It is a great time for Indian cinema right now. All manner of movies are being made today – movies that follow no formula, that break the mould, star unknown actors, ensemble casts – and most significantly movies that tell great stories. They are movies that you and I can readily relate to. I for one firmly believe that there is a limitless supply of marvelously talented, breathtakingly good-looking people in India and it is utterly splendid that this talent pool is constantly yielding entertaining, thought-provoking, touching, believable Indian cinema.
It was a 15th century English play that coined the term Everyman – it has come to mean the ordinary individual portrayed in literature and drama. We’re seeing a lot of this Everyman and Everywoman in Indian cinema today. The viewer identifies easily with these celluloid figures that have the same problems, insecurities and limitations that ordinary people have.
Bollywood and Everyman
The sort of stories and characters that Hindi films portray today are shorn of the glamour, designer threads, and the trappings of wealth that were the staple of Hindi films for so long. They make us laugh, cry and go “hey that is so true” or “that’s exactly what happened to me the other day”. We know those people whose story is unfolding before us; we’ve met them, they’re our neighbors, our classmates, our colleagues.
Also very refreshing is the way that the line between mainstream cinema and cinema and art house cinema has blurred; has all but disappeared. Art movies of old were about grinding poverty, terrible injustices and stories that left you depressed for days. The actors were tremendously talented, non-glam, underpaid NSD types. Mainstream movies were all froth and glamour; escapism at its best. The actors were all style and little substance; they were icons not actors.
Stories today are multifaceted, they are believable and they entertain while still making us think; the actors may or may not be conventionally good-looking but they are invariably talented.
Highly Watchable, Recent Hindi Films in the Everyman Genre
Hindi cinema is altogether more egalitarian today; anyone with talent and guts can try their luck here today. Witness how character actors carry entire movies on their shoulders, with nary a ‘star’ in sight. (As someone with very little time for the SRKs of Bollywood, I can only applaud). Some of the movies of the last year or so which have delighted, entertained and simply told great stories without the help of stars that come to mind are:
- Well Done Abba – The redoubtable Boman Irani effortlessly carried the film about an ordinary man cunningly getting the best out of a corrupt system.
- Delhi Belly – Outrageous, unapologetic, uproarious and madly funny; an adult comedy the like of which was never before seen in Bollywood.
- Jolly LLB – Arshad Warsi’s memorable portrayal of an ordinary small town lawyer who rises above his circumstances by dint of personal integrity.
- F.A.L.T.U. – An enjoyable story about losers coming good.
- Gippy – This was the teen movie finally arriving in Bollywood.
- OMG – A gem of a film that took religious bigotry head-on. Akshay Kumar’s presence in the film was incidental; the movie belonged to the hugely talented Paresh Rawal.
- Ferrari ki Sawaari – A surprisingly believable portrayal of the Parsi community and a beautifully endearing story.
- Aiyyaa – A completely mad-cap film. OK it had ‘stars’ but Rani is now considered a ‘mature’ actress and the rather scrumptious Prithviraj, who wasn’t really known much North of the Vindhyas was a revelation.
- Vicky Donor – A heartwarming movie that told an entertaining story and made an important social comment at the same time.
- Kai Po Che – A surprise hit starring unknown actors that resonated with the viewers. Amit Trivedi’s superlative score that drew from traditional garba and raas among other musical genres added to the movie’s appeal.
- Mere Dad ki Maruti – I can totally believe that the overbearing dad (Ram Kapur), his shiftless son (Saqib Saleem) and his friends actually exist in some corner of India.
- Go Goa Gone – A rather bizarre film, albeit one that had a message.
- Fukrey – Another enjoyable film about a bunch of losers and their trials and tribulations.
Bollywood Music Today
I have always maintained that Hindi film music is the best, more versatile, melodious and memorable body of music in the world; bar none. And in recent times it has become all the more rich, varied and enjoyable.
The music directors come from different backgrounds, with moorings in rock, classical and folk. They bring us wonderfully crafted songs – technically brilliant, with energetic beats, outstanding tunes and marvelous singers that draw on our traditional folk ditties, western rock and pop, Indian and Western classical; you name it (we’ll ignore the Munnis, Sheilas, Chamelis and Fevicol songs for a bit)!
Rustic voices such as Kailash Kher coexist with classic talents such as Sonu Nigam; female singers no longer have to have thin, high pitched voices to succeed; we hear so many female voices that are deep, earthy and sensuous.
As to what Hindi films and Hindi film music have in store for us for the rest of 2013… all I can say is, I can’t wait!