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Should escapism escape from Bollywood?

 
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Courtesy: IndiaFM

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bollywood is going places these days. Every other day there are media reports about some Bollywood film being screened at a particular film fest in some corner of the world or some Bollywood star being invited as guest for some really classy and happening event in some part of Europe or USA. This is definitely a good thing, something that will make every Indian feel proud of. It is true that Bollywood always had a niche market globally but one might be taken by surprise how Bollywood took such a big leap all of a sudden.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons that explain this:

Here's repeating a statement that you must've heard millions of times, 'The world has become a global village today'. The internet has broken down all the barriers of distance and time. Also, credit goes to the media that has made the world a very small place. People today are becoming more aware about every possible event happening in every corner of the world, due to the media. This has led to the change in the mindset of masses in general. People in India especially are becoming more open and acceptable about various issues that were considered taboo earlier.

All this issues obviously had an effect on the Indian film industry. As the audiences are getting greater media exposure, many ideas that we were ignorant about earlier considering them as irrelevant, are now being taken up seriously. Also, there is a new breed of film makers coming up who are experimenting with new concepts. They want to try out something different and fascinating, giving a new definition to Bollywood. Besides, Bollywood films are gaining recognition and appreciation in many parts of the world. This has been a great morale booster for the Indian film makers to make interesting cinema. Also, film makers from the world are also interested in making films on India these days. This to some extent also has to do with the rise of India on the global front.

Today, Bollywood is loaded with films made on a lot of intellectually stimulating subjects. Every other film claims that it will give you a new insight of life. Subjects based on adulteries, violence and all the abstract thoughts are made into films. It is a very interesting turn that our cinema has taken with film makers strongly using cinema as a medium of expression.

But, in spite of all this positive change, there seems to be something missing in today's Bollywood flicks. Somewhere you feel that the magic that helped create some great movies in the past is missing. The magic factor that was in Sholay, or Hum Aapke Hai Kaun or in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

Let's analyze what this magic factor actually is. The core feature of every film is the story. Every film maker is basically performing the art of storytelling through his movies. There are multiple types of stories that appeal to different emotions. Now, if we look back carefully, we notice that somewhere Bollywood films were generally based on the fairy tale kind of plot where a group of good people (HERO and his group) get stuck in certain difficult situations. The films also have some bad people (Villain and group) who are responsible for putting good people into trouble. They make them go through immense hardships but at the end of the film, they come out safely. The bad people get kicked by the Hero and the good people live their lives happily ever after, just like in a fairy tale.

One might think what is so exciting about it? Well, that's the punch of it. Every typical Bollywood masala film, like a fairy tale, has a happy ending. Most of the Hindi films till around 1998-99 were based on this basic plot. Of course there were exceptions and many other kind of stories based on real life were also dealt by some film makers. Film makers like Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shyam Benegal, Basu Chatterjee and many others made some brilliant masterpieces based on the socio-economic conditions of India and its effect on common man's life. Their films didn't really fall in the Filmi category yet they were so alive and impactful on the audiences.

But from the records, it can be seen that the movies which stood out and ran successfully were the Filmi Films of Bollywood. The films in which the Hero is one of the nicest person on earth, who will always fight against wrong and evil. This Hero will fall in love with the most beautiful woman on earth. The two celebrate their love with melodious songs and hop dances around the trees, giving a beautiful romantic touch to the film. The Hero has the most motherly mother ever who always stands by her son, so we also get a bit of drama. Whenever the 'Villain and gang' strikes, the Hero successfully kicks them away with awesome action stunts. Finally, everything gets settled in the end with all the evil getting washed out, lost relatives meeting up and all the misunderstandings getting cleared and the doors open to happy life ever after.

Some might argue that this is not a definition of Bollywood, that it would be a very stereotypical way to define Hindi movies. True, Bollywood is not just about masala films, but looking at the past, it can safely be said that 'most' of the Hindi films that made History somewhere revolved around the similar plot. And we have to agree that somewhere in our heart we all love to see movies like this. No matter how cliched, how stupid they might seem at times, but we always love to see a boy and a girl falling in love and singing songs with outfits and backgrounds changing, we enjoy hating the villain throughout the film, we have fun watching the villain's a** getting kicked by our Hero. Besides, one thing that is unique about our Hindi films is that they at some level are about fantasy. Nothing is impossible in these films. You can end up achieving everything that you ever wanted to have in your life. All your wishes come true in a matter of two and a half hours. Yes, this is escapist cinema, which takes us into a whole new world. That world is unreal but then what's the harm? Life is anyways tough for all of us and sometimes it doesn't feel worth to pay and watch some realistic film. A film that is so close to the harsh reality that it ends up adding to your miseries and increasing the amount of headache you had even before watching that film.

This explains why in spite of having all the best technology in the world, we haven't seen a film that has made the masses go crazy since Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000) or why any film of recent times hasn't been able to recreate the magic of DDLJ or why people of all generations still go back to Sholay and why no matter how stupid they may seem, David Dhawan's films still manage to do great business.

It is a fact that in a country like India, the typical Filmi masala movies do well even today mainly because 70% of the movie-going population here is rural. The rural people find it difficult to digest the complex urban issues on which the movies these days are based on. Rather they would go back and enjoy the regular Hindi phillum which packs up everything and comes out as a complete entertainer. But it is ironic that these kind of movies also do well in urban areas. No wonder Shah Rukh Khan still remains the undisputed Badshah of Bollywood. The fact is that, no matter where, people enjoy movies that has all the masala and five songs based on different emotions, movies with happy endings, movies that brings our dreams come true and movies in which the actors do all those things that we ever wanted to do our lives.

This does not mean that realism is bad. Of course not! It is a fascinating genre of movies. Besides, film makers in Bollywood making films of different genres, which is a good thing. But our concern is that Bollywood shouldn't lose its identity of being slightly Filmi. In the name of maturity of Indian cinema, let's not westernize Hindi films. In fact one of the surveys done lately showed that audiences of Hollywood movies are getting bugged from the extreme realistic and graphic nature of movies made there. We believe that films are about fantasy and entertainment; they are about stories that end up giving us the feeling of being lived someone else's life for a while that made us feel happy and satisfied. No matter how criticized these days, the masala films successfully doing that. The audiences walk out of the theaters with a smile on their faces, having danced, having sung, having laughed and cried, having fought with the bad people and having successful in every aspect of life.

So, hope that our film makers remain successful in keeping this magic of our Hindi films alive. No issues with the experiments that are happening these days but then don't kill the idea of having at least five songs in a film. Let some impossible things happen as reality in our films and let the films have a dramatic yet happy ending. This masala quality about our Bollywood films has made it famous worldwide and it is definitely unique quality. 

Topics: bollywood, sholay, hum aapke hai kaun, top story, movies, old movies, screening abroad

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