The Danger in Ethnocentrism

Here is an interesting piece on the front page of The Washing Post today, in a story that sheds light on the other ollywoods in India that are beginning to slowly take away some attention from Bollywood in main stream India (i.e. the smaller cities and rural regions, and not the bigger cities). Here are a couple of excerpts. This one is fact based and serves as enlightening confirmation:

...Kollywood -- so named because its films are produced in an area of Chennai called Kodambakkam -- is enjoying a powerful and profitable renaissance, as are the other ollywoods. Although India has the largest film industry in the world, only 200 of the 800 movies made each year are from Bollywood. Meanwhile, the number of productions from the other ollywoods has nearly doubled in the last decade, according to film industry experts.

On why Bollywood is losing out somewhat within India:

Although regional films here are as old as Indian cinema itself, they have never before been in such demand. Film critics say Bollywood plots have become too focused on Indians living abroad -- so-called Non-Resident Indians, known in slang as NRIs -- with characters who jet between New Delhi and New York, living glamorous lives that don't resonate in small-town India. Other critics say Bollywood films involve too much sex and have been Westernized, with some actresses dressing in hot pants and tight shirts rather than saris.
There's also a sense that Bollywood stars have grown distant from their fans and are more likely to be seen on corporate billboards than during visits to mid-size towns and cities. Regional stars, on the other hand, are still accessible.

Agree on the above. For every Mallika Sherawat or Rakhi Sawant (arrogantly wanton, and appreciated for that by a larger chunk of society than you would think), we definitely need a Kajol, Tabu or Vidya Balan (how cool was she in the sarees she wore in Parineeta (2005)?), top performers who portray themselves with dignity and do not shed their clothing to garner attention. Sex sells folks, whether it is in print, or on screen. I learnt that in my first English language class in [undergraduate] college about nine years ago. We see it in action more than we would like, for better or for worse.

A lot of our Bollywood stars, much like our cricketers, forget the spirit that brought them to their current celebrity status to begin with. A lot of them, on the other hand, do not, and those are the ones we are out here to appreciate and celebrate. Those who mingle with the fans and do so with a smile on their faces, not merely because the event they are attending is sponsored by one of their endorsers. Do you think that is a fair ask of our Bollywood celebrities?

6 comments:

Abhinav said...

I disagree
It is not because people dress in a certain way or that films are based on NRI's that they lose out it is because the industry is devoid of good writers and directors
For when you see absolute shit like namastey london,partner and heyy babyy being among the top 5 grossers of the year you realise that (most) Indian audiences like their films dumb..and sadly enough we only have one raju hirani who can give humour a jadoo ki jhappi
also when a genuinely good film like johnny gaddar loses out you feel sad and when canker like krrish and dhoom 2,films where logic is conspicous by their absence and plots as thin as soup made from a pigeon suffering from pneumonia,work at the box office..
also what is disappointing is when a genuinely gifted director like Vidhu Vinod Chopra is openly criticised..even though eklavya was not a great film but it was something people like farah khan and sajid khan will fail to accomplish even througout their careers

theBollywoodFan said...

I agree with you to a good extent. Remember the view point of the article though, and let's delve into this with that context.

I think that if indeed Bollywood is losing market share or 'mind share', if you may, in India, it is likely a combination of both the overt vulgarity (there is no denying that - just how many Indians feel comfortable walking into the cinema with a child less than 13 or so, I don't know) and themes. Remember, we are speaking of mainstream India here, not the city-dwellers.

The common thread in Namastey London, Partner, and Heyy Babyy, was that they were all entertaining. Dumb too, sure. But quite entertaining nevertheless. And the bottom line in Indian cinema (not just Bollywood) is that it is the entertainment that viewers seek, for better or for worse. That is why Sivaji was such a rave (I have not seen the film, but judging from the promos, it looks like a commercial masala film). That is why I think Om Shanti Om stands a much better chance than Saawariya next month.

I agree with you completely that Raju Hiran's class is beyond the rest. What bothers me about Heyy Babyy and Partner is that they are not entirely original works. That leads to your point about good writers and directors, or the lack thereof.

Additionally, I agree on Krrish and Dhoom 2. I still fail to see the point in Krrish. But remember...as one of my law professors would have said, "what's wrong with fiction if it provides entertainment?". Take that as you may, and how I ended up discussing this with a law professor I do not recall :) In any case, I will defend works of fiction for they are creative, no matter how you look at it. And box offices globally -- no matter whether in Bollywood or Hollywood or everything in between, have for some reason always been receptive to them.

As for the criticism that Vidhu Vinod Chopra has come under...I agree with you here as well and dismiss that criticism as noise. That does not bother me. But seriously. How a director of a film (Dharm) can come out and so blatantly and shamelessly cry foul on losing out is beyond me. I understand the politics with the jury and all, but that was not cool. Especially when Eklavya was one of the more well made and well thought out out films of the year. Let's not take away from that.

theBollywoodFan said...

You know, your post got me thinking of quality...

How about Aamir Khan as an ambassador for quality in Bollywood? Look at all he has done since 2001: Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Mangal Pandey, Rang De Basanti, Fanaa. We really cannot point to any of these as being mindless. Yet, each was well appreciated and had an impact.

Ditto to Aamir...cannot wait to Taare Zameen Par.

Abhinav said...

Namastey London,Heyy Babyy and Partner for me were absolute mindless,ludicrous films littered with corny dialogues,double meaning jokes and bollywood cliches..not entertaining at all

as for aamir..true ambassador of quality but fanaa?
that was typical yash raj..a film that defies logic,Aamir himself accepted that.

these films will always appeal to Indian mainstream audiences because even though we claim o be escapists we all fall for all that is manufactured cool..hence the fan following for priyanka chopra,katrina kaif and audiences for fils that people like karan johar and yash raj productions make

theBollywoodFan said...

Well said Abhinav. It is difficult to disagree with what you say in the last paragraph. We might just receive further confirmation of that by this time next week. Which will open to a better audience (strictly by the numbers)? Laaga Chunari Mein Daag or Bhool Bhilaiyaa? The latter might just fall into the 'manufactured cool' category)

Anonymous said...

It is almost certain that bhool bhulaiya will open to packed theatres.Recently there was a poll on Indiafm.com where nearly 70% peope preferred BB to LCMD
Even though LCMD might be helmed by a very good story teller in Pradeep Sarkar and have an able starcast,the promos have not been able to create the required buzz