my problem with hindi movies today


There have been any number of reviews about the latest from the Bollywood stable (My Name is Khan) – ranging from vitriolic to sarcastic/mocking to adulatory.

I could write reams, spew abuse galore, and point out in how many different ways the movie gets it wrong… but I won’t. That’s too easy. Plus, people have already done a pretty good job of that. Quite simply, MNIK suffers from the problem that Hindi cinema has been suffering from for a long time. No, not the fact that SRK is in it, or that KJo is directing it… it simply takes itself too seriously.

You can make movies that are obviously escapist, sheer fantasy – and I’m willing to accept it. For example (just off the top of my head), Krrish and Om Shanti Om get this formula close to right. Then you have the movies that are more realistic (and ergo, more intelligent) – for e.g. Luck By Chance, Dev D. Then of course, the “off-beat” – Kaminey, Rocket Singh – they take advantage of it being “cinema”, but don’t push the envelope to the extent that you cannot accept what is going on. Penultimately, the completely unwatchable – Yuvvraaj, Love Story 2050. Finally, the awesome – Gunda. Obviously, you can choose to segregate movies differently, but this kind of classification can work for most movies in most languages.

Why all this background? Movies that belong to one class, but slowly devolve into a second class end up being neither here nor there. And lead to vitriol galore.

I went into 3 Idiots expecting an intelligent comedy. Within about 5 minutes, I settled back into “escapist comedy” mode. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. It’s sheer fun (note here that I think that people who thought 3 Idiots was “silly” were committing the other cardinal mistake: they were taking the movie too seriously). Ishqiya lived up to my expectations of intelligence. Chance Pe Dance lived up to my expectations to being nearly unwatchable. MNIK starts with merely wanting to be intelligent, then flip-flops between fantasy and unwatchable… resulting in something you eventually await the end of.

The premise starts out simply enough. A certain amount of realism is injected (not a lot, but a certain amount anyway). Soon enough though, things start to crash and burn as KJo starts to struggle to continue {acting/directing/writing} intelligently. He starts pandering to cliches galore. But powerful acting from that Tanay kid redeems some of it. Some silly explanations are given (which have been pointed out elsewhere) – to keep the story moving. The movie is sagging but expected chemistry between SRK and Kajol makes the cheesy romance work, but just barely. Sequences start appearing unwittingly funny as the movie traipses along (losing its plot) – quite simply the sequences are there for no reason at all. Back to getting things vaguely on track as pathos is injected for different reasons (9/11, death etc.). Until this point, I was willing to concede a vague amount of credit – and would have just talked about how KJo could have snipped a bit here and there and come up with a much better movie. Not hugely more watchable, but better.

However, MNIK then drags for another unforgivable 45 minutes which ensure that no sane person can really watch this movie and come out liking it. Or any of its very loudly advertised messages.

Back to my point. Making Hindi movies intelligent may not be the best thing – a large majority may end up never really watching it (case in point, Luck By Chance). But when you have a real box office draw in your movie, I thin KJo could have risked making it more intelligent: SRK’s draw would have overcome. Making a silly Hindi movie and then justifying it as “Hindi movies, ergo they can be stupid” is unforgivable.

Finally, the second biggest problem with this particular movie, and Hindi cinema today in general. SRK. The man gets on your nerves within 60 minutes of the movie. Why? He’s been on screen non-stop for 55 goddamn minutes. Continues to be so for the next 85 minutes (even Kamal Haasan has to wear different get-ups to justify such screen time). In the process, his performance goes from being barely interesting to highly irritating (never better illustrated than by the Mrs initially righteously justifying to me why his Aspergers’ must go undiagnosed for so long… and finally getting to the point where she gleefully applauded the fact that he might die near the end of the movie). He gets to pander to his Superman complex – he goes from being unable to verbalize anything properly to saving a goddamn town while being interviewed on national television (hey, if Aamir can deliver a baby in a storm.. SRK can..). In his big sentimental speech, he doesn’t even do a Hindi voice-over for a speech that should obviously have been given in English (SRK re-dub SRK? Are you crazy?) Hell, he even has Barack come back to meet him personally.

Hindi movie-makers really need to decide what they want to do with their movies – and stick to a single plan. You can’t really do everything in every single movie. SRK really needs to find himself some new directors. All the ones he works with (Chopra, Johar, Farah) currently seem to want him to do one ridiculous ham-heavy impersonation in the name of acting – and seem happy to call it “amazing”.

I really need to stop analyzing everything I watch so much. It’s not worth the effort. Oh well.


8 thoughts on “my problem with hindi movies today

  1. Besides all its obvious flaws, I wonder why Bollywood assumes such a moral highground to lecture America on its prejudice. Prejudice is far more egregious and entrenched in Indian life and if Bollywood (I say Bollywood and not Hindi Cinema because I don’t think these movies deserved to be called the latter) wants to be taken seriously, it should tell stories about the society where it belongs.

    • SEV

      This was among the thoughts that I didn’t get into in my review:

      What stopped them from setting MNIK in India? If anything, it could have been more close-to-home, more hard-hitting. Hell, SRK would have been even more convincing as the Superman who saved the Indian village.
      For all its “tolerance-speak”, the movie in itself is highly prejudiced in the favor of Muslims. I have no problem in the message that “not all Muslims are terrorists” (quite the opposite of Kurbaan’s message, btw) – but why was Kajol’s Hindu character not used at all to highlight this? It is not like Americans can differentiate one brownskin from another.
      For all its anti-racism messages, it panders to every single racist stereotype we have of black and white people in America.
      Heck, the damn race angle to what happens in the movie is contrived. In the end it is nothing more than a ragging that went very very bad.

      I do not have your high expectations of socially relevant movies from Bollywood 🙂 but they really do seem to forget their real audience exists within their own country – and not without.

      • Well said! I cringe every time I watch a Bollywood movie pander to Indian stereotypes about Black and White people all under the veneer of tolerance and sophistication…

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