Unveiling Bollywood

Dipanjali Sarkar

It is needless to say that social media or to be more precise facebook has become an acceptable platform for discussion on literally every topic; starting from literature to cinema. This lockdown period has induced a frequent urge to scroll facebook more often and read whatever comes on my way. So, a few days back I was taken aback by a comment on facebook where someone said “When 90s kids used to watch black & white Bangla movies, I used to gulp Bollywood.” I don’t know how’s that even a matter of pride but after all it was his/her choice. Being a late 90s kid, I have watched “Pyasa”, “Shree420” and I have also watched “Apu trilogy”, “Golpo Holeo Shotti” and many other movies of black & white era. NO! That doesn’t make me a “proud 90s kid” or a “Film Freak”. I have no doubt that I had little or no idea about acting, storyline, direction back then. But gradually with the evolution of technology and society, Bollywood or other regional film industries have changed a lot and along with it our movie taste. Though I have no idea how our taste deteriorated from “Apur Songsar” to “Kamalar Banabas” in the 90s but I am not ashamed of saying that I have watched those movies as well. I agree it’s far better to tie yourself with the roots of Bollywood in the 90s than crying over “Beder Meye Josna”. So, I definitely count myself in when it comes to watching movies like “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun'', “DDLJ'” or “Raja Hindustani” and again not with a critical mind but with a little knowledge of acting and storytelling. But as I grew up and started understanding and observing Indian culture more carefully, I realized that most of the 90s films were “feel good” versions of our culture. Bollywood has miserably failed to show the real India or if I say the truth, it didn’t want us to show the real India. In the 90s, the government opened up the market to foreign investors followed by giving the “industry” status to the film industry. The changes in the government regulations have contributed to the internationalization of the Indian film industry and hence you can imagine the influx of foreign revenue in the industry which naturally surpassed domestic earnings. It is not unknown to us that India has the largest diaspora population in the world and they constitute the wealthy and potential Bollywood audience who seek for the nostalgic layer of the country and not the tough and rocky one. So Bollywood couldn’t compromise the audience’s taste who were paying much more for their fabricated pieces. I cannot also miss to mention that Bollywood was, is and will always be a means for the government to spread nationalism and of course in this case the NRI audience are to be prioritized. If you find all my above points difficult to agree with then look at films like “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham” where you got nostalgic or probably got goosebumps as well when the kid along with foreigner kids began our national anthem. Isn’t it a luxury for the poverty stricken population of India who can’t even afford to eat twice a day to sing the national anthem in a cold and white environment? Wasn’t it a “feel good” or “buttering scene” to the NRI’s to make them feel that they are still tied to the deep roots of India and we appreciate that moral value? Forget about NRIs, wasn’t it a fabrication to us to make us realize that Indians staying abroad are also “Dil se Hindustani”? As Indian citizens don’t we deserve to see the tough and rocky layer of the country as well? Bollywood made Indians obsessed with neat and clean spaces which is a rare scene in our country. If you think those two or three hours of entertainment is helping you escape the reality, then let me tell you that escaping the reality won’t help you in anyway rather it might leave you longing for such dream world. Don’t we have the courage to accept that the third world country is not a breathe of fresh air? It’s high time we confront the reality to conquer it. Though an era did arrive in Bollywood where we were gifted with movies like “Fashion”, “Jab We Met”, “Life in a Metro”, “3 Idiots” and many more which gave less importance to fancy foreign locations and made us relate to the characters. But the government didn’t even let the unvarnished locations go in vain. Let me remind you about the movie “Swadesh” which was used by the then ruling government to promote Nehruvian propaganda and not surprisingly we have a long list of such movies which directly or indirectly promote Government  propagandas. I am sure you have well remembered “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, “URI- The Surgical Strike”,“Toilet - Ek Prem Katha” which clearly depicts the government campaign. But how many of you have watched “Parzania”? It was banned in Gujarat because their political giant  thought that it would hurt the image of Gujarat. Do you remember Anurag Kashyap’s “Black Friday” which was banned for two years and was allowed censorship with a special disclaimer? So apparently we are supposed to watch what the government makes us watch through the film industry. Whenever there will be a film which questions the government will be removed from our reach and we as citizens of a democratic nation will stay quiet. Along with the government, Bollywood also played well with public emotions. Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and some others who made a place in our heart by their family dramas and heroic roles in disguise of a common man which made people imitate them rather than identifying themselves were utilized by Bollywood to showcase the fabricated “feel-good” stories. It is needless to say that people who worship the stars watched the movies without a second thought. This “star worship” tendency was also used by Bollywood to sell you the brands which eventually ended up investing for the films which in turn was a profit for both. Do you remember Hrithik Roshan talking of ‘BournVita’ in “Koi Mil Gaya”? Isn’t the picture clear enough now that a bigger section of common man are still provoked by the names of the stars rather than the content of the film? But as a Bollywood binge watcher my list gradually started to include cinemas like “Gulaal”, “Udaan”, “Ankhon Dekhi”, “Laxmi”, “Beyond the Clouds” and sorry, I cannot put a stop in the list because it will go on with “Gangs of Wasseypur”, “The Lunchbox”, “Masaan”; some of which might not have done well in the box office or earn any ‘Paan Masala’ awards but have successfully portrayed the real India. So, naturally I have started choosing cinemas carefully and hit the like button cautiously. Not that I have become a film critic; I am still a common audience who enjoy commercial cinemas but can choose between “Newton” and “Happy New Year”.

Therefore, to whoever it may concern, if you still can’t make a difference between “Dilwale” and “Aligarh”, then I am sorry to say that you didn’t gulp Bollywood dear; Bollywood engulfed you.