India’s Cannes connection began with a moment straight out of a Bollywood film. Literally.
Aishwarya Rai (before her Bachchan days) in a shimmery sequined yellow saree with Manish Malhotra written all over it, stepped out of a horse-drawn carriage holding Shah Rukh Khan’s hand in a Disney-princess-overdrive pose. Devdas, a film India struggled to sit through without shades, had travelled to Cannes. Cannes and Devdas did nothing for each other, except for giving Rai an alternative career when all her films were tanking – that of selling a French cosmetics brand in the world’s fashion capital.
So when Anurag Kashyap, in an interview to the Times of India, says, “we’re not creating our own original mainstream Bollywood today – this often becomes derivative. And the West mainly sees this. It’s just entertainment for them… they watch Bollywood like B-movies are seen”, it does ring true.
He adds, “The best films we are making today are in Tamil and Marathi.” True again. Anyone who has seen Paresh Mokashi’s Harischandrachi Factory, a quietly stirring film about Dadasaheb Phalke’s struggle as he tried to make his first film Raja Harischandra, would struggle to name an equal in Bollywood.
It’s also true that while tabloids remained busy with the Khan wars, Tamil popular films assumed commercial proportions Bollywood failed to achieve and therefore resorted to copying – Ghajini, Bodyguard, Wanted being cases in point.
Yes, Bollywood loves its love stories – the blow dried hair, the sheer Manish Malhotra sarees, the perfectly shaved (and now perfectly waxed) lover boys in the backdrop of mountains and seas, the dripping-honey love song.
And this according to Kashyap , is exactly why Bollywood doesn’t grow – his definition of ‘growth’ being worldwide recognition.
“But Bollywood also doesn’t grow because fortunately or unfortunately, it’s self-sufficient. A Bollywood film doesn’t need to sell even one ticket to a foreigner to sustain itself. People from European cinema or diverse film streams need to sell tickets to other regions to sustain themselves. Because of this, we’re cocooned in it, we’re very happy inside – and we don’t grow,” he says.
Yes, Bollywood has dwelt way too long on Raj-Simran running across mustard fields, Kajol counting falling stars or very recently, Ranbir Kapoor taking gondola rides with ex-flame Deepika in Venice.
If you’re not an Indian, you’re likely to chuckle at how Raj and Simran spend one whole day in a conveniently overgrown mustard field doing nothing more than chastely holding hands.
But then again, you’re also likely to puke out a Benarasi pan and come down with a tummy ache one vada pao later.
But those of us who can stomach this food, can also stomach Bollywood. We don’t mind a song that mysteriously plays out of nowhere and we certainly don’t mind watching the unlikely of a story a boy who can punch, sing and write poetry in sleep.
This Bollywood doesn’t stop the filming of a good story on sperm donors, a smart alecky thief or even one about a monster dad and rebel son.
It’s just worth a good night’s sleep at the end of a bad day. So, why grudge it?