Badman rising

first_imgIt is a lazy Sunday and Gulshan Grover is wearing a salon apron at the Viacom18 office in Mumbai. He greets people with an arm shake. Yes, Gulshan Grover has his own spin on a handshake. He had swag way before anybody knew what swag was. He wants you to,It is a lazy Sunday and Gulshan Grover is wearing a salon apron at the Viacom18 office in Mumbai. He greets people with an arm shake. Yes, Gulshan Grover has his own spin on a handshake. He had swag way before anybody knew what swag was. He wants you to listen to the title track of Badman, a web mockumentary in which he plays himself. The file is on his Whatsapp conversation with the film’s director, Soumik Sen. Grover yells “Chup raho!” to the crew gathered just so you can follow the lyrics. He’s not really demanding pin-drop silence: it is lunch break, after all. But then Grover, the oldest person on set, has spoken. Everyone obeys, for Grover is Bollywood’s Bad Man or as he calls himself-a senior villain. But nobody asks a villain his age. That would hurt more than a hero’s punch.Not everyone here knows who Grover is or that he was one of the first Hindi film actors to work in Hollywood. Among those who are unacquainted with his legacy are the two daughters of Viacom18 CEO Ajit Andhare, who has a cameo in Badman. Grover took a picture with the girls even though they didn’t really want one. In fact, that’s all Grover does when he isn’t shooting-documenting moments of the mockumentary. Says Grover, “People usually say, “Gulshan ji, can we have a picture with you?’ and here I am saying, ‘Let’s take a picture’.” He even took one with multani mitti on his face. He’s a sport.advertisementHe isn’t the only one. Alok Nath and Baba Sehgal will also be seen on Voot, a digital platform launched by Viacom18, entertaining audien-ces with self-deprecating humour. If Badman sees Grover try to be a hero and father to two sons, Nath uses his popular “sanskari” avatar to host chat show Sinskari in which he invites celebrities to talk about sex and related topics. These online shows are helping Bollywood expand its reach to convince a youthful audience that it’s hip, ironic and funny-in a good way! It also allows stars like Grover, who is well into his 60s, to reinvent themselves and be relevant again to an audience that didn’t grow up watching their films and doesn’t really want to see them. “It’s a big risk,” says Grover. “I have built a brand as Bad Man.” In Badman, he is aware that that very image is being mocked. Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Farah Khan and other superannuated baddies like Ranjit and Prem Chopra all join in to poke fun at Grover’s desperate attempts to beat his nemesis, Chunky Pandey.Monika Shergill, senior vice president of content at Voot, identifies digital media as the “guerrilla space wedged between films and television”, where creators can “experiment with ideas and characters, and make mistakes”. With filmmakers heavily dependent on stars to bankroll their projects and the industry driven by box-office collections and television programming dictated by advertising sales and TRPs, the web space has become an avenue for filmmakers to do what they want. Online programming is a comparatively low-cost and free medium. It is more willing to “turn the conventional on its head”, says Shergill. And censorship hasn’t constrained the burgeoning industry-so far.Amit Golani, co-founder of popular online channel The Viral Fever, says it also helps that the feedback is immediate. “The biggest advantage is that the audience is pretty brutal,” he says. “Our past laurels don’t matter. If they don’t like it, the hate comments and calls keep coming.”With established players like TVF and All India Bakchod (AIB), it is clear that comedy in small, sharp doses has clicked. “It (comedy) is easy to consume, share and it makes people happy,” says Shergill. More people are roping in Bollywood stars who manage to get eyeballs. There is comedian Suresh Menon’s One Entertainment, which brought on the cast of Mastizaade. Menon says that while Bollywood is spoofed even on television, the difference with YouTube is that “they see the possibilities of connecting with the youth in a fun manner.” It explains Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol’s willingness to participate in Bhaag Jeetu Bhaag, a TVF sketch which shows them oppressing a youngster to the point that he ceases to be a fan of their jodi. It has the kind of self-deprecating humour that makes the stars seem approachable and also gets the word out for their film, Dilwale. And if some stars refuse to come, there are enough actors eager to imitate Bollywood stars, says Menon.advertisementThe year-old online channel Screen Patti and recently-launched Arre have now joined the tribe. So far, Bollywood has helped them out by being so game. But Golani maintains that this new medium will protect its ‘creative liberty’.While web programming has some way to go in terms of viewership, it also knows its potential in the digital age. Golani is convinced that “original programming” will be the benchmark of online content in the future. After uploading their first video in February 2012 and making a sketch with Anurag Kashyap, TVF branched out to make the web series Pitchers.With Badman, Grover is doing what the internet users seem to love-not taking oneself too seriously. The world wide web gives Grover a chance that Bollywood won’t anymore. By the end of Badman, Grover had won over the crew over with his antics and his commitment to his job-a villain playing a comic part seriously. Follow the writer on Twitter @suhani84last_img

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