Monday, November 14, 2011

Bollywood for Dummies

No this is not a book which will provide a helicopter view of the Hindi film industry to a new born. The title is rather my lament on the condition of the same industry, which has assumed that its patrons are a huge mass of frustrated people whose only escape in life is a precious Bollywood jamboree. A look at Facebook comments on recent movies reveals words such as ‘full timepass’, ‘worth watching once’, ‘leave your brains outside and enjoy’ and other profound reflections. Super intelligent social ‘observers’ are of the view that the average Indian movie-goer is some or all of the following – harassed at office, hard pressed for time, lacking entertainment options, combating urban chaos, using up all his intelligence in 9-6 work – in other words, waiting for deliverance from Salman Khan and his bunch of johnnies who have turned mediocrity into an asset. Another smart ass reviewer, after watching Dabangg had remarked that North Indians always secretly wanted their own Rajnikanth, and with Salman they have now got one. Claiming to speak for the whole of India is a habit amongst many Indians.

If one were to ignore the works of a handful of film makers such as Amir Khan and Anurag Kashyap, Bollywood is still largely a big star driven enterprise where the male lead is bigger than everything else, including the movie. Take a budget bigger than a mid cap company, rope in the latest hot property male lead, hammer the audience with covert and overt promotions for 12 months and success is guaranteed. With global reach and high ticket prices, even an average movie can break even in the first week of its release, which incidentally is the new shelf life. Such is the curiosity created by relentless publicity that people will watch the movie simply to understand what the hype is all about and end up contributing to the success. Success in cinema is now more about marketing muscle and less about characters, narrative and performance. Indians have got so used to gloating over the soft power of Bollywood that they have stopped noticing how un-Indian Bollywood is really becoming.

Amidst such gloom I saw the latest Pakistani hot property ‘Bol’ with envy and awe. Let me put aside the envy bit first. Bol is the kind of cinema that Indians stopped making long ago as if certain problems had disappeared from the country. It is the exact opposite of the escapism that we Indians allegedly seek in our miserable lives. However, what makes the movie great is not that it is about ordinary people, but the way their story is told. There is not a single scene in the movie that feels out of place or unnecessary. The events are so craftily linked together to convey multiple messages, it is actually incredible. It was difficult for me to decide which aspect of the story is hitting me the most - Prejudice against girl child, biased attitude towards eunuchs, soft corner for religious people, stifled aspirations, punishing your family for your mistakes, making multiple mistakes to cover up one, disdain towards a certain class of people, hypocrisy in turning towards the same people for help, I could go on. But for some instances of theatrical acting, I would have called this movie a masterpiece. Despite its Pakistani label, Bol is a story which happens every day in some part of India and every one of those characters could easily be spotted here. We have somehow wiped them off our creative landscape and robbed ourselves of a chance of making some great cinema.

1 comment:

  1. Din pareshan hai, raat bhari hai........ My favourite song from the movie. Guess you know Shoaib Mansoor is a PTV product......the guy who directed Ankahi and Tanhayian too. In movies he is picking up serious (to grim) topics. First Khuda ke Liye and now Bol.