Monday, March 5, 2007


Bold New Bollywood

There has always been a set formula for any Bollywood movie over the years. It would either be a love story or it would be an action thriller (read revenge movie). In the love story, boy would meet girl and would promptly fall in love with each other at the drop of a hat. One of them would be poor and the other rich. Their families would fight tooth and nail over their pairing. Ultimately love conquers all and all is well that ends well. As for the action movies, some great injustice or crime might be committed against the hero and the rest of the movie would be his quest for vengeance, in which he would ultimately succeed. Add to this lavishly picturized songs and a ridiculous comedy track and you have your Bollywood movie made. All this has changed in the last one year.

If you look at the movies released last year they are vastly different form one another. From Bollywood’s first super hero in ‘Krishh’ to the thought provoking ‘Rang De Basanthi’. From ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ to ‘Kabul Express’ to ‘Dhoom 2’ the movies have been vastly different from one another.

In ‘Krish’ India received its own version of Superman and it immediately was taken to hearts by the kids of this country. The day of merchandising too arrived along with it and Bollywood made tons of money form the whole brand. If Krsih was an out and out commercial venture, ‘Rang De Basanthi’ proved that movies can in fact influence people’s thinking and get them motivated to raise their voices. It showed today’s generation not to take anything lying down and to raise their voice against injustice. The movie’s theme was so influential it had its repercussion in real life issues like the Jessica Lal, the Priyadarshini Mattoo and the Nitish Katara murder cases. The public outcry against the injustice in these cases were amazingly similar to the events depicted in the film.

‘Lage Raho Munnabahai’ made Gandhi cool to a generation who has now forgotten his values or even more shameful, has forgotten him itself. They re-introduced Gandhi and his philosophies to those who think that he was only a part of some bygone fable. The movie did this by showing Gandhi’s teachings in a package more digestible to the new generation and they lapped it up with open arms.

‘Kabul Express’ was one of those rare road movies in Bollywood. This movie was about two Indian journalists traveling to post 9/11 Afghanistan and the events and people they meet along the way. It was completely different from anything the Indian audience had witnessed before.

Dhoom 2, was a complete high budget commercial flick. It belonged to the action adventure genre and became the biggest hit of the year. It even had a much talked about kissing scene between Hrithink Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. Add to that some superb visual effects, by Indian standards, and the movie went on to become a nationwide hit.

Even the king of formula film making in Bollywood, Karan Johar, had to get out of his comfort zone to make ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’. Johar who usually deals with opulent love stories was forced to tackle a serious subject like infidelity and incompatibility in marriages. It is another matter that he still managed to candy floss the matter in his own way. The point is that filmmakers today realize that the audience requires something different and with substance to sustain their interest.

The shift from the formula films to these bold new ventures have not come overnight. It has been building up for quite some time. The main reason, one feels, is that Bollywood now is catering to a much more international audience than ever before. Films released abroad regularly collects as much, if not more than those released in India, thanks mainly due to the huge Indian Diaspora. The film makers know that to satisfy this audience, who has grown up on a steady diet of Hollywood movies, they will have to travel the off beat path of film making. Also the awareness of the Indian audience too has increased due to the accessibility of western movies via the numerous movie channels available here.

The recent movie Nishabdh is a prime example of the changing face of Bollywood. The movie which deals with the story of a 60 year old man’s love for an 18 year old is bold as well as daring by Indian values and conventions. Can anyone have imagined this movie being made some 5 years back?

These are interesting times in Bollywood. Even though we still have a long way to go in dealing with controversial subjects objectively in our movies, we seem to be moving in the right direction. Let’s hope we would continue in the same vein and deal with sensitive topics in a most sensible way.

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