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.

14 comments:

Abhijith Shetty said...

I read your 'hindi movie' article right after ur 'reservations' article...something just struck me...hey Shetty, why don't we bump off Arjun Singh (a la Rang De Basanti) ?......hmmmmm???

Karthik Shetty said...

that's an idea that's been running in my mind for a while :)

Anonymous said...

hey shetty.. have to see.. i agree with u.. i too hate stereotype hindi shit where heroes are supernatural and they can beat up 50 men without getting a scratch on their body.. or heroines can be saved from rape just when the villian's few inches away from doing it.. but hey, its business.. and not many have the balls to take the risk and make a different movie.. so they go for a formula which has worked in the past and which might work now.. thats how we get the lovey-dovey crap.. i am a fan of hindi movies which depict reality and which have that punch in them.. mushy, cozy love stories with an unnecessarily emotional end are worthless.. for example, the only movie of shahrukh i admired is 'Swades'.. i guess u should watch this one..

Anonymous said...

at the cost of being accused as a 'typical girl', i dont know, i somehow do enjoy movies by johar and chopras, agreed maybe sometime the emotions are exaggrated, but at the end of the day, you come out feeling good ! can u say the same about omkara. Okay, i am not a total bollywood junkie, but i think indian cinema has come a long was, maybe in not the meaningful sense, but lot at the kind of talent scene, which is pretty commendable.....as much as i enjoyed reading you thesis, The attack was way too brutal, and u havent really considered the positive aspect. So basically, i see a strong leaning towards certain biases which are uncalled for.

Karthik Shetty said...

maybe sometime the emotions are exaggrated, --sometimes? they turn cinema into drama, but then I guess that's ok as long as it's meaningful stuff. I don't know what biases u seem to think I have; if calling a spade a spade is being biased then I plead guilty.
maybe in not the meaningful sense, but lot at the kind of talent scene -- didn't u read the article? that's precisely the 2 things I touched upon-the lack of meaningful stuff AS WELL AS the talented lot (I mentioned Rahul Bose whom the whole of India seems to have forgotten). The other reason for not coming up with an article only on the 'talented' lot is simply bcoz enough has been written about it. And moreover, I presented a theory, basically my conclusion to a self-posed question based on MY understanding after interacting with ppl. I guess there's a fine line between being brutally honest and honest - I don't see that line! :)

Anonymous said...

You should give yourself a break from being such an ardent idealist...i bet u miss out on all the fun, there are always 2 sides to a coin, learn to appreciate both!

Karthik Shetty said...

i'm not an idealist, i have my fair share of faults like everyone else, and i do have a lot of fun since I don't lead my life expecting things to be ideal. i never said i don't appreciate talent or the spirit of trying, I'm just saying that a large number of times, we don't see creativity in the movies made by a large no. of our directors. how hard is that to follow? appreciate both side sides of the coin-i'm not mr.switzerland, nor am i diplomatic when i don't have to be. agreed i do get pissed when i see movies copied, but did i say the rest of the stuff is crap or ought to be banned? i said i found it comical, funny, unreal, that's all. and yes i do like to have a few good laughs now and then. if it came across as insulting, all i can say is take it with a pinch of salt, that's all :) and moreover, i'm not a jounalist, nor am i a wanna be politician. this is a blog i maintain for kicks, so let's not get too serious pleeeeeeeeease :)

Anonymous said...

Cool, am glad to here that, but u still dont have to get all defensive. U r the one whose getting serious out here not me! for eg look at the lenght of the comment that u posted! u certainly dont haveta justify yourself!
I admire the conviction with which u put across ur view though.

Karthik Shetty said...

Wasn't exactly getting defensive; it's just that i realised that ppl don't understand the point i try to make when the topic concerend is bound to ruffle a few feathers. i guess i haven't learnt the art of getting the exact meaning out in words while penning them down, as opposed to while speaking to someone :) Your feedback was truly appreciated

Kruthika said...

Hey Karthik...I just came across your blog by chance and have read most of the articles posted by you here...must say i agree strongly with your views about the main stream hindi movies. I swear the movies post 1990 depict only punjabi culture.....must say Karan Johar/Yash Chopra movies having nothing more than unnecessary rona..dhona or masti...i wonder who are those people who make movies like K3G run for full houses for weeks...where as movies like Lakshya n Yahan (atleast these movies depict some reality) go unnoticed...not to forget about rahul bose movies as u said.

@ ur post about Bangalore :Awesome one!!! glad to find a bangalorean lik u (i know its irrelevant to post it here though)

Karthik Shetty said...

thanx kruthika, and I'm glad to see Bangaloreans appreciating what Bangalore has to offer, rather than crib all the time. so it's not irrelevabt - thanx again

VJ said...

let's say ,that's the effect of the short head of the long tail... I'm sure many filmmakers also feel the same.. but are being forced to maake it that way. let's say it still is going to take time for film-making to understand the true power and number of the long tail. and of course an alternative form of media would do a lot of good...

Anonymous said...

Mr crib...Let me make u realise the other side of a human mentality.....Human,s r not mere robot,s, they r an energy matter, mixture of emotion,s....World is a very realistic place 2 live, v all know that....In this realistic world, where people r corrupted, selfish, & money minded...V tend to go insane sometime,s...Reality sucks.....Man dreams in an imaginary world created by him & that gives him solace,4rom the day-to-day hectic activities of life.Movies give a sense of satisfaction to the viewer that good presides over evil....His imagination quota get,s the nod of fullfillment, 4rom the movie he watches...And he resumes his journey in this realistic world after the 3 hour,s of indulgence he take,s 4rom the movie.....I hope u agree to the point that, v r in some way or other connected, so r our emotion,s.Man tend to 4get value,s & such movies give them a kick to their memory every now & then....What is life without hope...Movies tend to make us realise that hope survives amidst each & every action of life...Otherwise human,s would go berserk, after failures.....Failures...&...Failure,s...Movies r like pills, contributing, to awareness of our attitude to-ward,s life.....
If movies were only realistic, & not imaginary ..Iam sure this realistic world adding to realistic movies would piss us all in one shot.....
So Mr Crib, aware u,re-self, that a little imagination does work wonder,s.

Anonymous said...

Hey confused fellow.......
simple solution.. If you don't like hindi movies don't see it ,instead writing about hindi movies ,spend your valuable time for constructive issues for 1- people at your home,2- people of your mohalla,3- people of your village, taluka,district,state and India. Don't time on movies, language etc.

 
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