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


Saturday, April 27, 2019

X : XL sized egos in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

Please first watch the video below from the 1991 film Yodha (starring Sunny Deol and Sanjay Dutt; two big stars from that time), to get the context of today's post.

Are you done?

Okay! On a totally unrelated note, did you listen to the background score in the sequence? Did you find it same as the one used in Sunny Deol's 1990 film Ghayal? I mean how cliched it is, that in 90s even the background scores for certain kind of sequences had a pattern. May be this subject deserves a separate post some other time.

Now what else did you notice in the video? Here are my takeaways on action sequences between any two big stars in Hindi films:

1. Both the stars get equal number of dialogues
2. They get equal number of punches, hits and kicks
3. Each one hits the other and get hits almost the same number of times
4. They fall down almost the same number of times
5. The duel will generally remain unresolved and almost always, a third party will come and intervene to cut the scene short. Like in this case it is police. But it could be a mother or a child or a love interest too.

In real fights, the guy who falls down first after a brutal punch will find it difficult to continue. But then these stars are superheroes in Hindi Films.

This treatment is not limited to only fight sequences, but the whole film will be designed in such a way that both heroes get equal songs, equal number of dialogues throughout the film etc. And there are several instances of this. Watch this clip from the 1993 film Kshatriya, starring Sunny and Sanjay, yet again. This time in a sword fight. What I found funny here is that they both get bruised by swords (bruised... not cut deeply) on the same parts of their respective bodies. And a bruise is responded with a bruise almost immediately as if that was not the intent in the earlier part of the fight. Then the two senior actors and stars in their own right, Vinod Khanna and Dharmendra come riding on their horses in a similar fashion and mouth inane dialogues. Again all shots equally divided between them.

This trend of pandering to XL sized egos of the stars in Hindi films rather than serving the needs of the story and characters is amazingly stupid, but well accepted by their respective fan bases. In the 1995 film Karan Arjun, the big stars Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan get equal billing. In the fight sequence below, the intervention is divine and most convoluted.

As the stories improved and audiences started liking more diverse content after the advent of cable TV, such films with hackneyed stories, which were designed to titillate the audiences on the basis of big stars coming together, fell by the wayside. But big stars had their XL sized egos intact. Most of them choose those roles even today that further their real life images. Example: Salman will never play a good role in an Aamir Khan film if its length is shorter. This situation robs the viewers in a way. If you look at Hollywood movies like The Departed (2006 film), which had a great ensemble cast, with such powerful actors, you can almost be sure that if such a film is made in India, with Aamir Khan in the lead, all other actors would be lesser stars.

Another Bollywood innovation is "Special Appearances / Guest Appearances". You will never see them in Hollywood. If a lesser known actor plays a 30 minute role in a Hindi Film he or she is treated as a regular cast member. But if Salman plays a 30 minute role in a film, it will be billed as a cameo or special appearance. It happened in 1998 film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Most probably Salman was paid handsomely for the role. But this special appearance tag is to cater to his real life image and his rabid fan base. He can't play a bit role in a Shahrukh Khan film. But he can generously make a special appearance. On the other hand, the actor (not a star) Christoph Waltz, won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his special appearance small yet influential role in Inglourious Basterds (2009 film).

As a true movie buff, my only wish is that instead of having XL sized egos and XXL sized brawns, the new generation stars like Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor, develop XXXL sized smarts and work together in a great film with great roles and make us drool. May be the director S. S. Rajamouli can make it possible. Make our big screen experiences XL sized again!


Friday, April 26, 2019

W : Whites in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

No! This post is not about white actors in Bollywood. It is also not about those actors who became stereotyped and always played stock white characters (read Britishers) in Hindi Films, irrespective of their actual nationality.

Like Bob Christo! He was an Australian-Indian actor but as Indians call all white skinned people (Gore), Englishmen (Angrez), he always got to play the Gora Angrez. And mostly cast in negative roles. That's another stereotype. If he is white, he must be like our colonial master, without realizing that Australia itself was a colony. He did more than 200 films in India in multiple languages. I remember him for his roles in films like Mard and Mr. India. Watch the Bajrang Bali scene, the most famous scene of Bob Christo, from Mr. India and relive those moments. (Watch the clip from 5th minute onward.)

Another actor, Tom Alter, was actually born and brought up in India. He was of American descent and not an Angrez. He knew Hindi and Urdu languages very well, but mostly we have seen him playing a British character or other white characters in Hindi films, spouting perfect Hindi in a fake accent, just like Christo. I think it was after the movie Lagaan, that film-makers started casting actual British actors for British roles. Though even today, the same set of white actors appear in roles of Britishers in all period films. I don't know much about him, but I recently saw the same actor (R Bhakti Klein, an American) in Manikarnika and Kesari, playing a Britisher. 

