Salman Khan’s ‘Bodyguard’: An easy escape?

Salman Khan’s ‘Bodyguard’: An easy escape?

Is going to the movies the same as going to a nightclub?

It’s that time of the year again. A Salman Khan movie has been released and we are playing out a familiar ritual. The film is a blockbuster— Bodyguard has had the highest grossing first week in the history of Indian cinema. But critics have panned it, earning the predictable battering from legions of Salman fans. My Twitter timeline is filled with abuses—from ‘sadistic’ and ‘witch’ to unprintable epithets (and this when I didn’t even review the film; I just wrote a column positing Salman as Bollywood’s last rockstar).

In a post-release interview, Salman said that the opinion of critics hardly mattered since it was four people in a population of one billion. He said: “The aam janta goes to see a film jo unke mood ko theek kar sake. People don’t have the time or patience for heavy-duty stuff. They come expecting to have fun, the way they would if they went to a nightclub.”

Is going to a movie the same as going to a nightclub? There are many schools of thought on the function of cinema. Bollywood’s biggest names insist that escapism and entertainment are the primary ones. In a recent conversation, Farah Khan said to me that films must entertain. “If I want preachy-chatty, I’ll read a book or I’ll go for a lecture.” I remember interviewing Shahrukh Khan just before the release of Om Shanti Om. I asked him if he aspired to success or greatness. He replied that they were interchangeable. He said: “I think films are meant to be entertaining, and a part of the craft is to be able to entertain. If you can’t entertain, then your craft can go lay an egg, it doesn’t make a difference… the bottom line is entertainment.”

But some (a minority perhaps) hold a different view. Sean Penn, arguably one of the finest actors working today, once said, “People very happily and proudly say there’s room for entertainment, strictly for its own sake. I disagree with that. I think if you want entertainment, you get a couple of hookers and an eight ball. Film is too powerful a medium to be just that. There’s got to be some kind of journey and risk taken, so that it’s exciting not only for the audience but also for the participants.”

I agree with both. I want movies that transport and enlighten and seduce. I want films that give me a sensory head-rush, that force me to think or don’t allow me to breathe. I want excitement and insight and a window into new worlds. And I’m all for escapism. As American critic Charles Taylor wrote: ‘If it’s reality you want, what are you doing at the movies?’ But I wonder, is lazy, shoddy cinema being inflicted upon us in the guise of entertainment?

In a wonderful essay called In Defense of the Slow and the Boring, The New York Times critic AO Scott writes that the insistence on entertainment actually ‘masks another agenda, which is a defense of the corporate status quo’. Which means that the Powers That Be—studios, filmmakers, marketing mavens, number crunchers—don’t want to raise the bar higher. Because it’s much easier to make Pirates of the Caribbean Part 4 or Double Dhamaal or the new Anees Bazmee film with the justification that the public just wants entertainment.

Actually, even Ingmar Bergman’s commandments on filmmaking include: ‘Thou shalt be entertaining at all times’ (the other two are: ‘Thou shalt obey thy artistic conscience at all times’ and ‘Thou shalt make each film as if it were thy last’). The key here, I think, is how you define entertainment. For me, going to a movie is much, much more invested than going to a nightclub. After all, if you only expect industrial-strength mediocrity, Bollywood is happy to comply.

By Anupama Chopra for The OPEN Magazine


The author tweets at @anupamachopra


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The SRK magicSubscribe to me on YouTube


  • bipin

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  • ravinder

    You are not authorized to judge on behalf of millions – what to watch in a movie and what not to? You are citing few critics to endorse your opinion but those few( in your words- too few) are not people sent by GOD to teach us. We are sensible enough to judge the movie.So just shut your mouth and watch movies which you want to. but don’t try to teach us about the movies to be watched by us. We don’t advice you on watching any particular movie, similarly you should also keep your mouth shut and do your own work. We are least bothered by your opinions.I pity self- proclaimed judiciary like you.

