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Box-office jingoism: The Hindi film industry is facing its ugliest Diwali in years

Posted on Oct 14 2016 - 10:31pm
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Before militants attacked an Army camp in Uri last month, the October 28 release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was being regarded as a multiplex-friendly movie, while Shivaay – which is also slated to be released on the same day – was seen as being better suited to the single screens.

The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India appears to have forced this perception to become reality. The association, which represents 450-odd single screen establishments in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa, announced on Friday that it has directed its members to not screen movies featuring Pakistani, singers or musicians. The immediate casualty of the decision is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Pakistani star Fawad Khan.

“It is not a ban – we have suspended the release of all such films,” Datar told Scroll.in. “We have taken this decision keeping public sentiment in mind. The public is angry, and we have only respected their feelings. We have not taken this decision under any political pressure.”

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Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, which has made Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, has not officially responded to the controversy.

The exhibitors’ association is framing its decision as a response to the September 18 Uri attack that left 19 soldiers dead. In the aftermath, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party – which has its headquarters in Mumbai, the nerve centre of the Hindi film industry – has repeatedly asked for Pakistani actors to leave the country. Over the past few days, the party has reiterated its decision to oppose Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

So it wasn’t surprising that Amey Khopkar, the head of the party’s film wing, Chitrapat Kamgar Sena, expressed support for the stance adopted by the exhibitors’ association.

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The move comes weeks after the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association banned Pakistani actors and technicians from working in India. IMPPA later clarified that the ban was applicable to future projects and not completed films such as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Raees, which has Pakistani actress Mahira Khan as the heroine. The president of IMPAA, TP Aggarwal, reiterated this position on Friday.

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Datar said that nationalist sentiment was more important than commerce. “So many films with Pakistani actors and singers in them are being reshot,” he said, suggesting that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil should take the same expensive route. “What is more important, patriotism or making money?”

The diktat against Pakistani artists will hold even if state governments assure cinema owners of protection against attacks, said Sharad Doshi, a member of the exhibitors’ association who was present at Friday’s meeting. The association has previously highlighted the problems faced by owners of single-screen theatres, such as high taxes and falling footfalls. “We have to start somewhere to support our country, our nation and our soldiers,” said Doshi. “Let them reshoot the film [Ae Dil Hai Mushkil] and substitute the stars.”

No government can assure protection against violence, he added. “We don’t have the machinery to stop attacks,” Doshi said. “You cannot prevent 100 people from buying tickets and entering the cinemas and creating a ruckus. And if the public sees policemen standing out a cinema, they won’t enter it anyway.”

‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’.

Much is at stake for both Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay. The films are being released during Diwali, an extremely lucrative period for the industry. Ajay Devgn, the director and producer of Shivaay, had announced the release date before Johar’s Dharma Productions, and his anger at having to share his business with Johar resulted in an ugly public spat involving allegations of corruption.

Both films will appeal to different, if overlapping, sections of the audience. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a romance, while Shivaay is an action thriller in the mould of the Liam Neeson starrer Taken. Until the Uri attack, the industry feeling was that both films could co-exist happily . The trade logic was that Shivaay would be programmed more heavily in single screens, while Ae Di Hai Mushkil would dominate multiplex screens. The decision by the exhibitors’ association will force this division into place at least in the cities in which the organisation holds sway.

The directive comes a week after exhibitors in Delhi pointed out that they would incur heavy losses if they had to drop Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The movie’s trailer has proven popular, and its songs have been chart-toppers. “It’s a Karan Johar film – isn’t the investment in the movie that of an Indian?” a theatre owner told the Times of India newspaper. “We will show the film in our cinemas across all territories unless there is a blanket ban on the film or the government decides to stop screening of all such films. Unless we find ourselves in such an impossible situation, the films will be screened.”

‘Shivaay’.

The statement of the exhibitors’ association is carefully worded, since only the courts and the Central Board of Film Certification can ban films, pointed out Akshaye Rathi, a prominent distributor and exhibitor in Maharashtra. “The association has made this decision to protect its members,” Rathi said. “At a personal level, I am all for not working with Pakistani artists from now on, but do not punish Indian filmmakers and studios who made these films at a time when ties between India and Pakistan were cordial. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was made when there were talks going on between the countries, so it is wrong now to punish the filmmakers for it. Don’t work with Pakistani artists any more, and don’t issue them visas, but why punish Indians?”

The row that ensued after the announcements of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and IMPAA diktats will only get uglier. Very few industry representatives are willing to speak out against the bans for fear of being seen as unpatriotic. Those who have, including Salman Khan and Mahesh Bhatt, have been pilloried for their remarks. Others, such as Devgn and Akshay Kumar, have taken care to declare their political leanings and publicly declare their support for the strike on Pakistan.

The only IMPPA member to speak out against the ban was the president’s son. Producer Rahul Aggarwal resigned from IMPPA and put out a Facebook post that criticised the decision. Rahul Aggarwal is still talking to his father, he told Scroll.in, but they have both declined requests to appear on television shows together.

Aggarwal remains opposed to the ban, and said that his position seems to have persuaded IMPPA to at least clarify that its decision does not apply to completed projects such as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees. “It is a small step, but it is something,” he told Scroll.in. “Forget Pakistani artists for a moment, their numbers are truly insignificant. Think of the Indians whose blood and sweat have gone into these movies. They too are members of the same film industry.”

