Why Is the Indian Film Industry Satisfied with being Copycats?

I don’t usually watch Hindi films because they’re predictable. Even Hollywood films are predictable because they run on a formula. But at least the story lines are somewhat original. There are some exceptional movies like The Departed – I saw the Chinese version first before they made the Hollywood version.

I like a of Indian filmmakers, they’re not afraid to be flamboyant, or explore issues that are considered “taboo”. I like the way they execute things on film. I respect the fact that they can make outrageous plot lines work – something that is essential in order for a film to be successful here.

It is such a shame though that Ghajini, the number one grossing film with a record hit of Rs. 1 billion is based on the English movie Memento. The whole country had been swept in the publicity hype and boasts of what a great film it is. But it’s not original.

In a country where there’s an actual legalized freedom of expression, Indian filmmakers should be aspiring to produce the next Satyajit Ray not wait for the next Hollywood movie to copy. I fail to understand how a whole country can be so proud of a copy movie – knowingly. Even it’s publicity campaign has “Hollywood” written all over it. Of course Ghajini is not the first movie that copied a western film. There are other popular films like Kaante (Reservoir Dogs), Josh (Westside Story), Sarkar (The God Father), Ek Ajnabi (Man on Fire), and Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (Notting Hill). If the film is not an exact copy there are the “masala” kind where plot lines and scenes are mixed and matched from various movies of the west. Of course these are predictable, too – even when you don’t understand the language. For someone who pays attention to films like me I can even identify which movie by just looking at a trailer or a scene.

From my six years of living in India, I can see that it is not short of issues to make films about. There are subjects for comedy, tragedy and romance all around in this country of a billion plus people. My question is, what are Indian filmmakers so afraid of to be original? What’s making them stop in their creative process? Are movie goers to blame or the industry big wigs? Don’t you want to see original authentic Indian stories? What’s your take? Help me understand.

The Demise of Parallel Cinema

Cinema was born out of the impetus to represent the reality in a more convincing manner. After the nation gained independence, the cinema focused on post colonial issues such as poverty, illiteracy and unjustified social system. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Shanta Ram and Sohrab Modi were the few directors who made cinema pertaining to the issues of the early 1950s and their films were all chronicles of the social change that was taking place in the Indian society.

During 1970s, Indian economy was strained and the emergency imposed during that time created more frustration for the people. We witnessed suppression of civil liberties and subsequently Constitutional breakdown. It was during this time that Indian cinema came out of age. The films made during those days addressed the growing frustrations of the Indians by completely deviating itself from the feel good movies. Thus the parallel cinema came into existence. The birth of parallel cinema is also attributed to the various film schools that produced many educated filmmakers, who felt responsible for the cause of this new genre of cinema. The trend was witnessed in all parts of the country with names like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Budhyadeb Das Gupta, Basu Chatterjee and many more. The movies like Interview, Ankur, Aakrosh captured the mood of an ordinary Indian. This new wave had great impact on the society but with the changing time the parallel cinema has lost to commercial films. I feel that the demise of parallel cinema is one of many bad things that happened with our cinema. Few of the best directors like MS Sathyu, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Shyam Benegal are on wane.

Mrinal Sen, at seminar in Kolkata very recently, said that, “No director today is capable of making films like Garam Hawa, Ardh Satya, Albert Pinto ko gussa kyun aata hai, Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho. New Age cinema is certainly not comparable to these classics.” Many factors are responsible to this death of ‘new wave’. The time has changed and we have made much progress. Moreover, the taste of audiences have changed and a filmmaker who wants to draw attention to some serious subject finds no takers. This has resulted in the loss of space for a rural/semi-urban Indian in the cinema. The films nowadays cater to multiplex audience and they are bound to make film which sells, no matter even if it is rubbish. The advent of numerous channels, the consumerist culture and the expansion of urban India has given birth to urban-centric audiences. The cinema, which portrayed class struggle and protests against hypocrisy, has given way to more ‘entertaining’ cinema.

The story is pretty bad for the lover of serious and meaningful cinema. The filmmakers who make the serious films have failed to make the cut with TRP-driven television channels. Ironically, the stakes have seldom been higher for major players in the Hindi film world and the losses steeper for lovers of serious cinema. But then population of this section is very less. Contrary to the assumption that people want good cinema, they don’t. Even if they get it for free, they don’t watch it. Even Doordarshan, where profit is not the main motive, does not want art house cinema. It is a battle for the eyeballs, a battle for bums on the seat. It is pure and simple economics, no art.

You must have witnessed numerous film festivals on the channels in the name of Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Madhuri Dixit but none in the name of Shyam Benegal or Govind Nihalani. We always rue that Bollywood does not makes good film and over 90 per cent of the films bog on the box office. Well you can say that you are not offered good film to watch but the fact remains that “everybody talks of good cinema, nobody watches good cinema.” The population that has created an atmosphere for themselves has no interest in parallel cinema and they love to live in utopia. There is no doubt that our nation has progressed by leaps and bounds but as a society we have to cover a long distance still. It will be better if we can be motivated by something that integrates our society, pricks our conscience and break the obsolete social customs. Both commercial and parallel cinema can co-exist, but only if we want!

