Blurring lines: ‘Munnabhai’ meets ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’ (Jan 2006) (Written with a friend for the media magazine)

Blurring lines: ‘Munnabhai’ meets ‘Mr and Mrs Iyer’

- “kitne aadmi the??”
- “bhagwan ke liye mujhe chhor do”
- “mere paas bangla hai, gaadi hai, tumhare paas kya hai?”

Sounds familiar???

Every Indian movie buff has literally grown with these dialogues. The histrionics of Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay, errant acts of Amjad Khan as Gabbar singh and the chic dance moves of Helen, all come together to make a typical bollywood film a heady concoction of dance, drama, action and romance.

India being the largest film-producing country in the world with an average of 800 films released per year, movies are an inseparable part of every Indian. For long, bollywood has been instrumental in deciding the latest fashion trends- from the body-hugging sarees and high puffs of the 70s to the barely-there minis and cleavage-popping cholis of today……Indian movies have come a long way.

In this journey of cinema marked by ever-popular hits like Sholay and Deewar of the 70s, there was a parallel track running with some not-so-conventional movies like Saraansh and Arth. But with the commercial films hogging all the limelight, these so-called art movies were sidelined.

Interestingly, now the equations have changed. While maintaining utmost levels of art, innovation and seriousness, a new genre of movies has emerged that vie for commercial success.
Starting with times where Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Paanchali” was alien to Sholay ki “Basanti” we are now moving into an era where an actress like Urmila Matondkar brings Rangeela’s ‘Mili’ closer to Pinjar’s ‘Puro’.

This is a revolutionary phase where the entertainment element of commercial and the seriousness of the art movies have combined to give rise to a new term- Fusion movies. But according to Mr. Eddy Singh, an eminent film-maker based in Delhi, “There is nothing like an art movie or a commercial movie. Any movie meant to do business is at the end of the day a commercial venture."

Although this whole parallel movement which started during the 70s continues to this day, what differentiates the present fusion movies from the mainstream is the presentation and treatment of the storyline. The movies no longer rely on the mundane latka jhatkas and dhishum dhishum to drag on. The current crop of movies like Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Iqbal, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Black and Chandni Bar have stood out from the rest solely on the basis of their exceptional handling of distinctive issues.

Take a look at Page 3… the movie’s portrayal of the growing Page 3 media culture, with a dash of song and drama thrown in managed to hit the right chord with the audience. Astitva, on the other hand, based on the issue of female infidelity, previously unheard of, received critical acclamation adding new dimensions to the career of an already established actress Tabu. Movies like Fire, Satta, Phir Milenge and My Brother Nikhil handled subjects like AIDS, homosexuality, women empowerment and freedom with utmost sensitivity. These HAT KE movies take you to the uncommon and unexplored vistas. Although they have faced controversy in the past, yet they have been well-received and the controversies have only added to their popularity. This certainly proves that the audience today is not a passive receiver. The society has become mature and the social and unconventional topics which were considered a taboo by commercial movie-makers are now fast catching on, with big banners and high-profile stars jumping into the fray.

The contemporary meaningful cinema, if the reference doesn’t seem an exaggeration, is a complete package of great storyline, good music and a popular star-cast. The filmmakers are no longer deterred to think the ‘unthinkable’. They are open to experimentation and are increasingly trudging on the path still undiscovered.

Who could have thought that ‘Pushpak’, a movie sans any dialogue, would work! But it was a huge success and people till date wait to come across such awesome cinema. It is, however, true that all the off -beat movies couldn’t manage to reach similar heights. The minimalistic approach of the directors, coupled with the understated imagery of such movies, kept the distributors and viewers away from them.

But this problem of constrained reach and limited viewership has become negligible today- thanks to the growing multiplex culture in India. With multi-screen cineplexes coming up in the metros as well as in smaller towns, the audience base has greatly increased. These multiplexes provide them with a wide range of movies to choose from.

Nishi, a mass communication student feels that the multiplex culture has come up as a trend of showcase. “Whether it is our dress, hair color or the mobile handset, we get bored with one and so look for something different. It is the same with movies…multiplex is like a showroom of movies for the Indian audience…”

The present ilk of movies is not only finding domestic audience but is receiving immense popularity across the world. Think of the much talked about movie Lagaan by Ashutosh Gowarikar and Paheli by Amol Palekar. Both took India to the Oscars. It reminded us of the period when Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchaali led us to the international platform. With more and more movies following the trend, we have movies like Water by Deepa Mehta, still awaiting release in India, but having received large scale appreciation abroad, especially during the Toronto Film Festival. Not only are they being recognized globally but even directors and producers from other countries are increasingly entering into joint ventures to make such movies. These crossover films incorporate the technology and innovation of the world with the subtlety and universal themes of India.

On the flip side, in an effort to keep pace with the current trend, some unscrupulous directors have tried to pass off their hackneyed plots in disguise of art. Girlfriend, Oops! and Snip are some such movies which have not gone down well with the audience owing to their immature handling of sensitive issues.The bindaas bollywood is no longer only about masti, glamour and entertainment. It has definitely transcended that stage and metamorphosed itself to suit the changing sensibilities. Indians breathe films. This evolution has refreshed their ambience. But the journey has just begun!

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Unknown said…
Nice post , but one billion and yet to make a real impact on world cinema --- where do we lack ??

Ajay Mishra, Arunachal Pradesh
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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