Earler I had written a post about Swades & the state of the Indian film industry as a whole, in this blog. I had said then that some channels & crititcs were competing with each other to tell us how bad Swades really is. This article looks behind the scenes of a shady game played by some vested interests to tarnish Swades & also makes it clear on what triggered this bad reviews.
If someone dares to be different and succeeds, some film industry folks have so much of a problem that they calmour to pull him down. It's another thing that they can't dare to be different, and stick to their sole formula and inflict the audiences with similar mushy romances year after year. For someone who's made 'Lagaan', which went to the oscars, Ashutosh Gowariker is braving the storm of detractors who're hell-bent on running his 'Swades' down, in favour of a slow & boring 'Veer-Zaara'.
Veer Zaara was Yash Chopra's directorial venture after a gap of 7 years. At the same time 'Swades' was being made & they never wanted it to be such tough competition to their magnum opus. And this seems to have instigated the vested interests to raise their ugly heads & dub 'Swades' as a box-office dud. They launced a vilified campaign against 'Swades' and a massive promotional one for 'Veer-Zaara', which includes putting colour ads in newspapers claiming how 'well' the film has done at the box-office. It doesn't make any difference to them that in reality, Veer Zaara was actually being shown in half-emptyhalls.
According to reports, it's the media-savvy guys at Yash Raj Films & Dharma Productions who're controlling the course of these reports that 'Swades' has bitten the dust at the box-office. Probably beacause somewhere along the way, they realised Ashutosh was making a superior film than theirs. And this is something that wasn't acceptable to them, that an upstart could race ahead of them on sheer merit of sicerity, hard work and belief in his subject. And that also, minus the hype & hoopla that their names generated each time their ventures were ready for release.
Yash Raj Films released their Veer-Zaara with a record 700 prints. There were reports about how they were muscling the multiplex owners to screen atleast 8 shows daily, leaving little or no chance for the other releases. Going by this strategy, it's not difficult to interpret that the production company was not too optimistic about this love story running for weeks. But Yashraj Films was not going to allow their film to be labeled a disaster, which it actually was. So a concerted campaign was launched to hype 'Veer-Zaara' to the extent that it would get hammered into people's heads that even if the film was not a hit, atleast it was on safe ground. And the only other film that could steal the thunder from it was 'Swades', so it was conveniently victimised by this movie mafia.
When 'Swades' finally hit the screens, it garnered a positive response, both at the ticket counters and with the critics. Some even called it "the best film of the year". But the industry, or should we say certain sections of the industry, were not happy with this development. And so, the anti-'Swades' mission was initiated. Sadly for them, it didn't make an iota of difference to the audience at large. Even as these insecure few continued bitching about the film, 'Swades' continued drawing the audience. As Jaymin Panchal, the manager of Inox multiplex in Mumbai says, " It's such a great movie. With every passing day, crowds are increasing. We have the last show that starts at 10:45 & even that is going packed". The GM of E-Square multiplex in Pune says, "It's a movie for the classes. It's doing great since its release. The collections in the first week were 98% and the status of advance booking is tight for the coming weeks too".
On his part, Ashutosh was hopeful that the audiences would respond to an honest film & the collections would prove the point. But there wasn't much he could do to stop his detractors from damaging his film.
This tells us why the critics & movie channels were competing with each other to give bad reviews to Swades. Also the music channels always placed Veer Zaara's songs ahead of A.R.Rahman's touching & soulful songs in the song rating shows, even when Swades audio was selling like hot cakes. I remember the report shown on Headlines Today on next day of Swades's release, in which they said the collections were bad. Also, that jughead critic Taran Adarsh was saying it's a really bad movie. He's the same man who hailed the mediocre "Veer Zaara" & "Rok Sako To Rok Lo" as classics. This was the same thing that happened to Mani Ratnam's "Aayita Ezhuthu" last year. So this shows that we should no longer believe these reviews & reports of eminent critics. It's for us to decide if the movie is good or bad.....
NB:-Parts of this article are from the February 2005 issue of Stardust.
Your Crusader, Praveen