A Change Is What We Need

There is an urgent need for a shift in the entertainment ideology writes Tanya Joshi. 

change

It seems, after years of creative drought, Indian moviemakers are finally able to impress critics and are also managing make a hit at the box office. Taking the power of storytelling into their own hands, young filmmakers like Ritesh Batra, Sujoy Ghosh and Anand Gandhi are fashioning much-needed, nuanced portraits of our culture through their films (The Lunch Box, Kahani and The Ship of Theseus). These new breed of directors have ushered in a new wave of Indian film which has brought offbeat and gritty sensibilities to Bollywood conventions.

Last year, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunch Box and Anand Gandhi’s The Ship of Theseus earned them a lot of critical acclaim from the international film festival circuit. For local film buffs, the win was a harbinger of good things to come. But Bollywood has had its detractors.

Formula – Stereotype and Clichés 

While mainstream Hindi films, unique for their singing and dancing, have been immensely popular with audiences since the 1930s, they were criticized by Indian intellectuals. Hindi cinema is still struggling to strike a balance between entertainment and realism. Still, today we get to see films that have the same plot where the girl swoons over the guy and vice versa; there’s the steroid-pumped bad guy, a little rona-dhona, a song-dance sequence in a park or a beautiful location and along with a fight scene marking the climax clichés are galore and stereotypes aplentyThe best part is we don’t need a break from this formulaic genre.

The problem isn’t with the formula. We’ve had this formulafor decades all over the world. Such classics as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Umrao-Jaan, Mughal-E-Azam, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Sholay all have emerged from the same formula.

What cinegoers are now tired of is the same plot / narrative being copied and reproduced in every movie, without any different treatment to the same old themes of mushy love stories and family dramas.

New Expressions : Fresh Treatment

In the recent past, new directors have tried to experiment with this – for instance Anurag  Kashyap gave a fillip to the Devdas saga and we had Dev D. It’s encouraging to see that even our audiences have reacted positively to this kind of change. Farhan Aktar’s Dil Cahata Hai redefined male friendship on the Indian screen and Meghna Gulzar’s Filhaal redefined female bonding. Shoojit Sircar dabbled with romantic comedy Vicky Donor and we had the outof-the-box eye-opener sprinkled with light-hearted humor . These movies gave the audiences a break from the ‘Typical Bollywood Movie’.

At last, we saw some real life characters and relationships unfolding in stories rather than sit through yet another film about stereotyped lovers fighting society and family before killing themselves. The issue is far more serious here and the fabric of the relationship, consequently more complex. There are anxieties and there are outbursts, but strangely they don’t evoke any feelings of judgment in the audience. Though in Vicky Donor, the couple – Vicky Arora and Ashima Roy’s relationship is embroiled in crisis, there is no overlapping of intention. There is not even the slightest hint of a slur for each other. In fact, they work as each other’s alter egos, alternately turning weak and strong, depending on who is more equipped to tackle the crisis. Like Dil Chahta Hai or Filhal, parents of the young couple play an important role in the film. They have reservations about the two marrying, however they give in to their children’s emotional decision and wisdom. They don’t impose themselves.

Which brings me back to where I started, and ask, do you really think Indian cinema is changing?  Well I guess it is, but it is disappointing to see that Bollywood is still adapting the same plot despite knowing that it has been used over and over again. The few good films mentioned above have tried to bring about a change in Indian cinema. After seeing those films I feel that it’s high time that Indian filmmakers target sensitive topics which all of us can relate to. When I talk about sensitive topics I mean situations that we all face in day-to-day life.

Films need to move away from melodrama and sentimentalism to being witty, wholesome, cerebral and compassionate – it’s time to use new visuals and adapt new expressions. We need a 90 degree shift in the sensibility of the filmmaker. S/he doesn’t need to deviate drastically from the original premise. The morality of the film need not be tampered with. It is how the film is treated that needs to be different.  There needs to be a shift in the entertainment ideology.

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