Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Time for Bollywood to blow its own harp?

The latest issue of Time (Asia) has Aishwarya Rai on the cover, with photo features on 10 Indian Films to Treasure and Bollywood's Players. Also featured in this special focus issue on Bollywood are interviews with Aamir Khan (check out that beard and the unkempt hair on that dude in this pic!) and Amitabh Bachchan in addition to the other three mentioned earlier.

There are several notable absentees, in my opinion, in the list of Players featured. But what irked me much more is the list of 10 Bollywood movies that mentions trash like Devdas in the same breadth as classics like Sholay and Mother India. I am not against Sanjay Leela Bhansali, but I still cannot get over the fact that Devdas was considered better than movies like Kannathil Muthamittal (to name just one deserving movie) for India's entry to the Oscars last year. To be labeled “must watch” is too much. Devdas's only claim to fame was its premiere in Cannes. The accompanying cover story on Time mentions this - Why do our films stick to stereotype?" lamented Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after seeing Devdas, which for all its well-deserved critical praise, was still the 12th version of the same love story since the original 1928 silent movie. But look out for Bollywood's PR machine to go on the overdrive in the next couple of days. And from now on for the next one year, every single director would quote Quentin Tarantino (as if we did not have enough from Bappi Lahiri accusing Universal of cultural imperialism. ROTFLMAO! Seriously… That coming from Bappi?).

And if there's one thing that strikes me, it is the constant portrayals of Bollywood movies as the best representatives of Indian cinema. How can that be so? When most of the Bollywood movies are shot abroad and some even go to the extent of passing off the countryside of the Czech Republic and Switzerland as India? In fact one of the movies omitted from the list of must watch Indian movies was Lagaan. Aamir innings (and the last ball six) in that climatic cricket match, though being fantastical, was just as close to fantasy as Sachin Tendulkar's blazing assault on Fleming et al. in Sharjah, circa 1998.

I am still waiting for the world to grow up to the pleasures offered by GOOD Indian cinema and all the hoopla about this mediocrity makes me sick. When will the world media recognize people who have been churning clean and technically perfect movies repeatedly over the years? Does the international media know what this means – All that glitters is not gold?

Update (Nov. 13th, 2003): This post is on the BBM #34 hosted by Shanks. Thanks to Ram for the nomination!