There is much more to bolywood than silly song and dance sequence
|Let me begin with a confession. I am a die hard movie fan, an Indian by birth and someone for whom the celluloid has been a part of her existence since as far as memory serves. When my mother was 8 months pregnant with me she developed this weird craving of watching every movie she could lay hands on. You can imagine what sleepless nights my dad had spent during that time. In fact he was pretty sure I would pop up during one of those truly emotional moments when my mom was crying her eyes out over the hero!
Traditionally,movies in India are made for masses and classes like any other part of the world. The only difference is the appreciation for parallel cinema, or movies very close to the root of life started on a mass scale not much earlier. Previously the Indian cinema was divided in mainstream commercial movies aimed to appeal the wider sect of mindless individuals who go to the movies to escape the normalcy of life. The dream of a failed youth in reality merges with that of the celluloid but in a very glamorous fashion. In the screen the youth gets the girl, becomes rich in a weird twist of fate and evil triumphs over good. The youth watching the movie goes back to his slum with dreams in his eyes for the night only to be awakened the next morning with a rude shove of poverty once again. This is the main appeal of a commercial movie. Escapism and momentary happiness. Some of the very famous movies released during 1983. the year I was born- Himmatwala (the brave), Coolie (porter), Hero (as the name suggests)-run along the same concept.
On the other hand,parallel Cinema were inspired by the Italian Neo-realism. It is known for its serious content, realism and naturalism, with a keen eye on the sociopolitical climate of the times, and for the rejection of the dance-and-song numbers that are typical of mainstream commercial cinema. Its history is very rich and ancient, as old as 1930's. In the year,1925, V.Shantaram, a prominent pioneer of Indian cinema made a silent movie called Sawkari Pash (Indian Shylock) about a poor peasant who loses his land to a greedy moneylender and is forced to migrate to the city to become a mill worker. Its shot of a howling dog near a hut, has become a milestone in the march of Indian cinema. His other movie, Duniya Na Mane (The Unaccepted) also critiqued the treatment of women in Indian society. By 1940,pioneers such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Bimal Roy, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Chetan Anand and Guru Dutt moulded the frame of parallel movies into a much definite structure. This period is often reffered to as the Golden Age of Indian cinema. This period of prominence includes award winning films such as Aakrosh (Cry of the Wounded, Govind Nihalani, 1980), Anantram (Monologue, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, 1987), Ardh Satya (Half Truth, Govind Nihalani, 1983), Bhavni Bhavai (A Folk Take, Ketan Mehta, 1980), Chakra (Ravindra Dharmaraj, 1980), Ghare-Baire (The Home and the Word, Satyajit Ray, 1984), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (Who Pays the Piper, Kundan Shah, 1983), Khandhar (Mrinal Sen, 1983), Salaam Bombay (Mira Nair, 1988), Sati (Aparna Sen, 1989) and Tarang (Wages and Profit, Kumar Shahani, 1984).
It was in the nineties that Indian cinema started to change yet again with both the family film and image of the romantic hero revived in the films of new stars like Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan. But something had drasticaly changed in the last few years in the Indian film industry. The emerging of a new kind of reality movies, with the gloss of mainstream movies and the essence of parallel movies. Reality beautifully crafted with the magic of celluloid. A perfect example of such a movie would be "3 idiots", the story of 3 engineering students trying to cope through the harsh realities of their existence, academic pressure, family issues and stress of suicide through the healing effects of friendship. Keeping in mind the mindset of Indian youth, the song and dance routine was upgraded to promote friendship,positivism and innocent romance. The catch line "AAL IZZ WELL" (all is well) is still popularly used as a stress buster. Such is the appeal of Indian cinema!
In conclusion, the objective of this piece is basically to re-iterate that Indian cinema is not something that grew in air. It has a mesmerizing history as old as Indian culture itself. The complexity of Indian cinema can only be understood by understanding the psychology of an Indian origin, which by the way, is far from simple because India is an amalgamation of various culture and traditions who try to find a common source of pleasure in movies.