The demise of Appu Ghar

All good things must come to an end and so did the Appu Ghar. The 15.5 acres amusement park is being brought down to be replaced by the Delhi Metro. Appu Ghar maybe no more, but the nostalgic memories of this magical park will last forever.

In the evergreen debate between the Mumbaikars and the Delhiites, Mumbaikars used to score over their counterparts thanks to the presence of the glittering stars of Bollywood and the safety tag of the Island city. Having passed through the phases of living in both the cities, it used to be a tough choice for me. For having grown up in Delhi, my heart was still in the calmness of Delhi, though Mumbai has become my Karma Bhoomi and I shudder at the thought of leaving it. Visiting my previous home has been on the cards for a very long time, but in the tough schedule that a student has to follow, the dream could not materialize. But in all the Metros and the Development plans being executed in the capital, it has lost something which was closest to the heart of its citizens- Appu ghar.

And in the host of management entrance exams that I had been giving, I lost the chance of visiting this place as it opened its gates for the last time on the 18th February, 2008. A feeling of nostalgia overcomes me whenever I think of this place. Even before I visited the Qutab Minar or the India Gate, I had made three round trips to Appu Ghar. And visiting any trade show or exhibition at Pragati Maidan was incomplete if you didn’t flock to Appu Ghar in the evenings.

The house of horrors, the bumping cars, mini Disneyland, the eerie tunnel were the places I used to frequently visit. Those were the days when you didn’t have any worries and could soak in the excitement of the place. It has been more than seven years since I last visited it, but the park is etched in my memory. Away from the commotion and the traffic snarls of the city, it was one place that despite all the noise that the children would be making would offer a sense of calm. America would boast of the Disneyland, but Appu Ghar for its citizens wasn’t far behind.

February 18th, was the last chance for people to say goodbye to this amusement park. As the number of tickets sold touched 5,000 and the timings extended by an extra hour, people flocked from all the parts of the city as well as the outskirts to visit this magical place. Many children who had grown playing here would have got their children to share the same experience. But, there are many of us who missed that last opportunity would lament this miss for a long time to come. But, as they say all good things must come to an end because that is the nature of life.

It seems that the Appu ghar has been shut down for the development of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The Metro has been a huge boost for Delhi and now it can compete with the like of Mumbai and Kolkatta in offering good commutation means. But whatever the purpose be, was their not a way of building at some other place? Maybe im being a bit irrational for Appu Ghar meant more to me than any other landmark in Delhi.

The place might have been losing its charm, for children nowadays prefer computer games and gaming consoles to a visit to the park. And with malls, supermarkets, gaming centres opening up in all parts of the city, where is the place to have an Amusement Park. Im disappointed that the next generation in my family could not visit this place but hopefully by the time they grow up there would be something better to visit. Appu Ghar may be no more but it will be missed for ever. I don’t really have much to look forward to the next time I visit the capital. And if I were the Supreme Court of India and had to make a choice between the Metro and the Appu Ghar, the choice would have been a fairly straight forward one.

Is the celebration of Valentine’s Day against the Indian Culture?

The meeting of the Orient and the Occident will always produce a spark. Valentine’s Day is just not a day restricted to the West, Love is a global language and everyone who is in love ought to celebrate this day for love knows no barriers.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated with great fervour all across the World. Even in India the Day has captured the hearts of all romantic couples. You will see love in all malls and hyper markets with big discounts and freebies being offered to couples. There are contests on Air, TV and the Print to determine whose love is strongest. All major Brands and companies want to cash in on this day. Theatres where the Crowd generally flocks offer discount schemes to attract hapless couples which don’t really have any other place to go.

But the Detractors say that celebrating Valentine’s Day is against the Indian culture. They believe that we are just aping the Western Culture. Now there have been so many instances when we ape the Westerns. Our Constitution in itself is the longest constitution drafted and was made from the UK and the American Constitution. Whenever we want to make movies, we again copy the entire script and the screenplay. All the high technology products coming into our country come from the West. The Internet which has become the most vital medium for survival came from Switzerland. Even the SEZ policy which is being criticized by one and all right now came from China.

So why don’t the detractors of Valentine’s Day stand up against all these things? Isn’t Valentine’s Day celebrated as a Day? Love just does not mean love for your spouse or partner. You could be in love with your parents, your children and even your dog. After being under the British rule for so long, Indians had to acquire some of the traits from the British. It was just not restricted to the language of English even the colonial architecture stands out as a tribute to the British today.

