Thursday, June 08, 2006

When humans fly

I am awed by the nature of human spirit. I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't seen it. THIS IS CRAZY. HUMANS DON'T FLY!!!

This video can also be accessed at:

I believe the video has been removed. It can now be viewed here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why mainstream Hindi movies survive

Bollywood movies are a craze in India; well not just in India, in every part of the world where there are people who can understand Hindi, be it in our own backyard with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, or in the wild, wild west with our second home England (would love to see them Brits' faces now), USA, New Zealand, Canada (Punjab away from India), Kenya (Gujarat away from India) or where ever. The primary reason why Hindi movies (musicals), have been so endearing to the Indian junta is because of their depiction of tales of fantasy, tales that never seemed possible for the hoi polloi, and this in turn always gave the common people hope, that something better was in store for them.

Let's get into the anatomy of a Hindi movie right away, and lets start with the head. The title. If you go through most of the movies that were released in the last 5 years, you'll find one thing in common. Most of the names had a few key words, and the blanks were filled with the appropriate words to form something tangible. Some of those key words are dil, pyaar, mohabbat, ishq, hum, tum. Concoct a combination with a couple from the list above and throw in a couple more and you've got yourself the title of a Yash Chopra/Karan Johar comical depiction of India (Punjab), it's people (Punjabis) and the Indian (Punjabi) way of getting married in the typical arranged marriage style with a baraat, an entire hosehold singing the same song at the same time and mysteriously having all the right accessories at the given time.

Now that we've dissected the head, let's move over to the body. The story. A typical one would involve a guy and a girl falling in love, and the guy would be one of the following if not all:
  • a social outcaste
  • a poor boy
  • rival faction
And yet, the high society girl flips for him (after a brief resistance) and is ready to die for him (wow), while her father would be the main villain, or as the Russians would say, the glavni provotnik (principal adversary). Now this was the predictable sequence until the year 2000.

Movies after the year 2000 seem to be a bit better with the girls' dad being left out of the action, or at least the interesting action, and the villains becoming international, but the bottomline is the story would still revolve around the relationship of the boy and the girl and nothing else. Over and over and over again, the public are subjected to the same storyline (with new faces) and yet the public continue to throng towards the theatres like iron filings to a magnet. Ever wondered why? I'll give you my theory a little later.

Before I move on to the few movies/directors/actors who actually put an effort to make good movies, I need to mention about the increasing number of copycat movies in Bollywood. In the mid 90s, a slew of copycat movies were coming out, usually copied from a Mani Ratnam blockbuster. Later, Bollywood one-upped itself and started copying Hollywood films. And the worst part about it was, people like Mahesh Manjrekar for example, after making Kaante, had the audacity to go live and say he didn't copy any movie but the story appeared to him in a dream, when it was obvious to even a child sucking his pacifier that it was a total rip off of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.

Now let's consider the few movies that I don't consider as part of mainstream Indian cinema: movies by Ram Gopal Verma, Amir Khan's new movies (post 2000), movies by Rahul Bose, etc. Also, before I start writing this part, I'd like to categorically state that there are exceptions to everything and I am not generalising things. Ram Verma's movies generally revolve around a fixed group of actors (a la Quentin Tarantino) and his movies center around the gangsters/underworld life. This is a welcome break from the usual lovey-dovey stuff churned out otherwise, but one gets a feeling that he tries to overdo it at times. Now why don't his movies run to a packed houses like Yash Chopra's? Simple, his stories depict reality, and what's more, it's a part of reality that doesn't seem to affect the majority of the population directly. I mean how many of us come in contact with the underworld in our daily life? If you're tucked away in Trivandrum or Bangalore, or in and around cities like Kolkatta, or for that matter rural India, chances are never.

Amir Khan's movies have been a success because of his new mantra to do only one movie a year, which surrounds his movies in a shawl of suspense that the public are eager to know more about. Be it with Lagaan, Dil chahta hai, 1857, or more recently rang de basanti or fanaa, Amir seems to have found a soft spot in the otherwise rigid filmi public. And like Amir, Rahul Bose's (who in my opinion is India's finest actor at present) movies too aren't as rampant as Yash Chopra or Karan Johars and so are extremely refreshing to the eyes. But unfortunately for Rahul, his movies focus on issues pertaining to urban India and so the majority of the people watching and relating to his movies are the urban population, who don't constitute the bulk of our filmi junta. Having said that, I must add that Mr. and Mrs. Iyer was an absolute beaut of a movie in terms of acting and portrayal, depicting what happens in India, urban and rural alike.

About not generalising, well, I'm always in a quagmire about this term and what it means. I mean when can we generalise, only when there is a 100% success rate, or can it be done even if our theory holds good for 95% and we bracket the remaining 5% along with the 95%? Let's forget about it for now.

So now let me finally come down to my theory about why Indians tend to watch movies that usually revolve around the same storyline. I mean, one would think you'd get bored with the same crap being shown with new faces, but no, not in India my friend. We Indians are a bunch of hypocrites, and when confronted with reality, we choose to turn a blind eye to it and appear ready to accept fantasy tales that would seem possible only in reel life. This is the primary reason why a Yash Chopra or a Karan Johar is more successful than a Rahul Bose or a Ram Gopal Verma, even though they (Bose and Verma) happen to portray reality, which usually would mean the good guys getting screwed. The fact is, we don't seem to be able to face reality when it appears and slaps us on the face. A movie that portrays the victory of good over evil (boy getting his girl) is acceptable anyday (howmany ever times it's repeated) over one in which the audience would have to introspect. Solace it seems, in India, can be obtained only in the arms of a broad named fantasy. That, dear reader, is reality, so suck up to it and quit complaining.
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