The Punjabi “mundas” and “kudis” — the staple of so many movies — are making way for Marathi “mulgis” and Parsi “dikras” as Hindi films roll out a tapestry showcasing the diversity that is India.
From Parsi and Marathi to Gujarati and Bengali, filmmakers are bringing diverse cultures to the Hindi film firmament. And the credit for this versatility goes to changing tastes and mindsets of the viewers.
Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani is a case in point. Made in Hindi, it had a strong Bengali flavor and was also shot in Kolkata, appealing to audiences so much so that it earned Rs. 75 crore — almost 10 times more than its total cost of Rs. 8 crore.
Lauding the new trend that he believes is a "great time for India cinema", Ghosh said: "We make films with themes we are familiar with. For me, it was easy to write about Bengali culture, as I am a Bengali. Thanks to the audience, they are allowing us to experiment."
Another small budget film, Vicky Donor, wove both Punjabi and Bengali cultures to show an interesting cultural contrast. And it worked.
A film's success is estimated on the basis of its box-office earnings and this Rs. 5-crore project, made by director Shoojit Sircar on an unconventional theme of sperm donation, got the thumbs up from the viewers, earning Rs. 45 crore.
It is a win-win situation for all — the viewer gets fresh stories to watch, directors are able to explore and experiment and producers are laughing all the way to the bank.
Said an excited Sircar: "This is a new trend, which is very fascinating; and the best part is that these films are accepted by the audience. I really appreciate this era. This is a tribute to Indian cinema."
Sanjay Leela Bhansali gave insights into the Gujarati community in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Catholics in Khamoshi – The Musical, Anglo Indians in Black and Bengalis in Devdas. His sister Bela focussed on the Parsi community in her debut film Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi and it was satisfactory, businesswise.
"Parsi community talk is very “bindaas.” They are very bold and sweet. I just picked up this aspect because I wanted to show them as nice and fun-loving people," Bela, whose directorial debut was about a 40-plus Parsi couple, said.
The success of these films is proof of the viewers' open-mindedness.
Umesh Shukla, who is enjoying the success of Oh My God, which was set in a Gujarati community, says the film worked in all the circuits.
"You get to see different cultures in films these days. Your story should be good. For example, my film had Gujarati culture and it worked well in all the circuits. It worked even in Punjab, Maharashtra and many other places. It's like a cultural exchange," Shukla told us.
Sometimes, such films give a place or a culture much-needed attention.
Before Gangs of Wasseypur, for instance, few knew about the small town of Wasseypur in Jharkhand.
Writer Zeeshan Quadri, writer of Gangs of Wasseypur, says he grew up in the town and spent his childhood closely observing crime in the area and decided to share his experience.
Now that the trend is here, filmmakers are using this as an opportunity to experiment with various cultures and share interesting stories from different parts of the country.
Director Sachin Kundalkar delved into the world of Marathis with the recent Aiyyaa. Rani Mukherjee plays a Marathi “mulgi” in this drama that shows how a simple middle class girl falls in love with a guy for his peculiar body odor. The film didn't do well, but it was like a window into Marathi culture.