We all know that junk food is really junk; all that it does is collect like trash in the body, and adds to the toxins, and exits the body in the same disgusting way that it came in. But still, we crave for it, gorge on it, all in the name of taste, and don’t care how much of a land whale and waste dump it makes out of us. It’s fun, we say.
For more than six decades now, it has done the same thing to the brains of the Indian people; what junk food does to the bodies of people worldwide.
What can one say about the creativity of an entertainment entity whose name itself is an imitation noun?
It is not rocket science to guess what dominates the consciousness of India today. A tour of the television will reveal that half of the available one hundred odd channels in an average television will be airing the delightfully abhorrent visage of a Bollywood personality .
What is shown does not matter. It might be an interview of a 40 something actor (?) who still enjoys playing the roles half his age; an actress (that’s ironic since there are hardly any who can really claim to be that) who still wears the clothes fit for a teenager to hide the hideous abrasions that age and excessive make up has left on her face (ironically again, those marks are hid by the makeup itself); a starlet who thinks that wearing derriere hugging attire displaying her waxed legs constitutes acting, and putting a fake accent means she has arrived; also a director who talks about his newest “creative & path breaking” venture with the usual opening lines, “It’s actually a love story set in a very different scenario…”
The rest of the space is filled up by repeated trailers of new releases (which no one will remember three weeks after their release), vital news of which film star is going around with whom, and shots of a Bollywood starlet in some gaudy gown at international film festivals. And there is no escape from this, for anyone. No one can say that he or she does not care about such kind of news. One gets exposed and battered by the constant firing of this kind of news, 24/7. After all, one cannot just walk on the street and claim that he has not inhaled the polluted air.
We all are today like the ducks bred for foie gras (a culinary specialty made of swollen duck liver which is a result of force feeding) and we are brutally being force fed this nonsense, the media being the steel pipe shoved down our gullets.
The story of all the media; visual or print is the same in this regard. One look at any news channel, and one can very easily have the hallucination that India is run by Bollywood and television stars.
The very fate of the country depends on the length of a starlet’s skirt (and what it covers and does not cover). Instances of entire prime time slots of news channels being hired to promote a new film are now somewhat of a norm. In other words, which actress sleeps with which director or which actor is lusting after which starlet is what constitutes the current affairs today.
And on the media’s part, it is its sacred duty to promote Bollywood as the sole Indian cinema, in fact the face of India. It sings paeans of how Bollywood is taking the world by storm (sure it is, if Indian and Pakistani expats constitute your world), how Indian (read Bollywood) films are making their presence felt in the world (judging by the images of skimpily clad Bollywood actresses on the red carpet in Cannes and Venice. No other proof is required).
In 2001, when Lagaan was nominated for the best foreign language film at the Oscars, the newspapers and the visual media went mad and all that mattered was Lagaan’s storyline and how it was so unique (when the truth was that barring the cricket component, it was just another tale of romanticisation of destitute village life) and the history of the Academy awards.
When it lost out to a worthier No Man’s Land, the newspapers had articles belittling the Oscars by any means possible from, how American centric they are (well they are made by Hollywood aren’t they?) to how ridiculously dressed the invitees are.
One bright fellow even wrote on the event of Denzel Washington and Halle Berry being the first African American pair to win the honours for Best Actor and Actress that after 9/11, America does not want to take chances with anything, hence it has begun with the pacification of the biggest racial minority by giving these two the awards.
Maybe Bollywood has not just bought the newspaper, but also this guy’s brains. On Television, there were third rung actors speaking about how by not awarding Lagaan, the West has failed to understand the Indian culture.
The pig circus didn’t seem to end.
The truth is that Bollywood is anything but artful and meaningful cinema, barring a handful of glorious exceptions. One look at its track record and one can see that it has been dominated by frightful homogeneity.
The silent film era was dominated by the mythological films which continued till the end of 1930s when sound came in.
The 1940s and 1950s were dominated by candyfloss escapist romances where nothing seemed to be wrong in the world except for a comically evil villain in the form of the heroin’s father or a ruffian.
The 1960s and 1970s went a step further. All the films in this period had without exception, along with the usual love triangles and quadrangles, the glorification of poverty and the socialist (?) way of life. Looking at the Bollywood’s films of the 50s, 60s and 70s, the villains were always rich men, whose biggest crime was being rich. Being rich meant that one had to be a smuggler or a black marketer; or just a big businessman. That was evil enough.
The hero was always a virtuous man (as he was poor) and used to ensure in the end that justice prevailed by the defeat of the devious rich baddies. It makes you cringe when you see the programmes about the “golden era” of films, and old timers wishing that those “great” films were back again. The only saving grace about those films was their great music. Barring a few exceptions, they all were every bit as trashy as the ones made now, with nothing to offer other than moronic love stories.