Valentine’s Day began with St. Valentine, a Roman Christian. It is believed that this Saint died on February 14, 269 A.D. Legend also says that the Saint left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, and signed it “From Your Valentine”. Other aspects of the legend say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. But Since 496 A.D, February 14 is being celebrated as Valentine’s Day to honour St. Valentine.

Thus 1502 years hence, Valentine’s Day is still healthy and Strong all across the World. The legend of St. Valentine might not be that popular, but people do celebrate the Day as they would celebrate Holi, Diwali or any other festival. Saint Valentine became the patron of love and this day is remembered in his name and celebrated by everyone who is in love.

If Americans can celebrate Diwali at the White House, if parts of London celebrate Holi in the open where even Foreigners join in the fun, for the main purpose of a festival is to spread happiness and have fun. How can anyone be against the spirit of love? Indians too revere Parvati- the Goddess of Love and Kama- the God of Love. Since childhood, the stories of Laila Majnoo, Soni Mahiwal are imbibed in us. The Love Stories in Bollywood have been the biggest hits ever. Love is a feeling that brings everyone closer irrespective of all social, political or economic barriers. To not be in love or not celebrating it, would be to be devoid of the most powerful emotions that humans have. Even the Animals who cant communicate properly to each other exhibit qualities of love.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of Valentine’s Day, but the only problem which the detractors have is that we are aping the Western culture. Now if the Westerners have created a good precedent for us, then why shouldn’t we follow it. Ask all the detractors to celebrate another day in the name of love, im sure people wouldn’t mind sharing their feelings for each other on that very day.

Couples say that any day which spreads the message of Love cannot have any adverse effects on society. For Love is the perfume that you cannot spray on others without sprinkling a few drops on yourself. Spreading Love is spreading happiness in these days where due to terrorism and violence everyone is on the edge. Who knows what terror comes your way tomorrow? Till then you ought to enjoy every moment in love. And Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.

Mumbai is for all.

The dogs in Mumbai have been unleashed once again by power hungry regional politicians. Petty ‘taxi drivers’,’chaat waalah’ and other poor vendors are being accused and abused physically in broad daylights, in the heart of financial capital of India, Mumbai. Indian newspapers are full of reports that North Indians (particularly those from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) in Mumbai are being attacked by supporters of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, a regional political party founded by Raj Thackeray in Maharashtra. Raj has been giving anti- North Indians statements for quite sometime and is ridiculing the festivals of Northern India (particularly the Chhat festival of Bihar). Just a few days back, he alleged the superstar Amitabh Bachchan of not doing enough for Maharashtra and insulted him for his love for the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

Marine DriveThe comments of Raj are not only naive but stupid as well. Mumbai has 30% population from North India. The trades related to Dairy, Milk production, education, Paan (beetel leaf), Taxi transport, Flour Mills, Vegetables, Security Guards and junk items are being managed by North Indians in Mumbai. In fact these people have become part and parcel of the life in Mumbai and they are doing their best in making this city the financial hub of India. As such a blatant attack on them is likely to hamper the overall functioning of the city. Raj is of view that Mumbai should be run by Maharashtrians and none from outside should meddle with Marathi Speaking people. But attacking the innocent is condemnable act. He is just targeting poor and daily earners and none from those who control the economy. This is the way he want to bring “Navnirman” in Maharashtra. Going by his worldview, some native Americans should now vandalise Indians out there, right?

The Shiv Sena’s changed ways – the party wants to go beyond its traditional Maharashtrian vote bank and hence wooing North Indians – have given Thackeray a chance to make a bid for its traditional voter base. And Raj Thackeray, hoping to divert the Marathi manoos to his party, has jumped in to occupy that space.

I have been in Mumbai for last 3 years and find it very nice. It was the first time in my life when i saw the various cultures together. The Marathis, Gujaratis, Marwadis, Rajasthani,North Indians, South Indians, etc. This is what is known as spirit of Mumbai. Mumbai has something for everyone and this is what so very especial about Mumbai. Mumbai is considered to be the Global City of India. It is home to one of the world’s top 10 centers of commerce in terms of global financial flow. Mumbai is also the commercial and entertainment capital of India, and houses important financial institutions. But the incidents like this certainly dent that image of Mumbai.

The recent developments have revived the question whether those living in metropolis have a right to target migrants from other states. It is high time that as a Social Secular Democratic Republic, we rose against regionalism and learn to treat all as Indians? This political gimmick is unnecessary, unwarranted and will spark tensions among common residents of the city of Mumbai and state of Maharashtra. Raj has lost his political sheen since leaving Bal Thackeray & forming his own party MNS. Instead of Nav Nirman his party is only busy in destroying things. The situation needs to be calmed very soon because the Political Games hve begun (Reference to speeches of leaders from Samaajwadi Party, MNS) and one more incident can lead to chaos in Mumbai which will be totally uncalled for. A sense is required from people of Mumbai and don’t fall prey to this situation. I really hope the people would show a great maturity at this hour.

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