As a student of film studies and a self- confessed movie buff, I’m positive that I couldn’t have been the only person who was reduced to tears after witnessing the line-up of Bollywood movies dubbed “blockbuster” over the past few years. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. Quite justifiably, these movies took a lot of bashing from all around the world. Chennai Express, Krissh 3, Student of the Year, Zindagi Na MilegiDobara to name a few. Not that I’m singling out these movies, I’m sure a lot of other movies could’ve been shittier. Still these were just a few names that popped into my head when I thought “bad movie”
A lot of people loved Zindagi Na MilegiDobara. I do love the film’s soundtrack. But the film itself fell flat with its uninspiring story and left me with absolutely no urge to “seize the day”. Try as hard as I did, I just couldn’t bring myself to relate to these effluent, entitled characterswho could just afford to pack up and go scuba diving in Spain to deal with their text book “white person” problems. Abandonment and daddy issues? Run with the bulls. Girlfriend problems and fear of confrontation? Jump from an airplane. Stick-up-the-ass, career centric, Wall Street guy stereotype? Insert token “exotic” female lead, then scuba dive and discover the exuberance of life amidst tomato pulp. All this BS in a movie which was little else than an unabashed 3 hour long tourism promo for Spain. And do I even need to point out that ZNMD is as close as Bollywood has come so far, to YOLO? If that isn’t enough to make you understand just how annoying this movie is, you’re pretty much a lost cause.. “The tomatoes have taught us the meaning of life!”
Student of the Year was another vacuous, shiny, sparkly movie filled with beautiful people and was morbidly story-deficient. It played out more like a Disney Channel Movie, something along the lines of High School Musical, but with more skimpy pink speedos than PG 13 romances. Recently in an interview, the stars of the movie remarked that they were surprised most of their fan base comprised children rather than young men and women as expected. *faith restored in my generation*
Chennai Express however was a different story. I’m all for the huge melting pot of cultures, South meets North yadayada. But Rohit Shetty’s “meeting” felt as violating as Columbus “meeting” the Native Americans for the first time. The shameless caricaturis-ation of South Indians could have been forgiven in the presence of a semi-admissible story. However, that did not happen. And the minute I heard Shah Rukh Khan speak Tamil, I felt a little part of me die. It was a revelation to understand that South Indians sound like one of Russell Peters’ racial caricatures to Bollywood executives.
Lastly and more recently, cameKrissh 3. My problems with this film are threefold. Firstly, just the title bugs the crap out of me. How sloppy do multi-million dollar producers have to be to absurdly name the movie Krissh 3 instead of Koi Mil Gaya 3 or even Krissh 2? With this sort of titling, I feel like those producers are almost giving normal audiences the middle finger and saying “Yeah. We make so much money we don’t even have to name the movies in our franchises chronologicallyGo ahead. Tell your ten year old child how outraged you are. You’re still gonna have to take him to watch the movie. AND buy him overpriced popcorn and watch him spill soda all over the food court.”
Secondly, anyone who has read my blog or knows me understands how superhero-centric my life is. And after decades of bad Superman and Batman movies (and god forbid Elektra , Green Lantern and Catwoman movies! Shudder!) I’m infinitely grateful to be living in an age where Superhero movies sweep the box offices and are nominated for Oscars. People are finally associating superheroes with real cinema and deep storylines, and not just “kid’s stuff”. Then along comes Krissh, successfully infantilizing and trivializing the entire genre. “Dude! It’s just a superhero movie. Of course it’s gonna be aimed only at kids!” say some people I know. To that I say Krissh has done for Superhero movies, what Twilight has done for Feminism. Not only has it destroyed all the progress made over the past few years, it’s also made people think that’s okay. And abusive paedophilic boyfriends and weak plotlines have become the norm for fantasy films.
Finally, the fact that this movie ran so long, it made me wait outside the theatres for 25 minutes, while I was itching to watch Thor, makes me nurse an even more personal vendetta against Krissh 3.
2013 draws to a close with the release of Dhoom 3. I’m not a big fan of the Dhoom franchise; or as my friend calls it: the oxygen mask that keeps Uday Chopra’s career alive. And predictably, I heard from quite a few sources how bad the film was. Sure Uday Chopra and AbishekBachhan were just returning to the franchise. But this time they’d taken along Aamir Khan on their crazy spiral down the rabbit hole. The same Aamir Khan who gave us Rang De Basanti, Lagan and 3 Idiots, reduced to outrunning cops (if you can even call them that) on a bike/boat/submarine. I was pretty upset. Even though there are some remarkable movies coming out, it’s mostly these nonsensical, vacuous, over the top and sometimes pseudo-intellectual movies that rake in the big dough. More importantly, these are the movies that represent Bollywood to the rest of the world.
The future seemed pretty bleak too as I looked up the releases scheduled for 2014. Though there were quite a few movies I’m pretty excited to watch, I saw an equal and even higher percentage of movies that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to.
That’s when I had an epiphany. I’ve always gotten so worked up about these types of shoddily made movies. I used to blame the general public/ audience for enabling more movies like these to be produced, by setting their standards so low and expecting so little out of a film. It pained me that a deluge of such movies being released and also exploding in the box offices to become blockbusters lowered the standing of Indian cinema among the world’s audience.
But here’s the deal: These are not pieces of cinema that would stand the test of time. They are not pieces that would find themselves in Roger Ebert’s must watch lists. They wouldn’t observe and explore the inner workings of the human psyche. More than a dozen of these would involve laughably impractical plots and badly written characters.
But they are inarguably, plain and simple entertainment. They let the audience power down and lose themselves in filmy, dramatic and admittedly nonsensical worlds. These films take Coleridge’s Suspension of Disbelief to whole new levels. They defy the laws of physics and created superstars worthy of literal worship from their fans. Though I still do consider these movies pretty lazy film making, I also see the point in making them.
After this insight of the year, I’ve started to look at these crazy masala movies with an almost affectionate detachment. Sort of the same way you’d look at that blubbering drunk friend dancing on the table at a party. All hail The Great Indian Blockbuster and a Happy New Year to us all!
©Jyotsna H. for PosterGully.com