers a social message wrapped in a whole lot of fun.
Hindi cinema oscillates between two extremes now. One extreme believes in the cynicism of our increasingly dystopian world, and the other, like a patriarch refusing to change, adheres to the good old formula of song and dance induced dramas with the belief that the audience still wants an escape from their troubled daily life. Do the two ends ever meet? Mostly no, except perhaps for one exception.
The exception is Rajkumar Hirani. The man behind the Munnabhai series, 3 Idiots and PK. Hirani brings a distinct flavour to his movies, a pack of delight and glitter in the good old formula of entertainment.
When he made the first two Munnabhai movies, he didn’t carry the weight of a blockbuster maker. He brought inventive ideas like a ‘gangster in a medical school’ or ‘gangster meets Mahatma Gandhi’, and served social messages wrapped in an engaging story. Hirani not only served the bitter pill with a humorous tinge, he also created catchphrases like ‘Jaadu Ki Jhappi’ and ‘Gandhigiri’. It caught on like wildfire; the audience laughed, and became aware of a new director. Then things started getting a little wide awake.
Unlike his first two films which had Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi, not such megastars in the pantheon of the Bollywood galaxy, the next one took a mighty star, Aamir Khan, on board. By the time 3 Idiots came out, it rode on very high expectations, but Hirani being Hirani delivered another success, his biggest so far. But there was a problem. 3 Idiots didn’t have the natural fluidity of his earlier two, and carried a construct so conscious that you can see the tropes from afar. It made a 40 plus Aamir play a teenager and was cognisant of the fact that it has to justify the might of the Khan. So Khan became an invincible, know-it-all fellow dishing out wisdom and wit in wholesale rate. Both the Munnabhais had men in tears, and it was splendid, but in 3 Idiots, it was a flood. By the time PK came about, we knew how Hirani had fallen for the box office, no longer the creative beast that carried the beauty within.
Hirani, a self confessed Hrishikesh Mukherjee fan, is still one of the best talents we have in our cinema today. Perhaps he should look back to his guru’s films, and take a leaf out of them, and tell us a story that is heartfelt and genuine, and not a rider of tropes. The Sanjay Dutt biopic and the third instalment of the Munnabhai series are up next, and we are hopeful.
P.S.- Did you know that Raju Hirani actually wanted to be an actor? Remember him in this old adhesive commercial from Doordarshan days? Yup, that’s him! This was him trying his luck as an actor.
(The writer is a journalist and a screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. Follow him on Twitter: @RanjibMazumder)
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