Aggarwal also warned that bans and directives will only fuel communal politics. “Look at what has happened to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who could not appear in a Ramlila production in his home town,” Aggarwal said. “Do we really need all this at this point?”

Luxury living conjures an idea of opulence and excess, but is increasingly becoming more about seeing design as a solution, form following function, and innovation. Our panel of experts sheds light on what constitutes luxury in an Indian home.

Response to context

Pallavi Choksi of Pinakin Design points out astutely that “Real luxury is the luxury to waste space, especially in a place like Bombay.” Her view finds resonance with Hadi Teherani, the much decorated German-Iranian architect. He says, “Luxury is first and foremost to have space, not just enough for what you need but enough space to really thrive. And luxury has always been defined that way.”

But is space all there is to a luxury home? Location or context also plays an important role.

“Context is very important”, says Rajiv Saini, who runs one of India’s leading design practices and specializes in high-end luxury projects. “Volume, air and purity of space all come into play—if it is in the hills or in the plains.” So, the location of the property and the way the house responds to it is equally crucial.

Hiren Patel, of Hiren Patel Architects agrees. He laments, “We live in a temperature controlled cocoon with artificial lighting and for these comforts we have lost our connection with nature.” The work he looks up to is of Charles Correa and Geoffrey Bawa, architects whose design brought the environment in. “Charles Correa—his design was climate adaptive and absolutely connected to nature. And he still brought in luxurious touches with open terraces. And Geoffrey Bawa—he added the aspect of landscape and took us back to the pastoral.”

Hadi Teherani reiterates the idea of context. In his Mumbai-based luxury project, the Lodha Altamount, he has chosen to respond to Mumbai’s graph-like skyline. “The design of Altamount was strongly influenced by its location. Next to Altamount stands a luxury highlight of architecture, the Ambani tower, the most expensive home in the world. How do you want to top that? The Ambani tower is very structural. It shoots through the air, it combines all sorts of crafts and structural design elements with gaps and open spaces. You can’t top that and definitely not with our type of design. That’s why we decided to hold back and instead develop a dark and sleek building. That type of building doesn’t exist a lot here in India. Usually buildings have many structural elements like beams and balconies. By creating a calm building in the skyline of Mumbai, we will make Altamount stand out.”

LODHA Altamount, Mumbai - image courtesy LODHA The Luxury CollectionLODHA Altamount, Mumbai – image courtesy LODHA The Luxury Collection

Going desi

Responsiveness to context can also be seen in the way architects and designers are trying to incorporate Indian designs or specific Indian requirements in their structures. There is a definite Indian palate that denotes neo-luxury even as we get more globalized. Our homes reflect our identity, regional or national, and there are multiple ways of getting it right.

Pallavi Choksi at Pinakin Design LLP explains, “The difference is in layout design because often times you have more than one generation living in one house, so the major difference comes from family structure.”

Luxury living spaces are also defined by non-material considerations. Hadi Teherani tells us, “What I do experience is that many projects are influenced by religious thoughts and by Vaastu, something like Feng shui. So the master bedroom has to be in the south-west and the kitchen has to have a certain location. Those rules need to be followed exactly. In Mumbai, it’s a little more liberal but in other regions, Hyderabad for instance, every centimetre has to be exact as per Vaastu.”

Functional design

Common wisdom holds that functionality is the foundation stone of design today. But is it still true for luxury design which has come to be associated with the need to stand out rather than be useful? And by that virtue, is there a threat of functional design losing the sheen of luxury by its simplicity?

Rajat Sodhi, the director of the architecture and design practice Orproject, counters, “Functionality has become a misnomer for ‘cheap’. You can build a w/c for a minimum cost and as the functions offered with it increase, so does the cost.” Function and luxury go hand in hand. “Sensibility in design is what makes the difference, between functional and luxurious.” Kota Stone is the cheapest stone available, but if you reinterpret it, use it with inlay work, it can be a bespoke luxurious experience.

Uncharted territory

So how will luxury architecture in India shape up in the years to come? Mridula Sharma, Editor-in-Chief at Decoration International Magazine observes, “Luxury has moved over from Italian marble and imported fixtures and has become about how you are redefining Indian things. Something smart, Indian, and contemporary with a strong concept behind it—that’s luxury”.

But perhaps there is still much to be explored in the space of luxury homes in India. Hadi Teherani says, “The idea of really designing your bathroom or kitchen has not yet reached India. Bathrooms are still rather compact and practical since the idea of spending quality time in your bathroom doesn’t seem to exist yet. Customers definitely do not request a spacious bathroom when we discuss their projects. For me, personally, a great bathroom is extremely important, as it is the first thing you use in the morning. Afterwards you go to work, and you come back home. But I believe the areas that you use most need to have enough space for you to move and thrive in.”

With just a single residence per floor and a host of bespoke luxury services, Lodha Altamount is the epitome of unrestricted luxury. Designed by some of the finest international names like Hadi Teherani and Rajiv Saini and a part of the Lodha Luxury Collection that has homes present at only the globe’s most-coveted locations, the Lodha Altamount in South Mumbai is the last word in luxury in India. For more information, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Lodha Luxury by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff

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Box-office jingoism: The Hindi film industry is facing its ugliest Diwali in years was last modified: October 14th, 2016 by greendecker
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