Hello there! If my referring to myself in third person has not already said as much, I’m 100% alive and kicking (albeit not as active on the blogging front as I should be). And about to give vent to a head of steam that I’ve been building up for years.
Cinema does not exist merely to provide escapist routes. Much like any art form, it has so little to do with fancy pyrotechnics and ever-dancing women (Yes, Bollywood, I’m talking to you) and everything to do with exploring the human condition. The human condition- already that seems to take this in the direction of championing Message movies (Be sure to eat your greens, kids!), but a movie’s being ‘serious’, again, has little to do with it’s being good. In fact, a comedy could be far superior- what better ‘escape’ than laughter? But when you think about it, the reason that comedy is so appealing: “Humor is always based on a modicum of truth.(Have you ever heard a joke about a father-in-law?)”*. And that is the crux of it. Regardless of the subject of a movie, in the end, it’s just another form of storytelling, and the success of that story depends on how invested in it the viewer becomes, which in turn depends on his being able to recognize something true in it. Every confounding art-house film, every good sci-fi storyline succeeds because the viewer is able to identify with thematic elements of it. Which is why sympathizing with a guy who happens to have scissors for hands or an overprotective animated clownfish is so effortless, and indeed hardly a conscious decision.
And then you have the weekly Bollywood** release. There exist exceptions to this rule, but these movies are largely predictable and mindless. To what purpose? Oh, yes- escapism. Only– these movies could be doing so much more. There is no dirth of uniquely Indian experiences ( or universally appealing stories, for that matter) that could be told. And none of them would have to go down the Slumdog path, either. Apart from that there’s rarely anything artistically unique in these movies, their most infuriating aspect is their imminent unrelateability. Unless you have a one-track mind with marriage stamped across it, an assortment of relatives who stand in the way of said wedded bliss, and no other worthwhile experiences to speak of, in which case I withdraw my judgmental rant and offer my sincerest condolences.
What price Bollywood? And for (granted, color-changing) saree-clad women in Switzerland, too.
*Dick Clarke quote
** And by Bollywood, I mean Kollywood and Tollywood and the rest of the sprawling -wood family.