Monday, May 28, 2007

The Offbeat Mainstream Bollywood

As the mall - multiplex culture engulfs the Urbane Indian, so does a new look Bollywood. Not that Bollywood is undergoing a plastic surgery of sorts but there is a subtle, seamless yet definite change that has arrived in Mainstream bollywood. An avid Hollywood fan would say that Bollywood is aping Hollywood, but the change I am talking about is perhaps not aping of Hollywood. It can't be denied however that the new look bollywood has started to produce movies with varied themes, Themes which till a few years ago were considered, by many Indians, as the forte only of Hollywood and something which was acceptable only in Indian "ART" Cinema.

We have grown up watching the formula bollywood movies. Thus any standard bollywood movies has one or more of the following elements from Shakespearean novels
  1. Merchant of Venice - Good Natured Hero Beats up the bad guys and saves (the world, his family, his village, himself, etc) or plain revenge. Now Antonio or Portia didn't really beat up Shylock but lets pull in Hamlet to add that twist.
  2. Romeo and Juliet - Rich girl falls in love with poor guy (or viceversa although I consider the formed to be more common) or girl and boy from rival families in love giving rise to family feuds etc.
  3. Twelfth Night - Brothers meet 20 years after being separated (in Kumbh Mela /due Murder of their parents by the Baddie /due to Father goes to jail for a crime he didn't do) etc. Actually even Sisters meet this way, but Brothers seem to be more common. This not truly Twelfth night but the separation - meet again part comes close.
  4. Last but not the least - Family melodrama involving quarrels (Saas - bahu, bhai bhai, baap beta etc) instigated by a internal baddie (Mama, Chacha, Step Mom etc) - I think this is more Indian with roots in Ramayana / Mahabharata than Shakespeare. Thinking of Shakespeare however reminds me that yeah there is King Lear which might prove some inspiration.
  5. Of course there are other novels who provide their bits like Macbeth, Othello etc (etc refers to the rest of the Shakespearean world / other authors I haven't really bothered reading)
Of course all of the above are completely Indianised with several song and dance sequences and lot of good old emotions. Thus a typical Bollywood move would have complete entertainment (or so they claim) with the customary happy ending (except for perhaps some Romeo - Juliet types) . Having grown up on an appetite of such cinema, Hollywood always provided the much required relief by providing themes that catered to the need to watch something different.

The mainstream Bollywood could be thus defined as cinema that sticks to the standards above and aims to make money. That films can also be a creative art is often ignored by the so defined mainstream. Thus creative art or social / current affairs based cinema was thrown out of the mainstream and branded as "ART" meaning don't bother looking at their Box office records or entertainment value, just appreciate the art.

However last few years I have observed that now mainstream cinema apart from the formula movies also produces some movies which are different and creative or based on social topics or even current affairs. These are produced with an eye at the box office and entertainment value.
So what sets them apart - simplicity, entertainment value, creativity, and most importantly different story lines. The story lines do not follow the mainstream that we have grown up with.

What really prompted me to write this article is the fact that number of these movies has increased so much that in last 4 weeks I watched 4 movies in the cinema halls and all of them were not really traditional mainstream. Given their entertainment value and box office returns they can't be branded "ART" either. Thus I came up with the word "Offbeat Mainstream"

So here are some takes on a few of the recent "Offbeat Mainstream"

1. Rang De Basanti - No intro needed, for any bollywood fan has probably seen it. A movie about contemporary carefree youth woken up by history and and a sense of duty to friendship and to the nation. Its one of those movies that really has inspired the Indian youth to take a look at doing something for the nation. The ending was realistic with all the main characters getting the poetic "immortality" albeit not a happy one. Yet the movie was a hit with an audience that loves happy endings.

2. Kabul Express - Not many liked this one. Yet it was a good attempt to bring out the reality of war ridden Afghanistan in an entertaining way. The reality brought out shakes you up but then again reality is never sweet as sugar.

3. Shootout at Lokhandwala - Now Gangster movies are not very new to bollywood and we have had a trend of those movies for quite a while now. What's new here however is the fact that this is a movie which tries to glorify ordinarily unknown real policemen who have gone beyond the corrupt image of police. It brings out real life heroes, without projecting them as larger than life characters. This is one very violent movie yet the violence, fights, shootouts are quite realistic. Although it does have elements from main stream bollywood (read romance, music, good guy beats the bad guy) its indeed a complete shoot out.

4. Life in a Metro - A movie about extra marital affairs. The plot has a nicely intertwined web of extra marital affairs which spans almost all the main characters. A great sound track and some great performances. A story about a section of society which looks beyond their lives for the happiness that eludes them within. Its not necessarily a story of you and me but definitely entertaining with some very hilarious moments and yes scenes perceived as "Very bold" for Indian cinema.

5. Khosla Ka Ghosla - This is a smart, humourous story about a bunch of middle class junta who swindle a nasty builder / businessmen to lay claim to the land which is rightfully theirs. A simple story line and ordinary characters like you and me, yet a very entertaining movie.

6. Bheja Fry - Now this one is very difficult to describe. Its a movie with no story but just a sequence of events that lead to a situational comedy. Its indeed a Bheja fry, for the one character responsible for the laughs in the movie can do exactly that to the brains if one of is lucky or unlucky enough to bump into one. A must watch for any one who likes the Garfield jokes where Odie is being kicked around.

7. Ek Chalis Ki Last Local - A movie about Mumbai. The dark side of the city very smartly brought out in a comedy. Its a movie which presents everything bad in Mumbai - overworked professionals, prostitution, gang wars, corruption, extortion, ladies bars, gambling etc and even some not so spoken about topics like homosexuality, eunuchs etc. All that quite explicitly and realistically in a single movie and yet at the end of it you come out laughing. A must watch for any Mumbaite and someone who doesn't mind a slightly adult comedy.

My list could go on. These however are a select few which I watched quite recently and have managed to entertain me (not that it is difficult to entertain me). However these are the movies that mark the acceptance of the Offbeat Mainstream Bollywood by the Indian audience.

No comments:

Post a Comment