The Woes and Laughs of Hindi Cinema…


Contributed to Studentvoyeur by Avvai

Hindi cinema is an entity by itself. Several observations made of all existing cinemas from all over the planet; Indian cinema stands out as a unique entity because it permeates everyday life of the normal Indian anywhere in the country, doing anything at all. It engulfs the very existential normalcy of an individual regardless whether the she/he is an active participant or not in the filmic process. Even more strange is that silent suzerainty that cinema has over our minds and again we may not be serious film buffs but just passersby. There is no escaping from that.

The effects of Hindi cinema of present decade on the mental well being is well in context in the age of India being recognized internationally as a nation to reckon with on many fronts. We are loved in Afghanistan because our Hindi films are the only real escape in that war torn region. They love our songs, our senseless plots that sometimes urge us to question that how much can suspension of disbelief occur, our dances and of course the high voltage laden dialogues that can blow up the entire planet, only for a few seconds and if the challenge is serious, it can be proven.

Javed Akhtar in his book, Talking Films, mentions that how Hindi cinema is a different state by itself. It is secular, all regional  fights occur because they have to be resolved and abide by our ever forgiving national nature and then we have our heroes and heroines and their eternal romance, passionate song dance routine, (rain sequence necessarily here) that can be passed on as soft porn at times. But we are like that only. The Americans love the French, the French love Art, the Germans love their engineering, the Spanish love their bovines, the Brazilians love their carnivals and football, and the Chinese love everything about themselves, especially after Olympics 2008 and Indians love films. Cricket nudges hard simulatanelusly and the tug of war continues, but cinema rules our hearts and prompts each heart beat.

One of the most often misconstrued truths and very conveniently so, is the fact that Hindi cinema is taken as Indian cinema in totality. Hindi film makers are very flattered with this back hand compliment and do very little to clear the air. But the truth cannot be denied. Indian cinema is not just the outcome of only the main regional languages but also the dialects. How else does one categorize Konkani and Bhojpuri cinema? But yes, it is Hindi filmdom that gathers all the cream and therefore, Indian cinema is synonymous with Hindi cinema. There is of late, a stark irony that is surfacing and it cannot be ignored on any basis. Two of the most popular Khans- Shahrukh and Salman have very slyly borrowed the mechanics of signature sealed mannerisms and moves from the more complex South Indian film industry. Salman Khan especially has worked hard to get his PR skills right. His audience does not want an actor who acts, they want a street styled icon who can, in the lines of a Rajnikant, get that one cool gesture right, deliver that one chilled out, perfect punch line after every shot.Basically get away with the histrionics of the real craft by substituting it with what sells, what extracts maximum hooting from the dark theater halls and the film is a potential blockbuster. Right now, that is working very well for Salman Khan who has discovered several pots of gold with his rainbow fare so far. And the latest to pick up this trend is Shah rukh Khan, who to make up for the lost time, in his coming flick, Ra- One, takes no chances and plays an out and out South Indian hero, whose name is Shekharan.

So, the probe is about the real Hindi Cinema identity that we are aiming to discover? And what do we really seek to achieve when we discuss the effects of a certain national film language on the mental well being of its citizens. History intervenes here. Films came as an invention in theUnited Statesto basically entertain the immigrants. One reel, single shot silent films were created for the immigrants that came to seek political asylum inAmerica, post World War Two. These films were for the countless penniless Europeans who came in multitudes in those boats and for whom the Statue of Liberty on theEasternCoastoffered a glimpse of hope and promise. This sea of immigrants worked in the city throughout the day and in the evenings paid a nickel to watch these capers and have a laugh let out inside those thick canvas tents. These were human beings who laughed at the one minute comedies because it would be a while when they would begin to remember to smile again. There was a congruency established here historically, when we talk about cinema being an escapist medium. For the young Russians, cinema was a vehicle for political propaganda, for the inimitable French, cinema was the latest to arrive on the art scenario. For the Germans, going through a terrible time in history, it was the purveyor of their inner thought processes and expressionism. For the Italians, it was the rediscovery of reality around themselves and transposing it to an ultimate spiritual quest. But for the Americans, it was the basics that mattered. It was more of an entertainment tool for its people and that is all that was there to it. InIndia, we sub consciously, adopted this stance and soon it became our way of looking at films. They became our escape routes, our dream spaces, our penultimate aspiration fulfilling devices of becoming all that we desired in our actual lives.

Films had become our staple diet within a decade and a half of its arrival on our shores.

The father of our nation scorned at films and was of the opinion that films would only mislead and corrupt the nation. The astute social scientist in him failed to see the impact of cinema on a swarming population ever waiting to devour the silver screen than ever before. Gandhiji did not forsee that even a pimp or a small time thief who watches from the front row, the villain being bashed up by the good man is all for the good man. Their individual, personal professions bifurcate here and they all cheer up when the good man wipes off his sweat after thrashing the evil out of the villain. Ying- yang is not a myth. Only the proportions vary.

Hindi cinema is very important for the mental well being of a nation that is as confused as an alien looking down on this blue planet and watching tiny lumps of carbon and oxygen moving around. Our films are our hope. They dictate, moralize, titillate and we all go home a contented lot. It is only later that our films started asking some ‘real’ questions. But we are equally happy not having them posed at all. We are a nation of queues. We are forever queuing up. And the most anticipated and excited queues are outside the ticket windows. In a dusty town ofMadhya Pradesh, women with their heads covered, a two month baby on their hip and men smoking bidis, patiently await for the rusty shutters of a dilapidated building called the cinema hall to open. Their dreams will unfold, their libidos will be liberated, and their personal battles will be won on the screen by their favorite hero and the leading lady. The cinema is a powerful monster. It only unleashes its power by fatally attacking all its admirers by perpetually slaving them for eternity. So, would we have preferred as an alternate medium that would in all its capacity replace films? We cannot imagine within a million miles of anything tangible and as powerful. The radio has its limitations. The internet and the social networking sites still have a Himalayan task to undertake when it comes to reaching out at the grassroot levels. As a visual medium, it is a complete social communication medium. The ‘wall to wall song and dance routine’ will always be a collective catharsis. The inevitable triumph of good over evil will always be laced with our mythological yearnings will put us through purgatory and hell and we will come out cleansed.

Govinda Ahuja is one mainstream actor that I am going to discuss here and his persona here will reassert the fact that how from time to time the Hindi film has been able to salvage its otherwise frivolous reputation and put it into good usage. Art must have no pretensions at any cost. There is nothing worse than that. And Govinda has been one actor who has succeeded in doing it like his role model, Mithun Chakraborty. When the two time National award winner, Mithun Chakraborty decided to put on the glittering, flashy costume in ‘Disco Dancer’, he carried no trails of his Mrinal Sen film experience. The cryptic coloration was perfect. Govinda may not be in the exact league but his films are more ‘real.’ More honest than perhaps a Mani Ratnam film. Govinda’s films have been proved as major stress busters and Dr. Sneha Sardesai, a psychiatrist fromBombayHospitalmentions that she has seen severe depression patients chuckling whenever they watch a Govinda film. When most heroes have very personalized, designer picked outfits for their films, Govinda’s clothes are a painter’s pallet. Purple trousers and a yellow shirt, pink jacket and a red cap decorate his wardrobe. He is unapologetic about it. In fact, a few years back when every top hero spoke of coveting the national award at least once in

their respective careers; Govinda too was also asked the same. His reply was that it is so easy to get a national award in this country. Wear an actual beard and wear no make up or play a mentally challenged character… The man hits where it hurts most. There was a time when the so called ‘classes’ slyly went to watch his double act in ‘Aankehn’ with the ‘loose change’ crowds. Such was the man’s reputation with the funny antics on screen and his dancing,a visual delight. Shammi Kapoor recently mentioned that if there is one actor in this country who dances from head to toe, it was Govinda. With his massive girth, he gets his steps right in first take leaving the choreographers either exasperated or pleasantly shocked. Even in a poor film like ‘Ravaan’, he is the only actor who comes completely convincing. His audiences like him because he does not come with the expectation of a typical heavy duty hero. He adores Kishore Kumar who too was more into the deed of making people laughing rather than bore them down with heavy melodrama. None of those love triangles or those revengeful dramas for Kishore Kumar and so is it for Govinda. His occasional fare might have taken a serious break in the plot but overall the man is famous for his down market dancing and brash and blunt acting. Even his ‘cheap’ songs are for the front benchers and are more direct. There are no heavy sexual innuendos hidden in cleverly written lyrics. Like him or leave him. It makes no difference to the man who rose from the dregs of poverty to become a star. And he is wise and honest in what he does. He respects and reciprocates the hard working rickshaw driver and knows exactly how to return his penny’s worth when he comes to watch his film.

The mental well being of a human being may depend on several internal and external factors. Hindi cinema has never been in the news for being a trailblazer in terms of sustained international artistic endeavor as such.( Satyajit Ray was our last Renaissance man.) But it has certainly worked for the common man and his film makers are not necessarily theSouth Mumbaiborn new generation brat packs that have their audiences overseas. Hindi cinema basically is the copyright of that immigrant who has just come from a jalopy of a bus fromKutchand has landed in the great city in the search of a job. And when he does get one, he dreams of wearing that new polyester shirt from his brother’s marriage and watch a film. Hindi cinema caters to all those small dreams that exist inIndiain several centuries that hope to strike it each day. Little surprise then, as to why we must call it Bollywood.