One cannot even mention the 1980s and 1990s without expletives. Cheap and lewd antics became the name of the game. Films became so pedestrian and cheap that they were forgotten as soon as they came. Up to such an extent that you could ask even the most ardent film go-er today to name one remarkable film from the 1980s and there would be silence.
The beginning of the 1990s saw a horrible twist in the tale; now every film had gigantic families living in palatial houses that had nothing better to do than hold weddings, rituals and break into a dance.
The men in the film have nothing to do except take part in the frivolous antics of the household (this has percolated to the television programmes, and now irrevocably they are all made on such storylines); or college students (actors in their 30s) who had nothing to do but carry two notebooks to colleges, and dance in the basketball court and playgrounds.
The era of meaningless cinema had begun and it continues. If the earlier films glorified poverty, these glorified extravagant lifestyle.
The leading man may earn his living as a factory worker but he had to sing his songs in the Alps. The leading men of the films today consist of a vast army of actors, one of them who considers stammering as acting, and another who says that taking a shirt off on screen is all that is needed.
It also comprises of star kids who are considered “talented” as they are still surviving after the dozens of the films that they have done have bombed at the box office. This was the time when the “criminal” element became a part of the film industry. Drug, extortion, and anti national investment flowed into the producers coffers to make more pedestrian fare, which continues unabated.
Bollywood aficionados should answer the following questions:-
Has Bollywood made even one feature portraying the country’s condition logically in more than sixty years of its existence? Has it even addressed one burning issue that faces the country and the world today, or has in the past, in a rational way?
Has Bollywood in its “historical” films, ever depicted history in a sane manner, and without melodrama? Has it ever shown the country’s true heroes in a way that they deserve? Why can’t it look beyond glorifying invading barbarians in the name of making biopics and period films?
Why are all the films like different coloured gunny bags, which have the same grade of rice in them? Why this eerie similarity?
Is there nothing in the world worth showing other than a “love story”?
Is dancing like a steroid pumped baboon with dozens of other apes being romantic?
Isn’t there any difference between history and melodrama? Why can’t the depictions of kings and freedom fighters be spared a romantic angle?
Must war films (I wish Bollywood never makes more of them) have songs as well?
Are large rooms with glowing bulbs the only thing to be shown in the name of spy films?
Are romance and jingoism the only two topics left on earth? Does Indian culture mean nothing other than showing gigantic joint families in palatial residences who have nothing to do but sing and dance every other day?
Why do the awards given to Hindi films every year have ridiculous categories like “best villain”, “best comedian”, “best newcomer actor or actress”? Doesn’t it show that the same stuff is churned out again and again and again? And pray, why are the award functions held in English when the films are being made in Hindi?
Why does “inspiration” never come from the numerous literary works and short stories available, but from Hollywood (and now, also from South Korean) films? Inspiration is nothing but another word for plagiarism, which has run unabated in Bollywood since the beginning.
Why is it that more than the story and the script in the film, what matters most is whose acting in it, and who’s making it?
People defending Bollywood are always quick to point out that Hollywood too makes bad films. They are right. Hollywood is full of bad cinema, and it has a very hideous underbelly. But no matter how bad a year, at least ten good films are released annually; without exception.
Bollywood takes five decades to churn out ten good films. Go figure.
As today’s targeted audience is comprised of Indian and Pakistani expats mostly, it is alright to make films belittling the country but never will an anti-Pakistani or anti-jehadi sentiment be tolerated.
Bollywood is no longer a dream to cherish. It has only become a vortex where girls are sucked in to irrevocable doom.
The independent cinema (also called art cinema) that rose into prominence in the 1970s gave a lot of hope in the direction of making quality cinema, and was truly worthy of critical acclaim. Due to fund paucity, it lost all its actors little by little to the Bollywood cesspool where they were and are reduced to playing caricatures.
Bollywood today has hijacked the identity of Indian cinema to such an extent that people hardly realize that there is more to Indian cinema. It is totally devoid of quality and can never ever make anything remotely matching to world cinema. And it is not just about funds. Not with all the money in the world would it be able to make a war film like Saving Private Ryan; or a fantasy film like the Lord of the Rings. It’s useless to mention about intense drama here. There is no originality or creativity. There is only “inspiration”.
The real hope in Indian cinema lies with independent filmmakers. It is heartening to see that the number is growing, and they stand out among the crowd of ghouls.
There is already encouraging signs in the form of different films being made, both in Hindi and regional languages.
It sure is a trickle which one hopes will turn into a torrent with time. But it can only happen when the viewers broaden their view to appreciate meaningful cinema instead of cheap thrills.