Monday, May 13, 2019

Reflections #AtoZChallenge 2019

I am a survivor! I completed this year's A to Z Challenge without missing a single day (except Sundays of course). There are 26 posts on my blog in April 2019, that vouch for this achievement. This was my third year in the challenge. Third consecutive year! And I am happy to report that I have now completed the challenge in all 3 years. But the third time, it is always tough. This year was really challenging because I had to get a surgery done at the start of the second week in April. I was unconscious for a large part of the second Monday of the month. And I still managed to write that day's post in a semi-dazed state, from my hospital bed. The post was about religion and Gods in Hindi Films / Bollywood. Post surgery, I was mostly tied to my bed and was in pain for almost a week. But there were those time slots every day, when painkillers were doing a great job, and when I was able to think straight and write.

The reflection post is an A to Z Challenge tradition. It helps the participants to look back at what worked and what didn't. It is also an opportunity to thank those who supported and encouraged during the challenge.

I would like to thank all my family members, friends and fellow bloggers who encouraged me by leaving their comments on my posts and sharing my posts with others. This year my challenge was based on a tight theme, and not on personal experiences or anecdotes, like last two years. This made me research a lot about the topics I was writing on and in the process I did learn some new stuff. I loved this aspect about the challenge this year. I wasn't very happy with my post from the letter V. While it had all the elements of a good post, it lacked a cohesive structure. I wish I could go back in time and make some changes in it.

There were good moments too. My mother read all my posts regularly. And that was exciting. While most friends shared their comments on Facebook, there were few who commented on blog posts as well. The comment I got from Melanie on 'letter F' post was detailed and heartfelt. Also I discovered a new blog, authored by Vidya, which is really interesting. I think I will keep going back to it.

Among my challenge posts my personal favorites are the ones on 'Occupations in Bollywood' and 'Parallel Comedy Tracks in Hindi Films.' I felt really happy after writing them, as not only I learnt something new while doing research for them, but also both posts were structurally very near to what I wanted.

Now its time to complete my reading goals for the year. I have already finished reading 8 books this year. While three of them were already reviewed on this blog, you can expect more book reviews soon on the blog. I am definitely going to do this blogging challenge again, with a fresh theme next year. What do you think I should be writing about in next April A - Z blogging challenge?


My theme for 2017's #AtoZchallenge was Anecdotes & Stories from my Life. You can read all the posts from this challenge here.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Z : Zeros & Stars in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

While I was growing up, a Hindi film was considered successful, if it ran for weeks at a stretch in a cinema hall near you. 25 weeks run was called silver jubilee! 50 weeks run a golden one! And a 23 years run (...and still counting) in Maratha Mandir (a cinema hall in Mumbai) is called Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride). 

The mention of DDLJ is also to make one of my readers (PB) happy who missed it in yesterday's post. Also here is my experience of watching DDLJ in Maratha Mandir when it was running for 12 years already. 

Also when I was growing up we didn't use to read reviews (in fact there weren't many in public domain) before watching films. Word of mouth was enough! 

Things changed at the turn of the millennium! Number of screens increased with multiplexes and more films started getting made. This made it extremely difficult for films to have continuous long run at cinema halls, as each new film squeezed the previous one out pretty soon. Satellite television made it lucrative for film-makers to quickly show their films on small screens cutting short the jubilee dreams. Another thing that changed at the same time was easy availability of internet and advent of social media. Critics of all hues mushroomed. And writing movie reviews on internet became an industry. With these changes emerged two new cliches and they both are pretty sad ones!

  • The parameter of a movie's success now is the number of Zeros in its box office collections! The movies get categorized into clubs like Rs 100 crores club, Rs. 200 crores club and so on! Sometimes rank bad movies get a huge opening because of their promotions and star cast that before even people realize that its shit, the movie has already made 100 crores. Even viewers now discuss films based on these zeros. The discourse on internet is all about this. Trade Analysts are tweeting these figures daily. Art be damned! It is heartbreaking when an excellent movie like Sonchiriya (the golden bird) is not watched by many because of its poor opening day collections. 
  • Movie ratings or Stars which critics give to films are based on their subjective opinions and their inherent biases. But some critics today, carry so much clout that they can make or mar a film even before its release. Their individual opinions get amplified on social media and many get impacted by it. Also most critics in India in their reviews give out spoilers and plots of the films. This also makes the viewer biased and can set expectations which may spoil the movie watching experience. 

Anupama Chopra gave the movie Kalank (Stigma) 3 Stars and she gave Avengers : Endgame only 4 stars. Who will avenge this gross injustice? Is there even a comparison here? The self appointed expert on movies, Raja Sen, declined to review a movie (The Tashkent Files) recently because it didn't align with his political ideology. Such arrogance!

