Before anything, it is of essence that you understand me. I’m not a snob. I enjoy eating my idli-vada as much as my macaroni. I love the Beatles, but believe that Illayaraja and Rahman are a class apart. Hollywood rocks, but Indian cinema…. I’m sorry, I cant lie here. Indian cinema sucks!
Many of my friends are film buffs, and I’ve had more than my share of arguments with them about various facets of Indian cinema, but NEVER about it being downright bad. It’s a point of no return, that I’ve stayed clear of. Until now.
Turns out there’s only so much I can take. I’ve seen a few bad movies, but an advert for one proclaiming ‘Meha hit! 12 days are running!’ finally caused me to snap. So here’s my take on what is wrong with Indian cinema in general, and specifically Tamil cinema.
Cinema should be a reflection of life, not entirely in terms of realism, but on a different level. Life makes us laugh, cry, shudder, dance and gasp as we live through it. Cinema should take us through a similar ride.
I’m not trying to say that Indian cinema has not been able to do this. From the heart warming TZP or Kannathil Muthamittal to the offbeat but powerful Black, there have been many wonderful Indian movies, but the point is these have been gems in the heap instead of being in similar company. They don’t come freely as notes in a flowing melody, instead having the quality of water reaching parched lips. It is here that Hollywood scores over us in a big way. Year after year they produce everything from the mundane to the exotic, movies that tug at your heart strings, leave you feeling bitter-sweet, thrill you, or maybe bore you. A roundup of movies that make it to the Oscars, or just miss out, invariably make for a great watch.
The same sadly cannot be said for Indian movies. The biggest plague is that of flicked stories. Not only does it betray a lack of professionalism (those questioned invariably get away with “It was a ‘tribute’ to the original!“), but at a very basic level, lack of creativity. This is a major irritant, given the potential cinema has to bring a story to life like no other medium. And this is not just restricted to stories, music is also frequently ripped off. Probably the worst offenders in this regard are a father and son duo in Kollywood (yeah, the name’s been ripped too) who I’ve noticed recently have begun copying EVERY song in their albums from elsewhere, making it pretty much a mixed tape of old hits, surprisingly harsh on the ears.
Yet another eyesore in Indian cinema are the dance sequences. Movie after movie, just when you’re beginning to get attuned to the story, the lead pair (or sometimes a glamour doll) break into a meaningless dance. You actually have to witness the filming of one of these songs in a foreign locale to realize how stupid the entire idea is.
And finally for that irritating ingredient reserved especially for Tamil cinema- masala. 95 out of 100 Tamil movies have larger than life heroes for whom flying or beating up scores of baddies is no big deal. But wait, the ‘masala’ concept also demands the hero deliver popular punch dialogues (ought to be ‘punch’ dialogues, but sadly they’ve become so commonplace, it is now even a part of our vocabulary), that ridicule everything from feminism to good scientific logic. Tamil cinema is usually made with the aim of building a persona around the hero, or enhancing it. Entertainment usually refers to disjointed comedy scenes, unnecessary sex appeal or a total rollback of physics in the name of stunts (Fat, balding middle aged men flying about mid air is the most irritating thing you can see on screen). And this is not to say that Bollywood has been blameless either.
So, what of it all? Should I end with a total denouncement of Indian cinema and stop watching it from henceforth? No way! The reason behind writing this critique was to do my bit to make people sit up and see if they’re accepting second best. Because you see, Indian cinema has tremendous potential. My grouse is that it has not translated onto the screen. How is it that we send the half baked products of large production houses as our Oscar entry each year, but never a movie from say Kerala or Bengal? While meaningful cinema has come from these places (as also from Tamil, Marathi or even mainstream Indian cinema), how well are they known, even in India?
Movies from places like Israel or Bosnia, made under shoestring budgets, and for an uncertain audience have a powerful appeal, cutting across the language barrier. So why aren’t we able to achieve the same thing? Money certainly is not a problem, which leaves the audience. When we show that we’re ready to lap up the second rate fare dished at us, there is no point in anyone trying to improve on his work. But when good work is rewarded and genius worshipped, the evolution of Indian cinema will be on the fast track. The movie that won the Palme d’Or this year, was about a Parisian classroom and the clash and intermingling of cultures and identities therein. The movie was shot ENTIRELY within the confines of the class room. Can we even imagine cinema at this level in India?