Sunday, July 22, 2007

On Bollywood

While reading the book ‘Bollywood – A History’ by Mihir Bose, I came across the following exposition on Bollywood and found it a pretty neat one.

Benegal says:

We have a different tradition of cinema compared to the Western tradition. The genres that Hollywood has were never created. The West broke up everything. They said this is drama, this is comedy. Hollywood created different genres: thrillers, supernatural films, caper movies, social films, comedies and tragedies. Because we have such a diverse audience we want to cater to different kinds of taste. And in order to do that we have to keep a common denominator, so you have to put in a little of everything so it attracts diverse kinds of people. Our films have everything. We created an all-encompassing genre. The same story will have comic sequences, will have tragic sequences, melodrama, music, song and dance. I suppose it came because the artistic tradition in theatre, or any of our performing arts, have been of that kind. Look at our performing arts. Who were the performers? They were itinerants. They moved from place to place. And naturally, not each place would want the same performance. So they had to have a good variety in their acts. To cater for a wide range of interests and sensibilities you had to create a form that would be suitable for everyone. So that is how our dramatic form developed. Popular cinema followed that tradition. What satisfies the audience here does not satisfy them intellectually; it is the emotional charges. The situations are typical, the situations more or less the same but they make the audience cry, they make the audience laugh, they make the audience enjoy the song, make their feet tap to the dances, all those kind of things. The same film has to have everything in it. That’s traditional, much like our food, because otherwise we don’t feel satisfied, either with our food, or our entertainment.

……..A proper Indian meal is an amazingly free wheeling experience compared with the tightly structured Western cuisine. In the West, meals are a linear progression, moving in a certain stately order: from small starters to larger main courses and then desserts, with each course very distinctive and totally different to the previous one. Indian meals have no such neat, linear progression of starter, main course and pudding. On the Indian dining-table, one course follows another in no particular order and some Indians even begin their meal with puddings, or eat them in between mouthfuls of savoury. The Indian thali…….the various dishes, including sweets, are put in little pots with various kinds of food and arranged circularly around the edge of a stainless steel plate. Watch an Indian eat and he might dip into any of the pots or all of them, including the pot containing the sweets. Indians say this is a joyous symphony of diverse tastes, colours and flavours in one mouthful.

And so Bollywood now started making films which had action, violence, a wronged mother, a lost son, a foiled rape attempt, a successful rape attempt, a subplot involving a dastardly criminal and a maid - who may or may not be a lost daughter – and the whole thing interspersed with lots of songs.