Bollywood's Coming Of Age
It all started with my having given up on contemporary Hindi films. I was hopeful after Taare Zameen Par and after watching Race one depressing Sunday afternoon I didn't see the cinematic revolution I had expected. I had also figured out after a Netflixcapade that Chak De India, the last Hindi film I watched with much enthusiasm seemed a lot like the English film called Miracle, except of course Miracle was based on a true story. Having absorbed this, I went into mourning, restricting my Hindi film doses to watching for the second, third or fourth time, classics like Masoom, Katha, Ijazzat and Mandi on YouTube.
And then one day a new name, Nishikanth Kamath, stirred my faith alive with Mumbai Meri Jaan. I laughed and cried and celebrated the filmmaker who finally found Paresh Rawal a role he was worthy of. The very next day, in A Wednesday, Naseeruddhin Shah and Anupam Kher held my attention until the very last scene. I didn't yawn or fast-forward through songs. I sat, eyes glued to the screen, silently applauding two of my favorite actors who thankfully did not settle by spending their greying film years as strict fathers, the perennial villains in desi love stories. The pace was electrifying, the story original and the characters real.
In Welcome To Sajjanpur, Shyam Benegal delighted me further with a simple yet delectable rural comedy that addressed relevant social issues. A modest cast, generous dashes of humor and Shreyas Talpade's acting genius made this film a wholesome and fun watch. Madhur Bhandarkar's style of juxtaposing the real with the glamorous worked in Fashion and I was surprised to find out that the very pretty Priyanka Chopra can, if she tried, act well. More recently, in Dasvidaniya, Vinay Pathak brought a common man character to life. I soaked in this bittersweet and touchingly crafted film, directed by debutante Shashant Shah that has the potential to change how Bombay's middle class views life and relationships. I fell in love with the awkward, bespectacled and podgy protagonist.
Rock On! had me pondering about several things; about what might have happened to Indus Creed, the rock group of the 80s, about what had happened to my dreams of learning to play the guitar some day and most importantly about why I hadn't noticed earlier how very good-looking Farhan Akhtar was! It is always more of a success when one sees new faces in a Hindi film these days and realizes that it is talent being showcased and not merely a family business being passed on cause some star-kid didn't do too well at school.
In EMI, a lighthearted comic plot captured the complicated love-hate relationship between the new and altered Indian middle class and the banks that strive with relentless schemes to catch up with them. Sanjay Dutt is a natural at playing the quintessential bhai and has practically raised the standards for anyone else wanting to play a GGG (gentle-goofy-goonda) character. It was refreshing to see among other things, a more composed and consequently more sexier Urmila Matondkar in a character very different from the over-the-top hysterical damsel that Ram Gopa Verma has had her play in the past.
I saw more. I saw Johnny Gaddar, Manorama Six Feet Under and am browsing sites to see if the seemingly funny Loins Of Punjab is out yet. I am waiting for the likes of Nana Patekar, Atul Kulkarni, Manoj Bajpai to make good while these crazy times of unique plots and talented performances roll.
In the past few weeks I have watched film after film and am wide-eyed at the maverick years of cinema that the Hindi film industry is witnessing. In short, every film was unique and I imagined what the big banners might be doing. Were they scratching their heads wondering what happened to the time when the proclaimed stars and starlets would come out and claim the box office for themselves as the small budget filmmakers took home the consolation prize and maybe a Filmfare Critics' Award? Or maybe they are coming up with a formula to match the present times and create a package that has what today's film buffs need. Maybe they will learn to tap into the free advertising offered by the blogosphere where the new, the creative and the original are spoken about and exalted. Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi tells us that the Barjatyas stubbornly choose to remain in the past and manufacture wedding videos in place of cinema. Aditya Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi did not have a gripping story in with the times and Shahrukh's charm could not make up for the lack of chemistry between the two leading stars. None of the bigger stars have yet ventured into the emerging genre of films which may be a blessing for upcoming actors. Maybe this is their channel into tinseltown.
Finally, there are stories in Bollywood! The Indian film director is acknowledging the growing intellect of the masses and catering to it instead of recycling the girl-meets-boy plots. The mother in Dasvidaniya, the child in Taare Zameen Par and the friend in Rock On! all remind us that the "pyaar" they sing about so much in Bollywood has more faces than the two that will sing, dance, hold hands, kiss and eventually marry.
Recently, in speaking of Slumdog Millionaire, Mr.Bachchan on his blog acknowledged the age-long tryst between the commercial and art film industries in India. Films have always been viewed on those lines. What is artful and realistic was assumed not to be of commercial value since commercialism feeds on escapism. But the movies I have been watching lately have the triumphs and fantasy that escapism offers and the realistic depiction of earthy stories that art films showcase. One could call them crossover films; a genre that brings together the popularity of commercial cinema and the delicate craftsmanship of art films. What was parallel cinema, not too long ago, is now intersecting and becoming one with popular cinema. A new day has dawned in Bollywood!
Bollywood's Coming Of Age
- » Published on January 17, 2009
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Author: Aditi Nadkarni
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