A few days ago, this mail arrived: an invitation from Anil Sharma Productions, for the Grand Mahurat ceremony of Utkarsh Sharma's (Jeetey of 'Gadar Ek Prem Katha' fame) debut film, 'Genius' at Juhu’s Horizon Hotel with the clap to be given by Dharmendra.
This was a call to immediately go into nostalgia mode. It’s been years since one has heard of a film being launched with a Mahurat ritual. (Maybe they still take place, but without the media in attendance.)
Till the business of cinema was corporatised and management types took over with the Excel sheets and PPTs, and their own jargon, the launch of a film was a big deal. The Mahurat shot was taken amidst much ceremony in one of the city’s studios or bungalows where shootings used to take place.
(Watch films of the eighties and nineties, and spot the favourite locations). A pooja was done, a big star was invited to give the clap for the Mahurat shot, another to shout ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’, the actors did their little scene and everybody wished them well, ate sweets and went to lunch. The shooting then commenced with everybody’s good wishes. Journalists on the film beat were welcome to walk into the set any time and watch the shoot or chat with the stars. Of course, the media then consisted of reporters from a dozen magazines and some newspapers, these days, TV crews and online reporters run into hundreds.
Now everybody wants to shoot at exotic locations, filmmakers want to hide the ‘look’ of the stars from the media, that sense of welcome and fellow feeling is lost.
The other surprise in the invitation mail was the venue—Hotel Horizon; back then it used to be a popular Bollywood hangout (along with the ill-fated Sea Rock in Bandra) and shooting spot, particularly for poolside scenes. Then it went into decline and for many years looked abandoned and derelict. If it is back in action, that is certainly good news.
Then there was the ritual of the 100 days or the silver jubilee party, where everybody associated with the film was given really hideous trophies that were proudly displayed in offices and living rooms.
Now, if a film survives the opening weekend it’s a miracle. Everybody keeps track of the box-office collections as if their lives depended on it, even if they had nothing to do with the film.
Instead of Mahurat and music release parties, there are media gatherings for revealing the poster or first look of the film. Stars go about ‘promoting’ their films all over the place, along with bursts on TV and social media.
It’s still showbusiness but with a difference!