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Bollywood rediscovers itself!

By Nabila Habib | Last Updated: Sunday, December 21, 2008 - 18:43
 
Nabila Habib
Between the Vines
 

Bollywood has faced a number of upheavals and transformations, but one remarkable change in the recent times is the experimentation with techniques and themes.

The early years had a lot of restrictions in terms of presentation, handling and theme of the movie from the director’s point of view. They could not take up challenging horror or action sequences because it demanded special effects, the result was a gapingly scant collection of horror flicks, and in the name of action the viewers had to do with adoring Dharmendra’s power-packed fists that floored the villains in one thunderous punch and a the roar: <i>"Kuttey! Mein tera khoon pee jaunga!!!</i>(along with a legendary ‘<i>dishum</i>’ in the background).

There were some potential substitutes like Dara Singh, who promised some drum-centric-music-enhanced (read overshadowed) action sequences, where an army of goons was hurled about in all directions by him. Then we had Amitabh Bachchan in the ‘Angry Young Man’ avatar and after him the action mantle fell to Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan, Suniel Shetty, and Akshay Kumar. With time, action sequences became considerably better, with slow-motion punches adding to the overall action effect of the pow-wow.

In the same era, Hollywood churned out a hair-raising thriller-horror ‘The Wind’ (1987). This movie became hugely popular due to the sheer simplicity with which the horror was built-up. It was chilling, scary, violent and gripping. It used no effects other than some high voltage fans to create the windstorm in a deserted village. And its background music was self-effacing, yet adding to the chill.

A novelist (Meg Foster) retires to a crumbling villa in a village to complete her book, and is hounded by the caretaker, who has a fancy of killing with a scythe – pretty dumb and clichéd storyline. No extraordinary props, no high-tech, hard-to-get gadgets that were a dream for our Bollywood procurers. Nico Mastorakis created a timeless and ingenious example of making viewers start in dread. It was frightening for an adult then; it still is for his son now.

Recently, we have seen an explosion of new age technologies giving our cinema an unusually updated look. (They have even mastered ‘The Matrix’ 3-D effect after copying it in ‘n’ number of movies!). ‘Drona’, ‘Krrish’, ‘A love Story-2050’ are all effects-based flicks, using the latest technologies. Even animation has reached its adolescence and films like ‘Roadside Romeo’ are at par with regular feature films. Sometimes the animated characters look plastic but new-age children are used to it so they don’t mind much. After all, they practically live in a world overflowing with polymer.

Of course, there has never been a dearth of romance in Bollywood. (The audience gets a chance to let their imagination run amuck, fuelling <a href="http://www.spicezee.com">Bollywood gossip</a>). They actually started with a good guy in white kurta-pyjama (not the night-dress, it was the over-loose dress of those times!) serenading his lady love, looking at the metaphoric Moon, without a glance at that well made-up, simpering, dupatta-biting lass standing beside him. That was love. Then they held hands (and a leaf or a branch) and danced, then they hid behind trees in gardens (with a close-up of two flowers!), then they let the lass’ <i>dupatta</i> slip, then it disappeared altogether. But now our directors have a wide variety of romantic options from bed-scenes to kisses landing smack on the mouths.

Almost all versions of romance seem to have been exploited in the present cinematic period, but we can always expect from creative directors, who always discover a new kind of romantic instance for youngsters to moon about.

Having exhausted the expected lot of genre, Indian cinema is also extending shoots towards parallel cinema. Out of league movies are rising in number, and doing good business despite targeting a niche-audience. The success-secret is the capitalistic metropolitan approach of distributors. They make a movie for one segment of audience; take the urban thinking ones. Then they release it only in PVRs, multiplexes that charge a ten to twenty percent more than the small-town halls. They earn as much on selling a hundred tickets as they would in a small place selling a thousand. The film is a success - the trend becomes popular. ‘Bheja Fry’, ‘Slumdog Millioanaire’ and ‘A Wednesday’ become a rage!

Talking of ‘A Wednesday’, the horrifying attacks in Mumbai, and before that the sporadic incidents across the country have sent shock waves through Bollywood. The upper class has been hit this time, so, the fight against terrorism has spread across all the sections of society. Only a few days have passed, and the inspiration has hit the scriptwriters and filmmakers hard. In a recent <a href="http://www.spicezee.com">Bollywood news</a> update, twenty titles based on the Mumbai attacks have been submitted for approval. Another burst of trend changers? Welcome to contemporary Bollywood!

First Published: Sunday, December 21, 2008 - 18:43

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