    • ashutosh

      Chill bro… u r jst taking it too personal…she’s not advising u or smthng…she jst wrote her opinion…if u like a muvi it’s ur right to like it and tell other, “Bro, mast muvi hai.” Similarly, she did not like the muvi and she wrote it on this site. if u disagree, well then disagree. but plz abstain frm personal comments. it’s a free country, anybody is free to say anything. u don’t like her reviews, don’t read her. it’s as simple as that.

  • ravinder


  • Taina

    The Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and all NonHolly Indian cinematography are evolving…audiences have become more sophisticated and demanding and new blood in direction and screenplay writing refresh the India movie industry apparatus…recently we movie lovers from other markets have seen great films such as Udaan, Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Mum Maaro Mum, Stanley Ka Dabba, among others, which set themselves apart from the traditional storyboard development of romantic comedy and/or tear jerker productions with excessive details and its hiatus of song and dance…yet, these also entertain as thought provoking situations of prevailing cultural and socioeconomic conditions are presented in a way that wakens up the emotions of its viewers.

    Still, Dabangg, Ghajini, Bodyguard, Wanted and other of the same genre are also great entertainers and no matter what critics opine, the final judge is the collective movie audience…personally, I like a certain intellectual challenge in when watching a film, but I must admit that I loved to see Salman’s biceps doing that blue dance at the beginning of Bodyguard.

  • morani

    she is still talking rubbish,i hate this woman

    • giri

      she gets paid for talking rubbish… they are nothing but paid news that u watch on tv… do u think these are honest opinions??.. LOL.. if u pay them they will even praise KRK movies!!!

  • Salmania Rules

    The problem with critics is that watching movies is their JOB. Naturally they take it very seriously and have great expectations. Somewhere they have forgotten that we, the general population go to the movies as a break from our jobs! Hence we are easily able to enjoy movies at face value.
    The bottom line is: when we go to watch a movie, we have already planned to like it. No one goes to a movie hoping to dislike it. We give it a fair chance and yes, sometimes it ends up disapointing us..
    Critics don’t necesarily have that luxury I think. They are on high alert in a movie theatre. After all they have to write a review later you see. I suppose its like having to give an exam paper right after attending a seminar. Would you be able to relax and enjoy the talk? Probably not. You’d be focused, furiously jotting down notes etc. I think this is why critics are so off when it comes to judging the merits of a movie. Their criteria are different than ours. And so is their movie- going experience.
    By the way,I saw Bodyguard three times. I loved this movie. My husband saw it twice with me. He loved the fights, the humor ,the acting and most of all the story. Me, I just Love,Love,Love Salman. I’ve watched some of his disasters and even I have to agree they were not great.
    But Bodyguard is not mindless. It is certainly not mediocre either as Ms.Chopra seems to imply. It is a well- crafted movie,eminently watchable and very,very enjoyable. Well done Atul. Well done Siddique. And Well done cutie- pie Salman!

  • akram

    salman vai bosss……………..of bollywood……….

  • SJ

    You know what the problem is Anupama? I agree with everything that you say but you only seem to have these views when Salman Khan makes a nonsensical film like Bodyguard or Ready. When SRK makes Om Shanti Om, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Main Hoon Na or Don, you don’t seem to worry about whether going to the cinema is the same as going to a night club. That is the difference between you and critics like A.O Scott and Manohla Dargis, people you seem to admire. Their views and criticisms are honest and unbiased while yours seem to serve a specific agenda of maligning Salman and hailing your favourite SRK. The day you are just as blunt and honest about SRK’s nonsensical film, I will take you seriously. You have an opportunity coming up with the bloated and nonsensical Ra 1.

  • Caan

    Anupama, you are quoting Ingmar with knowing very little about him. To expand your knowledge, that man really had some problems, despite being a great director himself. Here’s what he said about one of the greatest movies ever produced:

    “Citizen Kane, which I have a copy of – is all the critics’ darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it’s a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless.”

    Bodyguard, let’s face it, is the kind of film the Indian audiences(majority of them) really want. So what’s exactly your problem?

  • bhagavath

    thank ranbir soppot to salman rockstar beet ra one

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