The august Cineswami was inspired to pen this piece after reading Anupama Chopra’s excellent disquisition on how mainstream Bollywood audiences heap opprobrium on film critics when they criticise hit films like Ready
Now, Cineswami is not a critic, though he (or she as the case may be) has the annoying royal tendency of referring to himself or herself in the third person or indeed, frequently use difficult words like ‘disquisition’ or ‘opprobrium’ that are also annoying to the lay Bollywood fan. Rather, Cineswami is a film trade pundit who wades through the mire that is the minutiae of film business so that you don’t have to.
Now Anupama raises the interesting point that there might perhaps be a disconnect between a learned film critic and author such as herself and a mass audience. Let us for a moment put ourselves in the esteemed Anees Bazmee’s shoes, the man who directed Ready. Cineswami can just imagine a conversation between Bazmee and his cohorts on the general lines of: “I have made stupid, lazy incoherent films in the past and the audience loves it. So why not continue feeding them the fæcal matter that they crave and deserve?”
This raises the question: Is the modern day Bollywood audience dumbing down? Remember, this is the same brash new Indian, full of confidence thanks to a burgeoning economy and having bragging rights after having won a cricket world cup; the same Indian who talks loudly on his mobile phone in a multiplex where Ready is playing, rudely telling you off for shushing him, saying that he’s paid 200 bucks for his ticket like everyone else, as if that gives him the God-given right to spoil everybody’s viewing experience, which is not much of a viewing experience in the first place, since the film in question is Ready. The selfsame Indian will turn around and tell the critic if he or she points out that a particular Bollywood film is a blatant rip-off of a Hollywood film, that they don’t care, on the contrary, they are grateful to the filmmaker for Indianising the film and putting their favourite stars in it, as they wouldn’t have bothered watching the American source anyway, copyright be damned.
Cineswami is not for one moment accusing Ready of being a copy, though Bazmee has ripped off and gotten sued in the past (Singh Is Kinng, where they were too lazy to even spell check or maybe it was due to stupid numerological reasons). What I am getting at is that the modern Indian wants a couple of hours of entertainment to switch off from the pressures of making money once inside the cinema. However, this was
true of the Indian of yore too. He or she would cheerfully switch off to watch the latest Manmohan Desai or Nasir Husain offering. Difference is, unlike Ready, those films were carefully scripted and intelligently calibrated mass entertainments that appealed to the hoi polloi and intelligentsia alike.
Today we are in a scenario where on the one hand a Ready is a huge hit and on the other intelligent films like Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, Dev.D or Tere Bin Laden do solid commercial business. The truth thus, is inescapable and a by-product of the information age – the Bollywood audience is now fragmented. The classes are a lot more choosy and the masses less. To each his own, life goes on and you are only as dumb as the films you like.
dis•qui•si•tion [dis-kwuh-zish-uh n] –noun
a formal discourse or treatise in which a subject is examined and discussed; dissertation.
op•pro•bri•um [uh-proh-bree-uh m] –noun
1.the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy.
2. a cause or object of such disgrace or reproach.
There, there, run along now, it’s time for your medication…
By Anupama Chopra for The OPEN Magazine
The author tweets at @anupamachopra