Technicolour Dreams

When the Lumiere Brothers introduced Cinema to India in 1896 by releasing six silent short films in Bombay, little did they know that they had opened a Pandora’s Box. A box brimming with color, drama, dance, song, action and everything you could imagine. Over the years, this Cinema has, in a way, embodied the desires, dreams and aspirations of the common man in India.

It changed the face of India and the way people from across the world would perceive her. Bollywood today, has become one of the most powerful cultural ambassadors of India. Incidentally, the name Bollywood is an amalgamation of Hollywood and Bombay (No prizes for guessing this one!). Regional Cinemas and their heroes are worshipped, with temples being created in their honour.

From Raja Harishchandra (the first silent feature film) to Love Story 2050, Indian Cinema sure has come a long way, each era being represented by a different genre of movies. If the 1950s had movies that tackled tough social issues with the independence struggle as the backdrop of their plots, the 1960s witnessed lavish romantic musicals and melodrama. The 1970s saw films based on gangsters and mafias. The 1990s, then, gave way to family centric musicals and when Cinema entered the 21st Century, it metamorphosed its entire image with its high quality production and innovative story lines. Nevertheless, the one thing common in all these eras was the humungous mass appeal these movies generated. Bollywood can boast of being the largest film industry in the world, making over a thousand movies each year. Every day, approximately 30 million tickets are sold, making it an industry that easily runs into billions.

The masala factor was something which the filmmakers never really compromised on. You could have the same story line – boy meets girl, they fall in love, the girl’s father (read villain) doesn’t approve of it. Boy defeats villain and the film is ready, with of course a tad bit of variations here and there (we can never underestimate Bollywood, can we?) You also have a number of subplots playing along the movie ending in a huge climax (Isn’t that what we all love!). The Indian movies are as spicy as its food.

But do not be fooled! The topics and storyline may be very basic, but the colours and décor are so overwhelming that they make up for it. This entire look, by combining the “kitsch” and classical ingredients, is just what makes Indian Cinema so unique.

And how can we forget song and dance, the two elements that have become a trade mark of the film industry? Indian films are essentially musicals, and are expected to contain catchy music in the form of song and dance numbers woven into the script. A film’s success often depends on the quality of such musical numbers. Heroes (in tight white pants with bell bottoms and tank tops) with their pelvic thrusts and actresses wearing heavy jewelry in their ghagra cholis running around the chane ke khet is the first scene that comes to my mind when I think of a Bollywood dance. But, then again, that is just me. You could go a step ahead and picture the pair dancing and gyrating in their skimpiest best with the mountains of Switzerland as their backdrop. If we had a hero (again in tight fitting white pants) playing hide and seek around trees with a heroine wearing equally gaudy clothes, we also had two roses touching to signify a kissing or love making scene. The dhak dhak scenes of women wearing chiffon saris in the rain, or the hippy culture in Dum Maro Dum, I can just go on and on with songs and scenes that defined Bollywood culture.

Bollywood is everywhere around us. From posters in barber shops and taxis to the songs playing on the FM day in and day out, it would be utterly foolish for someone to claim that they know the “true India” without truly appreciating its Cinema. The ‘Real India’ can only be understood by connecting to the emotions of its people and by understanding what touches their hearts, something which our cinema has managed to do time and again. Bollywood has permeated into each and every aspect of our lives, be it the clothes we wear, the food we eat or the songs we dance to.

These movies make you cry (“Nahin, yeh nahin ho sakta” ) your eyes out, laugh till you fall, shiver in fear (“Kitne Aadmi the?”), dance and make you go through a whirlwind of emotions before they end, always managing to leave a sense of satisfaction by the end of it. Be it the magic of the yesteryears or the fun and frolic of today, these movies have got what it takes to stir up anyone’s emotions. It is true when they say that Indian Film Industry is not just a film industry, it is a way of life.

Samarjit Khanna

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