But this post is not about the white actors or white characters in Hindi Films. This post is also not about director duo Abbas-Mustan, who always wear white clothes. It has become their signature, just like their films, full of unending twists. 

This post is also not about white clothes that actors wear in Hindi films on certain occasions. I still remember that on the festival of Holi before we used to play with colors, we were instructed to wear old colored clothes so that we enjoy the festival without worrying about spoiling clothes. This is how common Indians look like while playing Holi.

But trust Hindi Films to white-wash the colors even on Holi. Watch this Holi song from the film Darr. The song really captures the spirit of the festival. But why the hell everyone is in white clothes! Is it a Surf Excel advertisement? Or had they planned a funeral and the dead body woke up and thus they went into Holi-mode?

That reminds me that when you attend a funeral and you are mourning, do you really remember what clothes to wear and what accessories to color coordinate it with? Then how is it possible, that all Bollywood funerals feel like a fashion show where Wendell Rodricks' Whites collection is on display!

But this post is not about the white clothes Bollywood actors wear for Holi or funerals! This post is also not about the cliched female ghost of Hindi films who moves around in the night suspiciously, holding a candle in her hands and singing melodious songs. And guess what she wears! A white sari!

Can you tell me what this post is all about, because my mind has gone white blank?


Thursday, April 25, 2019

V : Viewers and Voice-overs in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

Most commercial Indian film-makers had always believed that the Indian audiences must leave their brains back at home to really enjoy their films. They actually wanted to convey that their films are about senseless entertainment. As Indian viewers got exposed to the content across the world, they were not willing to accept mediocre work anymore. So big film-makers of 80s and 90s who couldn't reinvent themselves became redundant. Subhash Ghai is the name that comes to mind almost instantly. He had made really successful films in his heydays. But as viewers' tastes changed, he couldn't learn the new grammar and tonality of film-making. On the other hand, Yash Chopra tried to keep up with a younger India and thus remained relevant. Though his later works weren't as powerful as his earlier films, he still managed to attract youngsters.

"Keep your brains at home" maxim is so well entrenched in our film-makers' minds that they don't trust the intelligence of audiences to understand things and thus they feel the need to spell out everything in their films. Of course it is not true for everyone. But this cliche is still dominant. Voice-over by a narrator in a film is a great technique to spell out everything for the audiences. It is necessary sometimes, when things happening on screen are too overwhelming or the material is too thick. Like in the Netflix series Narcos. The two cliches which are associated with voice-overs in India are:

  • If you want to lend gravitas to a film, use voice-over (like the God's voice)
  • There is no one better than Amitabh Bachchan to do this voice-over
There is nothing wrong in it. But then it is a cliche and thus even at times when it doesn't work people stick to it. Viewers changed! Voice-over didn't! 

I think when it comes to period films like Lagaan or Manikarnika, his voice-over is pitch perfect. Listen to his voice-over in Manikarnika and get mesmerized. 

But seemingly Bachchan has done voice-overs even for films like Hello Brother and Ra.One. There was nothing in those films to be really explained. They were senseless and they weren't even entertaining. 

P.S. - In bad connectivity area today, so couldn't upload several other videos which I wanted to. Please bear. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

U : Uncles in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

I really like Liam Neeson. He is 66 years old now. He plays characters which reflect his age. And he still comes across as a daredevil. Leonardo DiCaprio played a 20 years old guy in Titanic in 1997. He was 23 years old then. As his career progressed, he kept playing more mature characters. He has millions of fans across the world and his lack of vanity is refreshing.

But heroes in Hindi films refuse to play their age. They want to play roles which will suit their kids in real life. Salman Khan was 24 years old when he made his debut. I was 8 years old then. Today he is 53 years old, but most of the characters he play have a reel age lesser than my real age. And he is no Anil Kapoor whose age doesn't show. Of course these guys make efforts to maintain their bodies, but can age be defied so blatantly! 

Hindi film hero's fixation to play roles much younger in age, has led to several incestuous situations. In the 1976 movie Kabhie Kabhie, the character played by Amitabh Bachchan loves the character played by Raakhee, but ends up marrying the character played by Waheeda Rehman. Now we are made to believe that Hindi film heroine is mortal and she ages. While the Godly hero never does. In 1978, two years later, in a film called Trishul, Waheeda Rehman played Amitabh Bachchan's mother. 

Actors like Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor kept playing younger roles and heroes to much younger heroines for decades. Then came a point where they started looking so old, that the audiences rejected them and their films. As these uncles rediscovered themselves and started playing characters suited to their age, they tasted success again. In fact they both have done some really good films off-late. But before they realized that they can't be thirty always, they gave us some cringe-worthy work. In the song Dhanno ki Aankh, from the film Lal Badshah, Bachchan is dancing along a much younger Manisha Koirala, so lethargically, almost like her grandfather. 

