'Kitne aadmi thhe?' asked Gabbar Singh, and a million fans stood up to applaud. The hapless person AMJAD KHAN addressed these words to? Arre-O-Sambha!
Bollywood has undergone immense changes in the past few decades. It has spun over 100 years! Right from the first silent movie Raja Harishchandra to the melodious Mughal-e-Azam from which we divine yet another iconic dialogue - “Anarkali, Salim ki mohabbat tumhe marne nahin degi aur hum tumhe jeene nahin denge,” to the fields of daffodils in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and right on to the streets of Chicago with Dhoom 3, We have seen the scene shifting, literally! From dances around trees to scantily clad women gyrating to tuneless music in nightclubs, In Bollywood, we have it all. It is one of the largest film production centres in the world. So the question of the reach and success of Bollywood is, let's face it, pointless. The real question that remains to be answered is - “Are we influenced by our movies? Exactly how influential is Bollywood?”.
Answering that question is indeed a herculean task. Take the fact that Dhoom 3 just became the highest grossing Bollywood movie, earning 533.35 crores worldwide. Now, the movie buff in me immediately realised how much of the plot Vijaya Krishna Acharya (Director) has plagiarised from better, much entertaining English movies. We distinctly see the presence of the plots from The Illusionist, The Prestige, Now You See Me, Fast and Furious, add a little “Indian Masala( katrina kaif )” to it and Voila!. Judging from this movie alone, we can deduce that Bollywood has lost its originality, not to mention its integrity. We, the people made it popular, so, does that make us an unimaginative, lack-lustre bunch of people ready to bear any kind of illogical plot sequence just to get a glimpse of a gyrating female for 5-6 minutes? You decide.
So, coming back to my original question, How influential is Bollywood? Is it influential at all? I say Yes and Yes! It is extremely, excessively, drastically, and quite dangerously influential. We are a society that thrives on movies. We want to escape reality and get lost in the illogical, impractical, dreamy, and quite optimistic world of Bollywood. That is exactly why movies like Chennai Express, Dabanng 2, Krrish 3 end up earning an average of 300 crores, that is also why contemplative movies like Dev D, Who killed Jessica?, A Wednesday, Kahaani, Madras Cafe, Sarkar and others are nowhere to be seen. We like loud music, flashy lights, dialoguebaazi and dramebaazi.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “Bollywood?”. Undoubtedly our famous “item numbers”. Needless to say, every single movie of the present times has to have atleast one item song, no matter what the plot of the movie is, what the underlying theme is or what the emotions of the protagonist at that particular time and place in the movie is. There simply has to be an item song, or else the movie is in for a flop. Take the chartbusters of 2012 and 2013 like 'Munni Badnaam'in Dabanng, 'Sheila ki Jawaani', 'Fevicol' from Dabanng 2, 'Chikni Chameli' of Agneepath, 'Babli Badmaash Hai'in Shootout at Wadala or the latest 'Ram Chahe Leela' from Ram Leela and what is the common denominator? The question answers itself. Is this what the Indian society thinks about its women? Do we encourage and tolerate such behaviour towards women? Do we appreciate and root for people who view women as objects? The ideal answer would be “NO”, but that's just a lie isn't it? If we didn't sanction and galvanise to such songs, who did?
Obviously, being exposed to such kind of movies over a period of time has its adverse effects on the audience. We begin to believe that a single punch dialogue will get us out of tricky situations, that a guy we just met will turn out to be our soulmate, that stalking a girl and insulting her will actually prove fruitful, that all politicians are bad, that women cry for every single thing, that complete strangers will help us, that courage is the only thing required to face any number of opponents, and so on and so forth. Seriously! We are so absorbed by the same stereotypical, run-of-the-mill romance in the movies that the industry has been spitting out for decades that we don't even realise the complete absurdity of it all. Do we honestly believe that suicide is the only escape? That a person in real life actually appreciates another who commits suicide? That the government will stop functioning if a single person immensely dedicated to a social cause dies? Do we truly believe that good will always triumph over evil? That love will conquer all?.
We have this unmistakable love for melodrama. Just try to think of one movie that doesn't employ the formulaic ingredients of Bollywood such as star-crossed lovers and angry parents, love triangles, family ties, sacrifice, corrupt politicians, kidnappers, heroes who are able to fight off villains all by themselves, conniving villains, courtesans with hearts of gold, long-lost relatives and siblings separated by fate, dramatic reversals of fortune, and convenient coincidences and you'll get your answer!
There are always a few exceptions. We do have great movies that have influenced millions of Indians, in the right sense. Parallel films like Neecha Nagar (1946), Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959), Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday (2007), Vikramaditya Motwane's Udaan (2009), Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat (2010), Amit Dutta's Sonchidi (2011), and the latest sensation Anand Gandhi's Ship of Theseus (2013) have indeed contributed immensely in elevating the stage of Bollywood from the depths of impracticality to the echelons of logic and practicality.
Ask anybody, yourself, your parents, friends, acquaintances, teachers, neighbours and colleagues. Ask them if Bollywood has had a bad influence on youth, and the society at large? They might give you a straight answer, or tell you that everything has its own positives and negatives, try to pass it off as the fault of the “present generation” and beat around the bush, But the underlying truth in each of their answers will be “YES”. You will hear people say the movies have spoilt the innocence of the children, distracted the youth and disoriented the adults. Yes, it's all the fault of the movies, they will say. Come on, I dare you, try it! Nobody in the crowd pauses to actually evaluate the question.
As Vidya Balan rightly says in her movie The Dirty Picture, “Filmein sirf teen cheezon ke wajah se chalti hain -- entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.”
Amidst all the finger-pointing, and mud-slinging, little do we realise that we are the real perpetrators of this mess. If the movies that we term “Bad, Distracting and Misleading”, don't have any or very less audience, will the industry continue making such movies and releasing them? Everybody, including the Director, Producer, Hero and Heroine knows that the ultimate power rests in the hands of the audience, That's us!. When the whole universe realises our potential and our power, why don't we? Why do we go fill the theatres of huge multiplexes, spending valuable time,money and energy to sit through three hours of endless drama only to come out complaining that it isn't right for us? That it will have a negative influence on the audience? It is high time we realise that will get all that we require only if we ask for it. Mere complaining and blaming will not do. So the next time you go to the theatre, looking for “paisa vasool”, remember to keep your eyes, ears and especially your mind open.
Reverting to my first question? Do movies influence us? Definitely not, We influence our movies!