The upcoming film Veere Di Wedding is all about the celebration of female bonding, women being uninhibited, confiding in each other, supporting each other, and so on. Does that make it very similar to the 2015 film Angry Indian Goddesses?
Asked if he feels Veere Di Wedding takes inspiration from his film, Angry Indian Goddesses director Pan Nalin says, “There’s a whole lobby going on that’s like ‘this film is that one’s copy’, or ‘Oh, Aaamir Khan copied the poster of that film’. I am on the side of the creator. I have an opposite reaction when somebody copies my work. I feel happy that somebody somewhere is, may be, inspired… or, [they] might have not seen my work, maybe it’s pure coincidence. It gives me strength that somebody has to go out of their way to copy my work. I’ll be freaking out or slip into depression if people stop copying my work.”
The mainstream Bollywood film, starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, and Shikha Talsania, doesn’t appear to have the edge of Pan Nalin’s acclaimed drama, starring Sarah-Jane Dias, Sandhya Mridul, Anushka Manchanda, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Amrit Maghera, Pavleen Gujral, and Rajshri Deshpande. But there is a much starker difference. The film with bigger names is generating a lot of buzz and will get a widespread release, whereas the film with more grit but not so well-known names struggled to find screens.
“Without big, powerful stars, it’s very tough to release a film,” believes Nalin. He was recently asked by a Twitter user why movies like Angry Indian Goddesses “aren’t exposed or given their due”. To which he replied: “It’s because India is a star struck country which fails to see amazing talents like @sandymridul @IAmAnushka @Amrit_Maghera @pavleen_gujral @rajshriartist -they’re probably better off with Veere di Wedding (sic).”
Once it released, Angry Indian Goddesses got rave reviews, but Nalin says that a lot goes into the dynamics of a film’s release and just “making a good movie is not enough” these days. “A film like ours, [which is] an independent film… when we released it, we realised that there’s a tremendous amount of bullying by certain powerful distributors, theatre owners, and exhibitors. We weren’t able to get the shows we wanted. We even paid for the trailers, but they weren’t running in the cinemas. Even [to get] a simple thing like a standee in a cinema hall, it’s like a mafia-like network. The bigger realisation was that we needed triple the amount of money and sources to release the film in India, where a lot is based on relationships.”
Nalin recalls a case of clear discrimination: “Like in one of the cinema halls, they told us, ‘Your film is performing really well all over the metros, [with] 62-65% occupancy, compared to a big Bollywood movie that was released, but we still have to pull out your film because that [Bollywood] star is our brand ambassador.’” Though he laughs about it now, Nalin says that it was “disheartening in many ways” — his film could pull audiences, but despite that, just couldn’t get enough shows.
The filmmaker adds, “We weren’t backed by any big stars, production houses, or studios. In the end, whether we like it or not, we still need a big star to either act in the film or to produce and release the film in India to make an impact. Even those films that were good wouldn’t have worked had they not been carried on the shoulders of Aamir Khan (Secret Superstar, 2017) and Karan Johar (The Lunchbox, 2013).”
The lack of a “male hero” was a hindrance, too, feels Nalin. “Even when they watched the film, [exhibitors] were like ‘Ladkiyan hi hain (We see only girls)’. People in some of the places, like Udaipur and Jaipur, told us ‘Arey sir, aap ladka daalte na, toh chal jaati aapki (If you had cast some boys, it would have worked better),’” says the director, who divides his time between Los Angeles and Mumbai. But those who’ve watched Angry Indian Goddesses still write to him, and that gives Nalin some happiness.