Is Bollywood mainstream anymore?   #MondayMusings

Is Bollywood mainstream anymore? #MondayMusings

In writing of Indian culture, I am highly conscious of my own subjectivity; arguably, there is more than one Indian culture, and certainly more than one view of Indian culture. – Shashi Tharoor

You must be really not existing if you haven’t seen the drama and release of the Bollywood superstar Salman Khan.  Admittedly,  800+ crores ride on his movies and television performances.  But,  tell me how much substance is there in his movies?  It is surely a package deal with some comic scenes,  few great songs,  some fight scenes and that is it.  It is something which will give value for money for the mass viewers.  But,  scratch a bit of the surface and see if it is a movie that creates any impact in your thinking, society,  or great acting?  Sorry. His movies have only one motive – to entertain.  With the Khans and the Kumars getting out atleast a movie a year,  it seems like we are watching the same old stuff everyday.  Akshay Kumar seems have taken over the role of a conscientious citizen a la Manoj Kumar (Padman, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, Airlift),  Aamir Khan brings out some unknown but serious aspect (Taare Zameen Par, Dhoom,  Secret Superstar),  Salman with his scriptless, storyless and directionless movies and Shah Rukh has overdosed on romance.  But every time he tries something geniune,  the viewers reject him (like Ashoka, Ra One).  Both these are good movies though.  

A lack of variety,  and mind-numbing Hindi movies forced me to look elsewhere.  I tried Hollywood.  But,  Marvel and DC Comics is ruling there as well.  I cannot take in any more Bam Bam Boom Boom and Super Heroes.  Their other movies are mostly based on Books which I would rather read than watch a 90 minute crammed re-hash.

I was in for a surprise when I recently watched some Tamil and Telugu movies recommended by my brother who is crazy about them.  I told him I cannot take in Rajni style larger than life movies either.  But he insisted.  Over the weekend,  he downloaded the movies he wanted me to watch on Amazon Prime.  (Yeah,  little brothers are like that).

Tepidly,  I first selected the Telugu movie Arjun Reddy.  Believe me,  I do not know a single Telugu word and was totally relying on the sub-titles.  It was about a Doctor named Arjun Reddy who had anger management issues.  He was super rich and did crazy things like falling in love with a Tulu girl at first sight.  Now, again,  for me Telegu and Tulu were one people.  But apparently,  they do not inter marry.  The girl’s family rejects his proposal based on his caste.  Arjun Reddy is totally thrown out of gear.  He becomes an addict, the family throws him out, he loses his licence due to medical negligence.  I did not like Arjun Reddy’s high handedness with which he dominates everybody as they are scared of his anger.  But, the movie addresses some very current topics.  There is the language used which is what a normal person of his age will use.  There are expletives in it,  not many,  but some when he talks with friends.  It felt so normal.  The guy has sex with his girlfriend.  But it is just a normal progression of their love and not something to think about.  Nobody, in the movie thought this is abnormal.  It feels like a breath of fresh air.  The guy is shown to have a serious problem and the family helps to de-addict him.   If only this message is shown in many more movies.  It will help youngsters to reach to their families for help and also for the families to understand that it is ok for their super intelligent children to falter.  They can guide them back to the right path.

Here, was the best part.  The girl, Preethi, marries some other guy.  And Arjun sees a heavily pregnant Preethi after about 7 months.  He is disturbed.  Not because she is pregnant, but because she looked unhappy.  He comes back to her and asks her to leave her husband.  At which point,  Preethi asks who will take care of the baby.  And Arjun says he is ready to be the father and will love the baby whole-heartedly.  Can we imagine any of our super macho alpha heroes doing the same?  I just loved the movie.  Please watch it before it is remade into Hindi with Arjun Kapoor as the lead.  I cannot bear to think about the horrible acting that will be in store.

That’s not all.  I saw a few Tamil movies too,  again thanks to subtitles.  One of them I loved was Katri Veliyidai (I don’t know what it means).  It stars Karthi (he is a sweetheart) and Aditi Rao Hydari (ethereal beauty.  Remember her in Padmavat as Khilji’s wife?) In the movie,  Karthi is a fighter pilot who is languishing in a Pakistani jail.  Aditi is a doctor.  The story is in flashback.  Karthi serenades Aditi till she agrees to marry him.  But,  Aditi is still sceptical.  Because Karthi is very dominating.  He is quick to insult her at times, sometimes in front of his friends or parents.  He takes her home to meet his parents at his brother’s wedding.  His brother is marrying a heavily pregnant girl.  But it is considered normal.  The girl goes straight to hospital for delivery after the wedding.  The parents grumble that the brother should have had the baby first and then got married.  Imagine that in a Hindi movie.

Aditi tells Karthi that she wants an equal relationship where she can voice her thoughts.  Karthi agrees to it but Aditi knows he will revert when the situation arises.   Aditi gets pregnant and asks Karthi to marry her now.  To my surprise,  Karthi says he is not fit to be a husband as he is very selfish.  Of course,  he realises his mistakes when he is in jail and comes back a changed man,  to marry Aditi.  Now,  tell me which Hindi actor would have done the same.

I saw another movie which was a detective movie.  It had no songs but it kept me on the edge of my seat reading the subtitles real fast.

And now my dear friends,  here is my verdict.  Do not restrict yourselves to mainstream Hindi, English movies only.  Watch them in other languages.  Open your eyes and your mind.  India is not just what the mainstream media is showing us.  It is not just about toilets, pads, machoism.  There is so much more.  Malayalam movies were always better than Hindi movies.  But,  seeing Tamil and Telugu with such advanced storylines,  is making me want to watch more.

I have added many Marathi movies too to my watchlist.  And next is Bangla.  Give me some recommendations folks!

P.S.  This is not a sponsored post.


15 thoughts on “Is Bollywood mainstream anymore? #MondayMusings

  1. I stand by your main point and idea of the post. We must look for real good content.

    However, here are some things I disgaree with
    1. Salman Khan: Yes, his movies just sell. Whatever crap there’s in them. But it’s not like he has never tried to make a movie that would touch a deep subject, that needs to be told. Now, I am not a big bollywood movie fan. I read. So, I certainly don’t have many examples except for Jai Ho. But you have to see that every entertainment commercial movie isn’t just full of fluff. Sometimes, they leave a good message, even if that’s not the main storyline. It happens. So, outrightly saying all the movies are dumb of these Khans… wrong.

    2. They have their audience. Is it there fault their pointless movies make crores? They’re just filling the demand. Instead of blaming them for all this, why not look oneself in the mirror and see why this demand! (By oneself, I’m not referring to a single person, the whole consumer group that makes these movies earn crores. They make it coz you like it).

    3. The example of that Reddy movie… Again, can’t really point you to a name, but there are many Bollywood movies that are so good. It’s just that we hardly ever watch them. They hardly ever get popular. Their fault? No. It’s the audience that decides. So, why blame the creators?

    1. Thank Manpreet for your detailed response. Salman Khan and the others are hugely popular across the world. I love watching their movies as they are total entertainment. But content-wise, some of his movies are terrible, for eg. Dabangg 2 which just rode on the popularity of the first one. Most of his superhit movies are remakes of South cinema – But, that is not the point I am trying to make. With so much good content available in regional cinema, must we still say Bollywood is the leader? Bollywood makes crores but regional cinema has some very diverse content and is more open to experimentation.

  2. I agree with what you said there. My fall back are old films – both Hindi as well as Hollywood. I hardly ever come out completely happy with a new film. I have to admit I nurse a (very) soft corner for SRK and so watch his films and again you’re right when you say each time he tries something different people reject him. That’s such a pity. The new lot is all the same to me. I have a bunch of Maharashtrian friends and I when they tell me the story lines of some Marathi films I feel like watching them but I still have to get around to it.

    1. Ok.. Good to meet an SRK fan.. Me too. You should try Marathi films. They are very good. I used to watch a lot of them as a teenager. I just want to reconnect with them again. Old Hindi movies have some very good story lines. I wish that Bollywood would transform and cater more to the present generation and times.

  3. Lata I am soo poor when it comes o movies. I do watch hindi movies(yes despite its absurdities and Tamil too( well some are indeed absurd again)… But I have realised its best to swtich off ones common sense to soak i n more of the entertainment factor.

  4. I love the way you have analysed Bollywood movies categorising each genre with the corresponding film star. You are right about the mindless movies that we see. I actually went to see a non-Hindi movie without understanding the language “Kandukondain Kandukondain” and simply loved it. Only later did I find out that it was a Tamil film.
    And the other day when I went for a Mallu wedding in Goa I heard the most amazing pop songs which were really peppy and dance worthy – sung in Malayalam and Tamil.
    You are right when you say that we should move out of the mediocre ‘mainstream’ Bollywood nonsense and explore cinam in other regional languages.

    1. Hey I had seen Kandukondain kandukondain and loved it too. It had some beautiful songs. I watched it with my cousin translating it, yet loved it. Tamil always had great music and now discovering Telugu music too.

  5. I love movies. I went to journalism school to be a film critic. Unfortunately, because of transportation issues, I hardly ever go to the movie theater. But when I do go… some Hollywood movies are good, while others are just… yuck! I love to watch movies with subtitles and hear different languages. It’s interesting to listen to languages and to watch the action.

    1. Thanks Alice. Wow to journalism school. Foreign movies do show us a very different culture than we are used to. In India, we have many cultures and languages which we are not so familiar with. Places in which the movies I mentioned are based are very close to us, yet unfamiliar.

  6. The movies that you have recommended look interesting, Lata.
    I love Bollywood movies, and there are a lot on my wish-list.
    Used to watch those award-winning movies with sub-titles on DD.
    Yet to watch any recent regional movies though…

  7. You know Lata, to be honest, I rarely see any Hindi movies these days. 90% of hindi movies are just undiluted junk. And this is a sad state of affairs, because 90s (and even early 2000s) had seen some really good ones. The quality however just kept deteriorating.

    Having said that I do like some of them – I did like Airlift & Toilet, and at times I can tolerate SRK’s romance too, but Salman – I simply cannot watch most of his movies. I remember seeing the first 15 minutes of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo – and I just couldn’t do it anymore. The TV serials are no better – full of regressive bullshit.

    Which is why, when it comes to Indian cinema – I veer towards Marathi movies, they have such wonderful storylines, and even the fluffly romances are so much more realistic & progressive. Of-course in my case, I understand Marathi, so it is easier. But I guess I should check out the languages I don’t understand either – with subtitles I mean. Will check out the movies you mentioned.

    P.S. When trying Marathi Movies – you should check out Mumbai Pune Mumbai – 1, and the sequel too. It’s an adorable, heartwarming (yet realistic) love story.

    1. Thanks Shantala. Brought up in Mumbai, I used to watch a lot of Marathi movies. I will check the one you mentioned. And loved reading the comment

    2. I just saw Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2 and loved it. Now will watch the first one. Its a lovely movie and I have been tearing up. Excellent dialogs and a very relevant theme.

  8. I have taken to watching a lot of Hollywood movies and some of them are absolutely amazing. Historical ones are something I love. I agree with hollowness of Khan trios films. Irrfan Khan and Manoj Vajpayee films are moving. I am also watching stories by Rabindranath Tagore on Netflix by Anurag Basu. Worth a watch!

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