Sunday, 7 October, 2012

The New Bollywood

An interesting take on this in the The Big Indian Picture. Part of article by Mahmood Farooqui is reproduced here.

"Until about 20 years ago, in a deeply hierarchical country, cinema was one true mass medium. Today’s cinema and the cinema halls where films are shown have excluded the masses. Cinema becomes political, not just because of its content, but also by whom it chooses to address. The formula films of Mithun Chakraborty are to me much more political by both yardsticks than anything we are producing today. Maybe I am an old man who is afraid of the new but I have jostled with the crowds and braved police lathis to get a first class (front row) ticket for Namak Halaal which, even if tangentially, depicted peasants and was watched by newly urbanized peasants. In a primarily peasant society, the peasant today is beyond the pale of our cinema and our cinema halls. Whither Political Cinema without the masses!"

I would say "Whither Cinema without the masses!"
If you're of a certain age, admit it - you miss the old bollywood. A bollwood where
- Heroines wore Saris or other Village Belle outfits
- Saris looked like Saris and not a cross between a combination of drape and halter top
- Dialogues were gauged on how it was delivered and not how realistically it was delivered and a good voice was essential for this - Raajkumar anyone?
- Movies did not exclusively revolve around working yuppies, business families or gangsters in an urban milieu; where are the villages gone?
- Movies did not have english words in the titles; Jab we met???
- Villains were goofy and had no shades of grey
- A star could carry off even the most ludicrous roles with panache - Amitabh anyone? Would you watch a Sharaabi with SRK or Akshay in the lead?

No doubt there were bad movies then as there are now but there was an innocence and a certain simplicity that is now lost. At some point, bollywood shifted. From being a dream factory to a family business. Strangely, this has happened together with the corporitisation of the industry - UTV, Reliance, et. al.

No doubt we now have film makers and stars who are more sophisticated in terms of the craft, as measured using the yardstick of western cinema. But what of it? Did we get another Sholay? Another Deewar? Is "K-k-k-kiran" the new generation bollywood equivalent of "Mere pas ma hai?" Is there any other dialogue worth remembering?

I miss it. I miss the hokey dialogue (where is Kader Khan when we need him?), the cartoonish fights, the cardboard villains (and their dens), the loud outfits and the amplified emotions. I am tired of being swamped by love stories peddling star children, of the MTV style song and dance and the complicated camera work (RGV, you need to get your camera out of Amitabh's nostril).

Apparently, the industry makes enough from the NRI and Multiplex crowd to sustain itself. There is a vast population out there who have no bollywood product targetted at them which explains the success of Mithunda and Bhojpuri cinema.

Which is why I am no longer a movie-goer. There are enough TV channels recycling old bollywood material to keep me occupied - how about an afternoon of Avtaar with Rajesh Khanna hamming it up on Zee?

1 comment:

  1. Nice post- I believe the turning point was Dil Chahta Hai, whose success suddenly opened the movie maker's eyes towards a market that is exclusively urban and which largely understands / speaks English.

    This combined with
    a)the multiplex boom (that allows them to recover costs in a single weekend) and
    b)piracy (that limits the sustained earning capabilities - which was the last movie to have a silver jubilee run?)
    has taken the village and the ever present "gaon ki gori" out of the equation!