Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cinema in India—sign of the changing times?

The only reason I can smile around this time of the year (Well, the cold and snow freezes every happy emotion) is because of movie and television awards. Though I have to say my favorite de-stressor is watching innumerable Bollywood award ceremonies, especially in the recent years. C’mon, there is music, dancing, celebrities, and fashion galore. And loads of sharp and sometimes strange humor.

Bollywood has come a long way. Remember those rose buds and suggestive sitar tunes every time an actor and actress held hands? Or the fake “bhishum” sound when a fight scene happened? There was an ugly villain and at least one person with some sort of mental or physical disability. I don’t know why a goon couldn’t be good-looking. The heroine was vulnerable, danced in the rain, and drank potions of pretentious shyness. There was almost always a widowed mother or a one-eyed, mean mother-in-law. And the male protagonist was stronger than Superman. Of course, there was always “art” cinema, which was often positioned as a documentary for intellectual snoots. And none of the “hot” and commercial actors ever worked in them.

Not too long ago, the producers and directors clumped the tastes, needs, and want of the entire Indian audience inside one bucket (Not very different from how the western world envisioned India). Diversity didn't matter! I don’t think there was a target audience in mind for every movie. The grandma, mother, the teenaged daughter, the maid, and the sweepers were perceived to own similar intellectual and emotional capabilities. Perhaps, that’s why cinema never seemed about people. Regular, common, normal human beings like any of us. Movies were far-fetched, distant, and monopolistic.

But thanks to the newer crop of storywriters, actors, producers, and directors, Bollywood has reached newer heights. Actors are making an effort, like Hollywood stars, and experimenting with roles and looks. For instance, Ajay Devgan had a small-town guise in Rajneeti; a 70s safari suit and long hair in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai; but short, cropped hair, and tattooed & chiseled body in Golmaal 3.

While watching Apsara Awards 2011, I noticed that most of the movies nominated for an award this year were unusual in their storyline and characterization: “Udaan,”Band Baaja Baaraat,” “My Name Is Khan,”Dabangg,” “Peepli Live”etc. But here is the interesting bit: debut directors filmed them all. The producers might have been an old mogul or a big banner, but not the director. And lot of unknown and first timer-names worked in the aforementioned films.

These newer and maybe younger folks might have found mentors in the industry. But the ideas and vision are still theirs. And it’s obvious in the variety of small and big films we watch. The flavors are unique. The characters have become more believable. There is a movie for every demographic and socio-economic group. In fact, cinema is available for every mood.

To me, the growth and the rise of India are visible in Bollywood. For a nation to succeed, it has to be open to bolder, braver, and newer notions. Fair to say India is on the right track?

More until next time,


Copyright © 02.03.2011

“Although for some people cinema means something superficial and glamorous, it is something else. I think it is the mirror of the world.” Jeanne Moreau

1 comment:

jayashree said...

Hey you forget Pran and Prem Chopra as villains. They were often better looking than the heros.... Ahhh.... but you were then in your cradle......... But yes I agree with the new stuff coming out of Bollywood........ they entertain and make one think.

Nice thoughts. Love your writing.
Love ya