Just recently I read a comment where someone had described Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus, 2010’s Guzaarish as a dud…totally ignoring fact that the film was critically acclaimed around the world not just in India, sits as a special selection in the Oscar™ library (Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) did average box office business and was heavily nominated during award season. It is sad that we have come to a day in Hindi Cinema where artistic integrity takes a back seat to triviality, insipid mindless banality and numbers. Success is now measured only in numbers or which filmy fraternity you belong to.
Take for instance the Student of the year (SOTY) kids all deliriously ecstatic (who wouldn’t be right?) that they are getting launched on the Dharma Productions™ platform by respected director Karan Johar or as I like to call him KJO. What happened to the days when filmy kids tried to hide the fact that they were filmy and tried to get accepted on their own merit? Oh! Oops it has probably never happened in Bollywood. In Hollywood on the other hand, Nicolas Cage hid the fact that he’s a COPPOLA just to prove himself as an actor, Angelina Jolie despite growing up in the spotlight made a name for herself and did not hide behind her VOIGHT heritage, I remember watching Bryce Dallas Howard cringe at the fact that people might think she was riding the coattails of her famous father Ron when she was about to debut in 2004’s The Village. To the credit of the three debutantes of the upcoming SOTY, they might be cringing too but it is hard to notice any discomfort amid their endless parade of designer clothing, magazine covers, global promotional tours and shameless plugs at every single event in B-town. Look at Sonakshi Sinha (respect to her for representing curvy girls but) she satisfies a prototype that according to Bollywood tradition will last her only until she is around 30. Thus far, she acts the same way in every film, dances around to catchy tunes, is the love interest of a much older guy until they find someone younger than her or she gets married (which ever happens first) then kick her to the curb like all others who have come before her. Why does it have to be that way? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for the success of anything that anyone has worked hard for but just because a foolish formula works doesn’t mean it should be implemented all the time.
In Bollywood, critically acclaimed actors like Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Amanda Seyfried & Thandie Newton would not be famous regardless of their talent because according to the unspoken industry rule, they don’t have the numbers to back them up. They would need to command the box office with every single film like Reese Witherspoon, Milla Jovovich, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Liam Neeson, George Clooney & the Twilight Kids to be considered relevant. Amrita Rao, Ayeesha Takia, Bhumika Chawla, Esha Deol all talented young females but where are they now? No more career prospects because they are box-office challenged? I love Shahid Kapoor but he has had a string of flops yet he’s still relevant and people are still willing to take a chance on him. Sexism anyone? I’m just saying.
Hindi Cinema marks 100 years this year with very little progress to show for it. In a recent interview with the Hindustan Times, yesteryear actress Waheeda Rehman described the current era of Bollywood as the golden era. Say what? The industry currently copies 95% of the content that comes out of Hollywood or other film industries, hires actresses based on beauty and their figures, firang or filmy family not talent, cast the men in ridiculously unbelievable roles yet we the audience are expected to sit and eat it all up and worship them no matter what. Members of the media control the industry with no accountability for what is said on television, radio or what goes to print. Another day, you can expect another useless rumour to pop up, unsubstantiated yet held as doctrine. Actresses are belittled and defamed at the drop of a dime and accused of everything under the sun, with no respect for privacy or show of decency. Pot-shots are the order of the day and the lay of the land, the more you dish them out the more you can get your name in print and your PR machinery into overdrive. Twitter war? No problem. KJO vs RGV (egos r us dot com), SRK vs Sallu bhai (I am the king Khan r us dot com), PC vs Bebo (pot shots r us dot com) Big Business vs Small Business (100+ crore business rules r us dot com) and let us not forget the newly minted phrase “THE 100 CRORE HEROINE”. Should I even bother to touch on the current item number craze and the strings of foreign dancers featured in every music video these days? And this is the golden era?
At this point, we just have to thank God for well made independent films with strong messages and the stellar performers behind them, thank God for the ever-green era where actors male and female just showed up and acted, no fight no fuss, no paparazzi no entourage, no glitz no glamour, no drama except on-screen. Thank God also for the great actors who respect their craft and refuse to cheapen it by acting in mindless films just for box office acclaim and thank God for the film-makers who support the dream behind making a good film (be it LAGAAN big or UDAAN small) and who are not among the ones who are just throwing garbage out there hoping a mass of seemingly unintelligent people would go and spend money on it and make it a blockbuster so they can brag about their accomplishments and make the little people seem even smaller.
I want Fakht You – Joker (UTV Pictures)
Don’t Fuff My Mind – Kismat Love Paisa Dilli (Invicible Entertainment Productions)
Po Po – Son of Sardar (T-Series)
Taan Ke Seena – Bhindi Bazaar Inc. (Picture Thoughts Productions)
Hosanna – Ekk Deewana tha (AR Rahman, Sony Music)
Radha on the dance floor – SOTY (Dharma Productions)
Kunda Khol – Chakravyuh (Prakash Jha/Eros Entertainment)
Neeyat Kharab Hai – Teen Patti (T Series)
Laila – Tezz (Venus)
Mashallah – Ek tha tiger (YRF)
Abhi Abhi – Jism II (T Series)