Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big Bollywood Bubble

Although I am not much of a Sci-fi geek, I believe that human beings are capable of living many realities simultaneously. There is an evolutionary trend which, when observed in retrospect, makes one think that people tend to arrive at the same conclusions using different roads. Alternatively, people also come to accept their own realities using different vehicles. If we take an imaginary picture of human beings on the Earth living their own realities, it would look like a model for some sort of a meta-physical string theory. Where people exist on all levels of emotional, economic,moral,cultural and psychological dimensions. One of these dimensions is Bollywood.

The reason for this long, winding introduction is the fact that I am trying to copy Raj.
Bollywood is a bubble. For people who enjoy being a part of it as a viewer, actor, director, underworld venture capitalist etc., it is a reality. Once you step out of it however, you cannot go back to it. I am very sure of the last statement. Whoever thinks that they can step in and out of the Bollywood bubble are most certainly still in it.
When I was a kid, about ten years old, I loved Sunday mornings for a number of reasons. The most important being a television program called "Rangoli". They used to telecast Bollywood songs from movies across the decades. One day, we had a self-proclaimed disciplinarian over for an early morning breakfast on a Sunday. When I stepped out of my room for my dose of early morning show, I was rudely denied access to it! I wasn't by any stretch of imagination an ego-less ten year old. If anything I had more of it then that I have now. It has taken sixteen years of ego-bashing to bring me to my current level of impudence.

I was caught unprepared. I gathered myself quickly and asked him why I cannot watch it. In reply, he asked me a few questions.
"Do you think, before they conceived you, your mom and dad ran around trees like the people in these songs do?"
"How do I know? I wasn't there. I don't care if they did!!"
"Would you like to see them dance around trees like that in real life? Would you like it if say, we go out for a picnic and all of a sudden, your mom and dad start dancing?"
"No." (Actually I was quite sure of that)
"That's why you cannot watch it. Because it is not going to change your reality for you. It is just going to take you away from it."

That exactly is my point. I am amazed at the sheer power of this mechanism called Bollywood, to turn a mind-numbing number of people away from reality. To an extent where it has become a new dimension in the different realities we can exist in!
With an annual turnover of $750 million, the employment it generates is a definitely valid and happy reality. The movies however remain as unreal and melodramatic as ever. An average Bollywood movie has survived on the girl-meets-boy-falls-in-love theme for too long. In recent years, there have been shorter experimental takes. However, big production houses still go for the traditional song and dance route. I realized how badly I was engulfed when I did not watch Bollywood movies for about eighteen months. After this de-toxifying hiatus, I had the terrible misfortune of watching Rab ne bana di jodi. That killed any "regrowth" of the Bollywood weed in my head. About a year later, I saw Love Aaj Kal which made me confirm that I should come out of the closet about Bollywood soon.

The more I get drawn away from the Karan Johar factory, the better I appreciate real cinema in India. Smita Patil in Bhoomika, Naseeruddin Shah in Masoom and Nandita Das in Fire. Masoom is one of those movies that makes me cry every time I watch it. The anguish of a betrayed wife, the guilt of the betraying husband and the chemistry between them that almost ruins a perfect family, has been portrayed with great care by Shekhar Kapur. And although it has songs, they merge with the movie almost impalpably. Prabhat theatre has produced some of the most meaningful Marathi cinema. Kunku is one such movie that is close to my heart. It brings forth the honest, angry and revolutionary rebellion of a young bride married to a very old man.
Some movies however, have to be appreciated for the music only. Guide is one such movie. I cannot, for the life of me, get over the songs and the lyrics of Guide. All the Guru Dutt movies have beautiful soundtracks. He was a person who was truly 'ahead of his times'. Some of the Marathi films like Honaji Bala, Ram Shastri and in recent times Natrang have music that has set its own unattainable benchmark.

What I don't understand is why do we still have to rely on the same routine if so much of an experimental cinema already exists in India? Why do Indian people prefer 'impractical' love to a nice and acceptable reality? Do we really, still, need the bubble?


Raj said...

Thought provoking post.

Actually, even most of the commercial Hollywood movies are bubbles. As Hillary Clinton said when she was in India, "We don't run around naked and kill each other in America." Perhaps, that's one of the reasons why Hollywood movies are banned in France. They fear it will have bad influence on the French movie culture.

I have certainly grown out of the Bollywood bubble. I have too many questions when I see the pair running around the bushes. Sometimes, I think they are literally beating around the bush because of the fear of censor. :)

Saee said...

Thanks for the comment. :)
Yes we know that you are out of the bubble! Your descriptions are hilarious!!

Ajay said...

Nice post!

I have this feeling that a long exposure to Bollywoody romance will put any population in danger of filmy addiction! Somehow, reality is just not "as nice."

Or, may be Indians are just hopeless dreamy romantics ;) Prevented from boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love in real life for generations, we get our fill from the movies! May be...

- AJ

Bipin said...

'underworld venture capitalist' =)
i am sure at least some of them will prefer this to 'bhai'

Rajeev said...

Nice post. $750 Mil, yes. But how many failures every year? They keep churning out the stuff while saying that this is what masses want - 3 Hrs. of pure entertainment.
Let them have their creative pleasure and watch something else.

What about daily soaps?

Manas said...

I think Raj Kapoor captured it quite well when he called the lot सपनों के सौदागर ...