Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Folly-wood Recipe - Purveying Idiocy in India

The mainstream Indian film industry touts itself for consistently delivering a sizable number of films as its yearly output. That being said, none of the aforementioned films have managed to transcend the label ‘Bollywood’ by offering anything close to originality and substance to world cinema at large.

Why is this so? It is common knowledge that plagiarism overpowers originality and creativity in the industry (Perhaps one can expect no less from an industry that didn’t bother adopting a name for itself something that didn’t sound like Hollywood.)

One would find it virtually impossible, from memory alone, to rattle of a litany of bollywood blockbusters (as well box office bombs) and iconic scenes which have been crudely lifted off from international films.

When questioned about this, producers, directors and actors alike daftly write off the fruit of their reprehensible actions as unofficial adaptations, homages and sometimes, and audaciously enough, coincidence.

In all fairness, not every aspect of the original film is ripped off. Taking the basic storyline into consideration, it is bizarre, outlandish and superfluous elements (that supposedly relate it to the Indian experience) that are superimposed upon the Bollywood version. This includes trans-genre inclusiveness of varied comedy, romance, thriller and action elements (hence the term ‘masala movie’)

Not sure enough, bollywood? Why not throw in some clich├ęd linguistic references to every national community for good measure? That way you can successfully cater to the diverse denizens of UP, Punjab, Bengal and Gujarat at the same time. In the true Mumbai spirit of fusion (or whatever…) Hindi, English and a host of other tongues have been reduced to the gobbledygook known as ‘hinglish’ which happens to be the celluloid lingua franca.

This all-inclusive hotchpotch waters down the slightest semblance of intelligence and coherence in these films. Well, not entirely. There is other weirdness, also, that comes into play such as the mandatory song and dance routine, where the hero and his love interest are magically whisked away to a hilly locale of Switzerland where they will cavort mindlessly for some time. (Maybe bollywood’s dabbling with science fiction this time by throwing teleportation in to the mix!) So much for continuity…

Not all musical interludes are as family friendly, though. You know what I’m talking about… lo and behold! It’s a bevy of nubile women dancing scintillatingly for no apparent reason ……What we are witnessing, ladies and gentlemen, is that often seen affront to decency – the item number. With its evolution since the ’70s, nothing so sexist has come to exist in popular culture since – except may be pornography.
In bollywood, a man dominated industry one rarely sees female directors, producers, cinematographers etc. Male gaze, anyone? Item numbers, a desperate plea for attention, are pretty much steeped in misogyny. Not even the kids were spared from this visible debasement of womanhood (I’m looking at you, Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic!)

There must be a commandment in the handbook of Bollywood saying ‘Thou shall dumb down!” because it employs (and thereby perpetuates) age old stereotypes which consistently flattens complex characters into simplistic, two dimensional caricatures. While at the same time, it also stands guilty of its extremely unrealistic depiction of reality. Unrequited love, at least for the B-town hero, doesn’t exist – it usually comes to evolve into cringe worthy romance from where it may or may not (mostly may not) branch into laughable tragedy. What’s disturbing is how the hero gets the girl – he doesn’t stop short of berating her publicly with his loutish advances as his cronies grin on. Beside this and the obvious link to eve teasing, bollywood has also been known to enforce several regressive attitudes along with the Serials, Soap Operas and Reality TV which together comprise the popular culture cesspool of modern India.

As to why not much consideration is given to the development of original screenplays, the answer is simple: In the context of looking at the film as a commercial venture, using the tried and tested formulae or something that has been known to work internationally can be seen as a sensible means to dispel investment uncertainties. (Alas, more than 90 % films are doomed to commercial flopdom anyway) While people bellyache about the studio system in the west, the artistry of

independent cinema here (as seen in regional cinema in particular are the parallel movement in general) is overshadowed and stifled by the hegemony of the sugar coated, bigger budgeted feel-good mainstream cinema.

Why is it that the certain associations take it upon themselves to force feed the masses with their notion of the entertainment? Putting blinders on the masses, Bollywood has successfully, like the evil empire it is, suppressed all forms of independent and intellectual expression by failing, no, downright refusing, to provide a platform for the same.

Music, an element which, since the inception of Indian cinema has become symbiotic with the moving pictures on the screen, is now as ripped off as the storylines are thank to a new breed of music composers who find it more convenient to lift an obscure Korean melody rather than actually go through the trouble of creating a background score, a tool used to set the tone and subsequent moods for the film. The end result of most music endeavors in a commercial cinema is the same old tripe that’s best suited for the tone deaf. I’m not senselessly bashing bollywood; by the way, their adherence to the tried and tested formula applies to every aspect of 70-80% of the vacuous films they churn out.

Another disgusting thing bollywood had done, in partnership with the media, was create a pedestal in the minds of millions upon which a select few- the superstars- are elevated to a status that can only be called godhood. By bestowing dubious sobriquets, the media influences popular opinion. That you are called a perfectionist doesn’t change the fact that you have made millions by lifting of the distinct story of an American independent film without doing the decent thing and buying the rights. Whets even more absurd is the

In depth media coverage of the supposed rivalries and ego hassles of these dunderheads Both sides, of course, are to be reprimanded here for forgetting to do whatever the hell it is they’re supposed to be doing and prostituting themselves.
What’s even more laughable is the onslaught of rigged award shows where all the stars crawl out of the woodwork to basically pat themselves on the back and laud each others work – not like they’ll be getting any of that from the critics or the international film making community. Besides who knew that mediocrity can be outdone?
Well, Bollywood, with your kitschy gaudiness and blatant avarice you’ve proved to us all that, in you, mediocrity can be consistently outdone! Congratulations...I guess.

No comments: