I’m a movie freak. My love affair with the “moving pictures” started early in life, and my parents fondly recall how I was fascinated by moving images from the time that I could distinguish coherent images. I would apparently stay glued to a screen, any screen, for hours on end, just as long as something was moving on it. Didn’t matter if it was Krishi Darshan or Star Trek, if it moved, I watched it! Most people begin their film watching life, as I did, unguided, and I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of stuff over the years. I did have a slight advantage (not so slight come to think of it) of having parents who recognised good cinema, and cared enough to show it to us kids. Over the years, I also discovered, for myself, what does or does not work for me, cinematically.
I am seriously tired of the kind of routine formula fare that’s produced in the name of commercial cinema in Bollywood. For over a decade now, I have been more and more disappointed by mainstream cinema in India. I am heartily sick of the typical Bollywood masala or family melodrama movie. The K3Gs and the DDLJs, the oft repeated tale, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing make me angry. It seems like a personal insult to me that the producers and directors have no respect for the intelligence and taste of the audience; that they dare to pass off any old thing as popular entertainment, in the name of cinema. Of course, thanks to the great Indian audiences, it has worked well enough for the few big banners which made millions, because they could afford to spend millions in making the films in the first place. But, and this is the saddest part, there wasn’t much on offer for people like me, people who wanted something a little different, something with a little more value.
Way back when, one basically didn’t have a choice, and was forced to watch the latest mindless love triangle, song dance, wet saree thingy, like it or not. The only other option was the dreaded “parallel cinema”. The problem with the parallel or art films, for me at least, was that they were often mere exercises in intellectual snobbery, mostly boring, and so slow that they would shame a snail. They were very ponderous, often pseudo, overly philosophical and dispensed too much gyaan. Some were good of course, Arth, Ardha Satya, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, come to mind, but more often than not, they were not ideal for an evening of relaxation, when all I want to do is watch something good, that makes me think and feel yes, but doesn’t try to force any “isms” down my throat! Sadly, they often disappointed as much as the mainstream did. The only choice left to give me the whole movie going experience, cinematic quality married with good storylines, good direction and good acting, offbeat themes, and so on was world cinema.
Things had gotten to a point where I was about to give up Indian cinema altogether, apart from the regional “art” fare, when the so-called multiplex films came along. And I am extremely grateful for them! In spite of the price of the tickets, and the insane tag on soft drinks and samosas, the multiplex has saved modern Indian cinema, and it has rescued me from certain boredom, massive irritation, and serious disgust.
The multiplex film is ideal, although it is not always great cinema. Small to medium budget films, ‘hatke’ themes, irreverent and offbeat handling, often inadvertently funny and usually innovative, they are always refreshingly different from the usual bolly crap. In fact I would much rather watch a Johnny Gaddar, with its tight narration, interesting camera perspectives, good solid acting, and innovative script, than put myself through the latest SRK extravaganza, which is any old script in a slightly new avatar. I will take a Honeymoon Travels Private Limited with all its wackiness, or because of it, over a Kabhi Alvida Na Kehena. I would love to laugh through two hours of Bheja Fry, remake and rip off that it is, than watch yet another mega bucks launch of yet another star kid.
And the biggest blessing of the multiplex syndrome is the effect that it is having on the mainstream. More and more big-budget producers and directors are beginning to wake up to the fact that the good old “family ronadhona” or the “chhora chhori” triangle formulas are losing their thrill (HALLLELLUIJAH!). Mainstream commercial films are beginning to try and provide quality fare for their audiences. They may not be there yet, but at least they have woken up to the fact that they must try!
As far as I am concerned, this is a great state of affairs for little old me – the movie buff! No longer am I doomed to sit through another mindless multistarrer!!