I feel movies should fulfill three purposes: 

Happy Level - Entertainment (like Singham)
Happier Level - Entertainment + Engagement (like 3 Idiots)
Happiest Level - Entertainment + Engagement + Education (like Taare Zameen Par)

If in a movie I get Entertainment I am happy with it! Anything over it delights me! Sheer ecstasy! 

I love movies. I love watching them in cinema halls. I don't care what each movie earns or how many Zeros are there in its revenues. I don't care how many Stars critics give to a movie. What matters is the sheer joy of watching a film in a dark hall. I will not let Zeros and Stars take that experience away from me.

Do you think I have missed out on a cliche in this month long challenge? Like blasting cars in Rohit Shetty films! Then tell me in comments space. I will write a post on it. But for that you have to read all 26 posts in this challenge, if you haven't already done that. 


Monday, April 29, 2019

Y : Yash Chopra's cliches - Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

Earlier in this #AtoZChallenge2019 (Theme - Hindi Film Industry / Bollywood cliches), I did a post on Karan Johar's cliches. Because he heads one of the most powerful production houses in Bollywood and in the films he has directed, he has introduced several tropes / cliches which are worth documenting. But did you know that Johar often calls Yash Raj Films - the film production and  distribution company founded by Yash Chopra - his film school? So, I found it apt to do a post on the cliches introduced in Bollywood by Chopra.

Yash Chopra, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 80is considered among the best Indian film-makers. He has won 6 national film awards and is also the recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2001). He has also won umpteen fraternity film-awards. Chopra's career as a director can be clearly divided into two parts. Pre-Chandni and Post-Chandni. Chandni (Moonlight) released in 1989 and was a runaway hit. Before Chandni, Chopra used to dabble in multiple genres. He made hard-hitting social dramas (Waqt in 1965), suspense thrillers (Ittefaq in 1969), angst filled action films (Deewar in 1975; Trishul in 1978) and great love stories (Silsila in 1981). And I personally feel those are his better films. But after Chandni, Chopra's film-making became formulaic. It doesn't mean that he made bad films after that. But he stopped doing the new. Romantic love-triangles became his forte. And in how many ways you can tell the same story! Really! This post is about some of the cliches I found silly in his post Chandni films. 

My biggest peeve is representation of the state of Punjab in his films (the ones he either produced or directed). His Punjab is idyllic rural / agrarian state where you only see mustard fields. In his Punjab, everyone is always dressed in bright colors or in folk-dance costumes. And a dhol (a kind of drum), will always be heard in his Punjab with everyone just waiting to break into Bhangra or Giddha - the folk dances of Punjab. The following image is for representation purposes only, but this picture is how Chopra imagined Punjab and beautified it further in his films. 

The reality is far from it. Punjab's cropping pattern oscillates between wheat and rice. These crops consume huge amounts of water and thus water tables are lowering in Punjab every year. This is leading to disastrous circumstances and agrarian stress. How can farmers be happy and dancing in this situation! While Punjab is one of the largest wheat producing states in India, it is nowhere in top for mustard production. 88% of Indian mustard production happens in states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Even the yellow sarson is more prevalent in eastern and north eastern states. In Punjab it is grown as a catch crop only in winter seasons for a short duration. 

Punjab also has several industrial districts which are highly polluted. I wish the air was more cleaner like in Chopra films. As far as art is concerned, if you throw a brick in Punjab, you are more likely to hit a really bad singer than a Bhangra dancer. Nearly 20 new songs are produced in Punjab everyday and nearly 20% of the consumption on music streaming app Gaana is for Punjabi songs. (Refer this article) And not everyone dances to these songs. They are played in bars and cars.

I felt 2018 film Manmarziyaan (Heart's wish) directed by Anurag Kashyap represented a more real Punjab. It is no coincidence that one of the leads in it was a singer who wanted to cut an album. 

Another standard trope which Chopra introduced in his films was shooting of songs in foreign locales. Mostly Switzerland's snow capped mountains! The heroine would be dancing in a chiffon sari not feeling cold, while the hero would be covered from head to toe in pullovers and jackets. Borrowing the line from a comedian which is apt for this situation- "Mard ko dard nahi hota par thand lagti hai!" (Hero doesn't feel pain but he feels cold). Many a time, these songs were dream sequences. After all, how many middle class Indians can afford to go to Europe! By the way there is a Yash Chopra statue in Switzerland. Presumably because his films boosted Swiss tourism. 

Ironically, Karan Johar, made fun of this very trope (dancing on mountains) in one of the scenes in his 2016 film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Oh heart! It's difficult). Watch the clip below!

After he directed Chandni, Chopra directed 6 more films. Four of them had Shahrukh Khan in the lead. Clearly no trope works better than Shahrukh for Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions