Thursday, April 18, 2019

P : Parallel Comedy Tracks in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

There was a time in Hindi Films, when heroes were serious. Always. They used to fight, love, cry and run around trees singing songs. But they didn't do comedy. That was the time, when in a Hindi film two stories used to run in parallel. The main story about the hero and the heroine along with a parallel track of a lead comedian to act as fillers. This trend was at its height in the times of Mehmood. He became such a huge star due to his comedy, that many people used to flock to cinema halls to see him in the movie and not the hero. From a film called Pyar Kiye Jaa (Carry on Loving), where Kishore Kumar and Shashi Kapoor play the leads, you might just remember the following scene featuring Mehmood and nothing else. 

As the length of the films came down over the years and Amitabh Bachchan (in my memory) started doing comedy himself in early 80s (remember that bhaang scene from the film Mard), the parallel comedy tracks started vanishing. Light films and comedy films started ruling the roost with director David Dhawan and actor Govinda at the forefront of this movement in 90s. This made comedians redundant. For a brief time Johnny Lever resisted this change. That was more because of his immense talent. The industry itself didn't need comedians any more. Remember his parallel comedy track in Baazigar. It was a thriller where the leads had no scope for comedy. So a parallel track of a forgetful Baabulal, played by Lever was an integral part of the film to provide comic relief. Though this track had nothing to do with the main plot. Watch one of many such scenes below.

Just few facts to put things in context:
  • Filmfare Awards started in 1954
  • Awards for the best comedian category started in 1967 and the first winner was Mehmood for Pyar Kiye Jaa. He was nominee in this category 19 times and won it 4 times. 
  • Johnny Lever won the award in this category twice in 1998 and 1999. He was nominee in this category 13 times. He was nominated in this category for Baazigar too in 1994
  • From 2000 to 2007 the award winners in best comedian category became more mainstream, with main leads winning in this category
  • Award in this category hasn't been given out since 2007

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

O : Occupations in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

In recent years, I have increasingly felt that protagonists in Hindi films now have real jobs or occupations. Like we have. These jobs have some impact on their lives and in few cases even important to the plot of the film. Example in Badhaai Ho, the lead protagonist works in a modern office and is in a relationship with his colleague. His father has a job in railways. These jobs provide character to these leads and help us understand them better. In fact the lead protagonist stops going to office because of an incident and it impacts him and his family. 

So just to prove / disprove my hypothesis I did the following analysis. I picked up top 10 Bollywood hits (box-office collections) from 2018, 2008 and 1998. Then I listed what job / occupation the lead protagonist in each film had and see if any trends are emerging. 

Movie - Occupation of the lead protagonist(s)
Sanju  - Bollywood Actor
Padmaavat - Rulers / Warriors / Queen
2.0 - Robotic Scientist / Ornithologist
Race 3 - Arms Traders / Gangsters / Shady Business Owners
Baaghi 2 - Soldier
Thugs of Hindostan - Pirates
Badhaai Ho - Salaried employee in a modern office
Stree - Ladies' Tailor
Raazi - Spy / Soldiers
Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety - Salaried Employee / Heir to a sweet-shop magnate

Movie - Occupation of the lead protagonist(s)
Ghajini - Businessman / Medical Student / Advertising Model
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi - Salaried employee
Singh is Kinng - Gangsters
Race - Businessmen / Personal Assistants / Part-time horse racing
Jodhaa Akbar - Rulers/ Warriors / Queen
Jaane tu... Ya Jaane Na - College Students
Golmaal Returns - Has an office / not clearly defined
Dostana - Male Nurse / Fashion Photographer / Editor in a fashion magazine
Bachna Ae Haseeno - Game Designer / Super Model / Female Taxi Driver
Sarkar Raj - Gangsters

Movie - Occupation of the lead protagonist(s)
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - College Students / Not clearly defined in second half
Pyaar to Hona hi Tha - No job / One time thief
Soldier - Some soldier who doesn't really look like one / on some special assignment / not clear
Bade Miyan Chote Miyan - Policemen / Thieves 
Pyaar Kiya toh Darna Kya - Over aged college students 
Satya - Gangsters
Ghulam - Local Boxing Champion
Major Saab - Armymen; but surprisingly the movie is not about that
China Gate - Ex-Army men
Dulhe Raja - Dhabha owner

Before we analyze the trends, I also wanted to list commonly seen character occupations in Hindi Films since 1950s. This is based on some articles I read and my own experience of watching so many films. Here's the list : Farmers, Policemen, College Students, Singers/Performers, Soldiers, Bandits/Dacoits, Gangsters, Conmen / Thieves, Lawyers and Teachers.

  • Clearly Bollywood is enamored by law enforcers and law breakers. Out of the top 10 films, these are the main vocations in 6 films in 1998, 2 in 2008 and 3 in 2018. Though over the years, new occupations are making appearances. 
  • Farmers have lost it to city dwellers. Not even a single film in these 30 have a farmer protagonist. In last two decades, Bollywood started telling more urban stories. 
  • Thankfully over-aged college students are not in vogue any more. We get more stories of people having real jobs now.
  • We see more diversity of occupations in 2018 and also see resurgence of a middle-class salaried employee. Also, in 2008 salaried employees are there, but to make them look glam, they are either in fashion or gaming
  • Sweet-shop owner and Ladies' Tailor indicates that off-late urban stories have moved to fast urbanizing smaller towns. 
  • Sadly, women occupations are still limited to fashion and modelling largely. Mostly, they don't have any well defined occupations in Hindi Films. With more women-centered stories being told and more women spending money to watch films, this is going to change soon.
What are the trends you noticed? Please share in the comments section.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

N : Nepotism in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

There are some issues that cut both ways. Nepotism is one of them. Here are few things I wanted to say on this subject. 

1. It exists in Bollywood. Period. And it exists in other industries too. How are Ambani kids any different from Yash Chopra's actor son?
Uday Chopra - He failed
Ambani Kids - will survive despite failures
2. In other industries, if a job is given to someone referred by higher ups, that person can survive and grow without talent to some level. But in Bollywood, if you don't have talent, you can't survive just because your father is a big superstar or have bags full of money. Sunny Deol was immensely successful as an actor while Bobby Deol has struggled throughout despite having good looks and better dancing skills. (as compared to his elder brother and father only) 

Deol Family
3. Nepotism provides access but doesn't guarantee success. Raj Kapoor had three sons. Randhir Kapoor did some good work. Rajiv Kapoor never tasted success of any kind. But Rishi Kapoor turned out to be a huge star and an actor par excellence. It would have been a great loss to viewers, if he wasn't given a chance because of some misplaced notion of righteousness. 

Raj Kapoor with his wife and sons
4. When a producer / star  makes a film for the sole purpose of launching his kid, it is a vanity project and not nepotism. Because that film wouldn't have been envisaged if the kid didn't exist. There is no opportunity lost for an outsider in this case. Alternatively, if a producer / star is casting for a script already in place and chooses an actor because of his / her lineage and not based on an audition, it is a clear case of bias. I don't think any outsider is envious of Fardeen Khan's debut film Prem Aggan. His career never took off. And no one in his right senses would have made a film like Prem Aggan for an outsider.  

Fardeen's debut film

5. Let us also understand that films are hard work. They might look glamorous from outside but it is not everyone's cup of tea. Even after all these years, there are only 5 - 7 sale-able stars in India. 
  • Shahrukh Khan (an outsider)
  • Salman Khan (a successful writer's son whose debut film was not bankrolled by his father; but it is important to note that both his brothers, Sohail and Arbaaz got rejected as actors)
  • Aamir Khan (a successful producer's son; I would have never wanted him to do anything else)
  • Ajay Devgn (a stuntman's son; Is it even nepotism? I think he is successful because of his grit)
  • Akshay Kumar (an outsider)
  • Ranveer Singh (an outsider)

It is clear, that your destination isn't really determined by who your parents are.

6. Vicky Kaushal has become darling of current generation of viewers. The reasons are very clear. He is hard working. He is talented. He has made right choices of roles and films. He has built his career on his own. By the way he is son of action director Sham Kaushal. Does it change your views about him?

Vicky Kaushal in Uri

7. If nepotism gives us actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt (both of them seem like winners of a genetic lottery) and if we get actors like Irrfan Khan and Kangna Ranaut because of their struggles; I don't mind if this debate never settles. 

Merit always wins!