Hindi cinema is an entity by itself. Several observations made of all existing cinemas from all over the planet; Indian cinema stands out as a unique entity because it permeates everyday life of the normal Indian anywhere in the country, doing anything at all. It engulfs the very existential normalcy of an individual regardless whether the she/he is an active participant or not in the filmic process. Even more strange is that silent suzerainty that cinema has over our minds and again we may not be serious film buffs but just passersby. There is no escaping from that.

The effects of Hindi cinema of present decade on the mental well being is well in context in the age of India being recognized internationally as a nation to reckon with on many fronts. We are loved inAfghanistanbecause our Hindi films are the only real escape in that war torn region. They love our songs, our senseless plots that sometimes urge us to question that how much can suspension of disbelief occur, our dances and of course the high voltage laden dialogues that can blow up the entire planet, only for a few seconds and if the challenge is serious, it can be proven.

Javed Akhtar in his book, Talking Films, mentions that how Hindi cinema is a different state by itself. It is secular, all regional  fights occur because they have to be resolved and abide by our ever forgiving national nature and then we have our heroes and heroines and their eternal romance, passionate song dance routine, (rain sequence necessarily here) that can be passed on as soft porn at times. But we are like that only. The Americans love the French, the French love Art, the Germans love their engineering, the Spanish love their bovines, the Brazilians love their carnivals and football, and the Chinese love everything about themselves, especially after Olympics 2008 and Indians love films. Cricket nudges hard simultaneously and the tug of war continues, but cinema rules our hearts and prompts each heart beat.

One of the most often misconstrued truths and very conveniently so, is the fact that Hindi cinema is taken as Indian cinema in totality. Hindi film makers are very flattered with this back hand compliment and do very little to clear the air. But the truth cannot be denied. Indian cinema is not just the outcome of only the main regional languages but also the dialects. How else does one categorize Konkani and Bhojpuri cinema? But yes, it is Hindi filmdom that gathers all the cream and therefore, Indian cinema is synonymous with Hindi cinema. There is of late, a stark irony that is surfacing and it cannot be ignored on any basis. Two of the most popular Khans- Shahrukh and Salman have very slyly borrowed the mechanics of signature sealed mannerisms and moves from the more complex South Indian film industry. Salman Khan especially has worked hard to get his PR skills right. His audience does not want an actor who acts, they want a street styled icon who can, in the lines of a Rajnikant, get that one cool gesture right, deliver that one chilled out, perfect punch line after every shot.Basically get away with the histrionics of the real craft by substituting it with what sells, what extracts maximum hooting from the dark theater halls and the film is a potential blockbuster. Right now, that is working very well for Salman Khan who has discovered several pots of gold with his rainbow fare so far. And the latest to pick up this trend is Shahrukh Khan, who to make up for the lost time, in his coming flick, Ra- One, takes no chances and plays an out and out South Indian hero, whose name is Shekharan.

So, the probe is about the real Hindi Cinema identity that we are aiming to discover? And what do we really seek to achieve when we discuss the effects of a certain national film language on the mental well being of its citizens. History intervenes here. Films came as an invention in the United States to basically entertain the immigrants. One reel, single shot silent films were created for the immigrants that came to seek political asylum in America, post World War Two. These films were for the countless penniless Europeans who came in multitudes in those boats and for whom the Statue of Liberty on the Eastern Coast offered a glimpse of hope and promise. This sea of immigrants worked in the city throughout the day and in the evenings paid a nickel to watch these capers and have a laugh let out inside those thick canvas tents. These were human beings who laughed at the one minute comedies because it would be a while when they would begin to remember to smile again. There was a congruency established here historically, when we talk about cinema being an escapist medium. For the young Russians, cinema was a vehicle for political propaganda, for the inimitable French, cinema was the latest to arrive on the art scenario. For the Germans, going through a terrible time in history, it was the purveyor of their inner thought processes and expressionism. For the Italians, it was the rediscovery of reality around themselves and transposing it to an ultimate spiritual quest. But for the Americans, it was the basics that mattered. It was more of an entertainment tool for its people and that is all that was there to it. In India, we subconsciously, adopted this stance and soon it became our way of looking at films. They became our escape routes, our dream spaces, our penultimate aspiration fulfilling devices of becoming all that we desired in our actual lives.

Films had become our staple diet within a decade and a half of its arrival on our shores.

The father of our nation scorned at films and was of the opinion that films would only mislead and corrupt the nation. The astute social scientist in him failed to see the impact of cinema on a swarming population ever waiting to devour the silver screen than ever before. Gandhiji did not forsee that even a pimp or a small time thief who watches from the front row, the villain being bashed up by the good man is all for the good man. Their individual, personal professions bifurcate here and they all cheer up when the good man wipes off his sweat after thrashing the evil out of the villain. Ying- yang is not a myth. Only the proportions vary.

Hindi cinema is very important for the mental well being of a nation that is as confused as an alien looking down on this blue planet and watching tiny lumps of carbon and oxygen moving around. Our films are our hope. They dictate, moralize, titillate and we all go home a contented lot. It is only later that our films started asking some ‘real’ questions. But we are equally happy not having them posed at all. We are a nation of queues. We are forever queuing up. And the most anticipated and excited queues are outside the ticket windows. In a dusty town of Madhya Pradesh, women with their heads covered, a two month baby on their hip and men smoking bidis, patiently await for the rusty shutters of a dilapidated building called the cinema hall to open. Their dreams will unfold, their libidos will be liberated, and their personal battles will be won on the screen by their favorite hero and the leading lady. The cinema is a powerful monster. It only unleashes its power by fatally attacking all its admirers by perpetually slaving them for eternity. So, would we have preferred as an alternate medium that would in all its capacity replace films? We cannot imagine within a million miles of anything tangible and as powerful. The radio has its limitations. The internet and the social networking sites still have a Himalayan task to undertake when it comes to reaching out at the grassroot levels. As a visual medium, it is a complete social communication medium. The ‘wall to wall song and dance routine’ will always be a collective catharsis. The inevitable triumph of good over evil will always be laced with our mythological yearnings will put us through purgatory and hell and we will come out cleansed.

Govinda Ahuja is one mainstream actor that I am going to discuss here and his persona here will reassert the fact that how from time to time the Hindi film has been able to salvage its otherwise frivolous reputation and put it into good usage. Art must have no pretensions at any cost. There is nothing worse than that. And Govinda has been one actor who has succeeded in doing it like his role model, Mithun Chakraborty. When the two time National award winner, Mithun Chakraborty decided to put on the glittering, flashy costume in ‘Disco Dancer’, he carried no trails of his Mrinal Sen film experience. The cryptic coloration was perfect. Govinda may not be in the exact league but his films are more ‘real.’ More honest than perhaps a Mani Ratnam film. Govinda’s films have been proved as major stress busters and Dr. Sneha Sardesai, a psychiatrist from Bombay Hospital mentions that she has seen severe depression patients chuckling whenever they watch a Govinda film. When most heroes have very personalized, designer picked outfits for their films, Govinda’s clothes are a painter’s pallet. Purple trousers and a yellow shirt, pink jacket and a red cap decorate his wardrobe. He is unapologetic about it. In fact, a few years back when every top hero spoke of coveting the national award at least once in their respective careers; Govinda too was also asked the same. His reply was that it is so easy to get a national award in this country. Wear an actual beard and wear no make up or play a mentally challenged character… The man hits where it hurts most. There was a time when the so called ‘classes’ slyly went to watch his double act in ‘Aankhen’ with the ‘loose change’ crowds. Such was the man’s reputation with the funny antics on screen and his dancing,a visual delight. Shammi Kapoor recently mentioned that if there is one actor in this country who dances from head to toe, it was Govinda. With his massive girth, he gets his steps right in first take leaving the choreographers either exasperated or pleasantly shocked. Even in a poor film like ‘Ravaan’, he is the only actor who comes completely convincing. His audiences like him because he does not come with the expectation of a typical heavy duty hero. He adores Kishore Kumar who too was more into the deed of making people laughing rather than bore them down with heavy melodrama. None of those love triangles or those revengeful dramas for Kishore Kumar and so is it for Govinda. His occasional fare might have taken a serious break in the plot but overall the man is famous for his down market dancing and brash and blunt acting. Even his ‘cheap’ songs are for the front benchers and are more direct. There are no heavy sexual innuendos hidden in cleverly written lyrics. Like him or leave him. It makes no difference to the man who rose from the dregs of poverty to become a star. And he is wise and honest in what he does. He respects and reciprocates the hard working rickshaw driver and knows exactly how to return his penny’s worth when he comes to watch his film.

The mental well being of a human being may depend on several internal and external factors. Hindi cinema has never been in the news for being a trailblazer in terms of sustained international artistic endeavor as such.( Satyajit Ray was our last Renaissance man.) But it has certainly worked for the common man and his film makers are not necessarily theSouth Mumbaiborn new generation brat packs that have their audiences overseas. Hindi cinema basically is the copyright of that immigrant who has just come from a jalopy of a bus from Kutch and has landed in the great city in the search of a job. And when he does get one, he dreams of wearing that new polyester shirt from his brother’s marriage and watch a film. Hindi cinema caters to all those small dreams that exist in India in several centuries that hope to strike it each day. Little surprise then, as to why we must call it Bollywood.

Contributed to Studentvoyeur by Avvai

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