Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
The unattainable always fascinates us. Superman has always been our favorite guy. And gazing at the stars has been our most revered activity since time immemorial. The love for all that is larger than life has also crept into our sensibilities as cinegoers, borrowed and shaped largely by the American film industry.
Hollywood is a much larger space. Their investments, returns, prints and audiences reach scales that are more massive than any of us can imagine. Comparisons with them are futile because we are different… unique and separate entities rather than desperate rivals. ‘Big’ is the word for them.. for us it’s ‘sensitive’. It is important to know that we’re producing completely different genres of films. We can’t possibly make a Mission Impossible 4 (2011).What’s sadder is that the Anil Kapoors of the country are relegated to worse than junior artistes in those films .Even a Ra.one (2011) doesn’t work for most of us. But what’s noteworthy is that if an MI 4 is beyond us, they are also incapable of making something as earthy as Band Baaja Baraat(2010)
Indian films are inherently imbued with a sense of belonging and connectivity. Most of them carry a slice of life. They are about US. The melodrama only adds to the charm. Where else would you get to watch both an Endhiran (2010) and a Love Sex aur Dhokha (2010)? Our films have made us proud. It is just that we need to stop projecting the wrong kind of cinema as reflective of Indian sensibilities. It might be the greatest hit of the century but Bodyguard (2011) does not make us proud. There are no doubts to its connectivity and mass appeal. But it is NOT us. Something like Shwaas (2004) is. We should learn to be not only proud of our cinema, but also appreciative of it.
Also, it’s not like we reach out to any less wide an audience. We produce films in more languages than we can keep count of. But we prefer to let the world identify us as makers of the Golmaal series rather than Harishchandrachi Factory (2009). We accept the fact that we love running around trees (and/or watch people do so), forgetting that Indian cinema has always been about much more than that. Not that we don’t adore our chartbusters, but we balance it with meaningful cinema. Our Sujata (1959) and Arth (1982) spoke of liberating women before the Rakhi Sawants of the world could take over. Our filmmakers have always tried to make a difference through their work, while keeping in mind also the desires of the laborer who saved up all week to rush to the theatre on Friday and his need for ‘entertainment’.
In fact, the 70s and 80s saw a clear demarcation between the two kinds of cinema with filmmakers like Shyam Benegal forming the ‘art house brigade’ and people like Manmohan Desai acting as torchbearers of the society that catered to those who wanted ‘value for their money’.
We’ve grown and evolved into a more mature, sensible industry over the years. 3 Idiots (2009) and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) are proof. We endorse mass appeal but we haven’t forgotten our roots. We still believe in the power of cinema to rule and change lives.
Indian cinema binds people across the globe. Regardless of caste, creed, sex, color or religion, we all become one when it comes to singing our favorite songs or sporting T-shirts that say ‘Bunty aur Babli’. Miles away from home and family, a Rajnikanth release provides respite and a Lata Mangeshkar song soothes the nerves. Indian cinema is all pervasive. It transcends all boundaries. Which is why we should learn to stop looking up to and comparing ourselves to Hollywood. We are what we are. And unabashedly so. We make films for ourselves and for all those who care to watch them. We just need to be more cognizant and appreciative of what our own people produce. An Udaan (2010) should be noticed before it is screened at a dozen festivals. We need to wake up to good work. It’s all around us.
And really, we don’t even need Superman to help us look for it.