The internationally renowned Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi recently said, “Indian cinema is in a very sad state. They haven’t been able to come up with the standards to be accepted by the world… ” Indians may not agree with him, because in India cinema and cricket are religions. We worship, adore and admire the histrionics of an actor as well as that of a cricketer.
However, shying away from the truth is not a solution of any problem. Contemporary Hindi film, save a few, is not to the mark at all. The1990s saw filmmakers copying from the West. There are innumerable such films. The list is exhaustive. Unfortunately it is continuing.
Another trend that can be traced is that modern filmmakers are busy in remaking a classic. With an exception to few, all remakes have fallen flat and produced a damp squib. Naturally, this phase of Bollywood can easily be demarcated as the ‘Age of Remakes’. There are countless examples of such damp squibs, Himmatwala, Umrao Jaan and the disastrous movie Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag to name a few. Ram Gopal Varma committed a blunder by touching Ramesh Sippy’s 1975 cult classic Sholay. Sholay is Sholay. Ram Gopal must not have attempted such an audacious act. It completely tarnished his image as a filmmaker. There was uniqueness in his films. This film made him disappear.
To add insult to the injury, our filmmakers have been copying stories and scenes from Hollywood – our last resort. Again, providing the list would a redundant activity. It is a different story altogether. Every decade gave us some memorable films. Films that broke records, that won our hearts and above all made us mad. The passion is somewhat missing.
This year (2013), Aashiqui 2 made people revisit the bygone days of watching a premier on television. On 28th April 2013, the film premiered on Sony Max. Though people had already seen it by that time, yet all hunched up in front of their TV sets. The song Tum Hi Ho by Arijit Singh had already created a stir in the nation. All ringtones were changed; people started humming the songs everywhere. Kids were too trying hard to sing it. The film did not have any extraordinary story. In Bollywood, songs rule first. Many went to watch the film because it had Tum Hi Ho. Lovers found their song at last. With Arijit the nation sang.
Every month, a huge number of films are released and most of them are below average films. The ratio is hurting our cinema viewing. Today we are exposed to movies that have sizzle, no substance. Looking back, we ponder how well movies were made. How well the pathos underlying a film was projected. Even the small comic roles were given due attention. Mothers gained tremendous attention after Mehboob Khan’s 1957 Oscar nominee Mother India and Yash Chopra’s evergreen Deewaar (1975). The nation stood up and applauded Shashi Kapoor when he retorted Amitabh Bachchan ‘Mere paas maa hai‘ (I have mother with me). It was Bollywood’s one of the most iconic scene and memorable line ever. In another significant scene, Deewar taught us to live with dignity. Bachchan refused to accept money when Iftikhar flings it on the table. He majestically responds, ‘Main aaj bhi pheke huye paise nehi uta tha’ (Even today I do not accept money if it is thrown).
Times and dialogues have changed now. We are exposed to the kind of movies that makes us sizzle and dance. Emotions hardly matters now. Substance in movies is very hard to find. We have cheap lyrics, vulgar dance moves, unbelievable stunts and some vulgar lovemaking scenes. We love to see Ranbhir Kappor and Deepika Padukone romancing; Emraan Hashmi kissing; Salman Khan walking bare-bodied and so on. Amidst all this, what suffers is the substance, the story and the acting quality. Bollywood is on the rocks. Except a few filmmakers and actors, all are turning substance less. There are multi-starrer movies, big-budget movies and sequels ruling the cinema viewing culture. What is lacking is a good script that can bind the audiences for long.
Not all are in a bad state. There were some exceptional performances in Hindi cinema in the last decade. We had a bunch of great films and performances. But it is a different story. The ratio of good and below average films is very wide. It is not the moment to criticise; it is the moment to create. We must not remain busy with our past; we must look forward to the future. After all, sizzle may pay for the moment. Substance pays forever.