Rishi Uncle can't believe his luck in this song from film Daraar, that a 15 years younger Juhi Chawla, is singing love paeans for him. Look at his wide open mouth. Don't miss Rishi's famous sweaters in this one.

Age is just a number till the time it shows in the wrinkles on your face and tires on your waist. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

T : Titles & Title Songs in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

Film-makers in Bollywood are crazy about numerology. They don't rely only on content of the film for its success. The title of the film is an equally important consideration. This consideration is not from the point of view of relevance though. But it is to get the mystical influence of the title right. That is Numerology 101 for dummies! This is a strange affliction but leads to several fascinating stupidly spelled film titles. 

In 2010 released a film titled "Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai". A harmless additional letter 'a' is added to Mumbai. And the film was commercially successful.  But things got weirder with its 2013 sequel titled "Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara". Mumbai got spelled correctly this time around, but the letter 'y' makes its presence felt at an unwanted place. Does it really make sense? By the way this sequel flopped. I think they didn't only change the spellings, but also the numerologist.

In late 2017, a film called Padmavati was supposed to release. It was based on the life of a mythical queen by the same name. Due to controversies around the film, the censor board cleared the film after suggesting several changes. One of the changes was to drop the letter 'i' from the title. This change had a logic that the story was based on an epic poem called Padmavat, written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. But this change meant that numerology of the title got messed up. So an additional letter 'a' came to the rescue and the film finally released in early 2018 as Padmaavat. Now censor board and the government of the day was trolled for dropping the 'i' on Twitter. But nobody called out the distortion made by the film-makers.

Stupid spelling is not the only way titles get corrected from numerology point of view. Some times totally not required qualifiers are added to the title either to correct the numerology or in cases where original title is not available. Sample few: 
  • Daag - The Fire (1999 film; Daag means stain; not sure what is 'The Fire' going to do here)
  • Zanjeer - The Chain (This 1998 film gave subtitles in the title itself.; Zanjeer means Chain)
  • Ek Rishtaa : The Bond of Love (2001 film; Ek Rishta means One Relation; did you notice there is an extra 'a' in Rishta and a qualifier giving the synopsis of the film away?)
The cliches related to the titles don't end at having odd title names. There was another evergreen trend called 'Title Songs'. This trend has almost vanished in the last decade. Though this one was far more sensible. So film-makers in Bollywood used to have this one song in the film which had the title of the film in it. It resulted in some beautiful songs. Like the title song of the 2003 film Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come)

Interestingly that was the time when Karan Johar, the producer of this film, used to have all his films' titles starting with the letter 'k'. Some fascination with numerology! And did you notice that extra 'a' in the title here?

But what happens when a trend gets used forcefully? A 1995 film titled Surakshaa (the extraa 'a' is not going to leave us aalone) also had a title song which really made no sense. The song in the situation is needless. The word Surakshaa (which means protection) is forced into the song, with no melody and rhythm in mind. To make it sound like a song, even the word Surakshaa is pronounced with additional stress on that extra 'a'. Waatch the song below!


Monday, April 22, 2019

S : Slaps in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

Nothing spells drama better in Hindi Films than slaps. I have seen them being used sparingly in Hollywood films too, but in Bollywood they are used liberally. May be it is a reflection of our society, where slapping is considered normal in certain situations. Parents hitting children to stop them from doing something. Teachers hitting students to discipline them. Men hitting their wives to show their masculinity. You get the drift!

But slaps in films work only when they are done right and audience is made to feel the sting. As a viewer if the slap doesn't connect with me (pun unintended), there is no point of showing it to me. The slap has to act as a catalyst for the movement in the story. Here are the three slap scenes which come to my mind almost immediately. They are not necessarily my favorite. 

In the 1991 film Lamhe (Moments), there was no scope for conventional action. No Punches! No Kicks! But still there were violent undertones in the film with several slap scenes. One slap scene was glamorized to such an extent that it led to a dance performance by Sridevi, titled 'Moments of Rage'. During this dance performance that slap scene is played over and over again for impact. 

We all remember the 2001 film Dil Chahta Hai (What the heart wants) for its lovely music, nice comedy and friendship. Bromance! But at one point in the film, the friendship between 3 leads gets strained. And it is shown by a well deserved slap. Here the slap is not as loud as the one in Lamhe, but the impact is louder. 

Now when it comes to feeling the impact of a slap, nothing echoes better than the insulting slap Dr. Dang (character played by Anupam Kher) receives in the 1986 film Karma. In fact the dialogue he delivers immediately after the slap portends devastation. Iss thappad ki goonj suni tumne! (Did you hear the echo of this slap)

In the videos above we see slaps being used in different situations. But Hindi Films definitely use them in one cliched situation always. When one of the characters is crying inconsolably or is rattling meaningless dialogues at double fast speed, as if in trance, and all efforts to stop this crying or rattling have failed, there is one sure shot solution. Thwack! Slap!

And nothing sums up this post better than the image below from the film Dabangg

Translation : I don't fear a slap, I fear love!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

R : Remixes in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

In 2018, a movie called Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety released. The film was a commercial success. The soundtrack of the film was also super-hit. I personally liked a lot of songs in it because of their foot-tapping music. The music album of the film had 8 songs. And 4 out of them were remixes or recreated versions of hit songs from the past. I think remixes work when they are an improvement over the past work. I think they also work when really old songs are presented with a new sound. That makes these remixes relevant today. Like "Dil Chori" from the movie is a really good recreation, especially for party playlists. 

And as it happens with anything successful in Bollywood, there is a mad rush to remix songs. Herd mentality dictates. In March 2019, a movie called Luka Chuppi (Hide and Seek) released. The film is a commercial success. The same can't be claimed about the film's music though. Its music album has 5 songs. And hold your breath! Not even one song out of these 5 is an original composition. All 5 are remixes. In fact Wikipedia calls it a remix album. While I like some of the original songs which have been recreated for this film, I didn't like the versions in the film. The reasons were simple. The recreations were not improved versions of older songs. And some of the songs recreated were very recent, so bringing in a new sound is not that easy. So I share with you the video of the original song which I like a lot but the recreated version of the film really spoils it for me. Khaab is a Punjabi song by Akhil, which was remixed as Duniya in the movie.

While I believe that remixes should be done only when the situation in the film requires them, but if they must be done, I would prefer them to be done in a way that it enhances my auditory experience. But the trend of remixes is any day better than the trend of plagiarizing that plagued Bollywood once. It was so bad at one point of time, that Anu Malik plagiarized the original song Macarena twice. Listen to Dil Le Le Lena from the movie Auzaar and Dil Maka Dina from the film Dhaal. The compulsion to recreate a successful song led to really bad lyrics in both. I will prefer an official remix any day over this.

Which one is your favorite remix? Which according to you was the worst case of plagiarism in Hindi Film music?


Friday, April 19, 2019

Q : Queer Props and Sets in Hindi Films / Bollywood #AtoZChallenge 2019

Once upon a time in Hindi Films, the highest gaudiest forms of creative expression were the props used and sets erected for shooting the songs. Sometimes they made sense too. But mostly the brief was simple - the props should be bigger, brighter, garish and preferably queer. 

In a 1984 film Tohfa (Gift), hero gifts the heroine a sari. A song follows. The entire song is shot with hundreds of saris as props, used in different ways. There is a mannequin too which shows up randomly. And let me assure you, this song is least weird in terms of prop usage you will see in this post. Of course the dance steps here are crazy too.

Have you ever had a Batata Vada (Maharashtrian Potato Fritters)? Well it is really yummy snack. Now imagine a song based on it. A song which ideally should not have existed in the 1987 film Hifazat (security). This song features Madhuri Dixit in her worst dance performance ever. But there is a reason for it. Both the leads are under the effects of drug laden batata vadas and are imagining this song. Both of them imagining the same song at the same time? Inception anyone? I am digressing though! So the highlight prop in this one is potatoes. And wait for the giant potato to make an appearance. 

I have seen songs where thousands of oranges are rolled down a hill as the lead actors dance. I have seen songs where a large telephone or a large tabla / drums are used as sets and stages for dramatic (comic?) effect.  But this song from the 1983 film Himmatwala (Courageous) tops it all. The colors in this song almost blind you. The stupid dance steps by Jeetendra (Jumping Jack is his moniker in Bollywood) can even put you off! If not for Sridevi's beauty and oopmph quotient, watching this song would be a total waste. But don't miss the pots and cartwheels used as props here! Is there a metaphorical significance which I didn't understand?

May be the answer lies in the following song (Taki Taki) from the same film. This one has no props.  They spent entire money on pots and cartwheels in the song above. But with similar dance steps without any queer props, this one pales in comparison. Don't watch the following song.

As we entered into 2000's the fascination with such gaudy and big props peaked in this song from the 2001 film Nayak (Hero). There are standard pots, but then there are large corn cobs too. And giant sunflowers. And scarecrows. I remember liking this film a lot because it had a meaty plot based on politics. But I also remember hating the songs in it. This film didn't need any. 

We still get to see lot of set-piece songs in Hindi films, but the props have got subtler over the years and it is a good thing and I think the following one from 3 Idiots is for the keeps. 


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.