In times of adversity, in times of trouble, in times of self-doubt, we all look for something. It could be the courage to fight, it could be the strength to endure, or it could just be a little bit of peace. Some look for those things in books while others look for them in music. As for me, I look for them in films. For as long as I can remember, films have been a big part of who I am; it has the ability to alter my mood, it has the ability to make me take things into perspective, and it somehow has the ability to answer a lot of questions. Hence, I’m a firm believer that “all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies”.
Not very long ago, I took to this blog as a platform to express my ideas on films. I soon moved on to a more popular medium, targeted at a much wider audience, for that same purpose. However, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I started writing film reviews in the first place. It wasn’t just about discussing how good or bad a film was from a technical point of view; it was more about entertaining an audience with sarcasm and humour. This isn’t to say the opinions stated weren’t my own or valid at the time, but it’s far from saying that that’s all there was to those films.
The first Hindi film I remember watching on the big screen was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai by Karan Johar. The seven-year old me walked into the cinema cribbing about wasting a Saturday evening watching a film starring Shah Rukh Khan (who, believe it or not, I hated at the time) by a first-time director. I sat through half of the film yawning and yearning to leave…until Salman Khan appeared and made the rest of the film more bearable. That was the superficial feeling of a seven-year old girl. 15 years later, I still maintain that it is one of Johar’s finest works till date, and that he is one of the most daring filmmakers of our time. He takes the liberty to tackle controversial issues such as extra-marital affairs, terrorism, and with Bombay Talkies, homosexuality. Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh is bold, coming-of-age and a risk that, in this day and age, is well worth taking. In all of 20 minutes.
Dibakar Banerjee’s work is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Be it with Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! or Love, Sex aur Dhokha, his stories are presented with a quality that may be defined as, in the simplest term, weird. They’re unconventional, they’re different, and that’s probably why they’re successful, both commercially and critically. While I may not be the biggest Dibakar Banerjee fan, there’s no doubt he brings a certain eccentricity to his films. Star is no different. Having Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead role is half the battle won. With a simple story that’s innocent yet powerful, and so beautifully executed with a compelling supporting cast, there’s your other half.
In 2011, we saw a film that was fun, entertaining and an eye-opener. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was about three friends who go on a bachelors’ trip to Spain, rediscovering themselves and each other in ways they could have only imagined. Directed by Zoya Akhtar, she convinced avid moviegoers to believe in the high caliber and potential of female directors. Like ZNMD, Sheila Ki Jawani is also a film about self-discovery, and one that challenges the notion of “social norms” between genders. While the story lacked depth and connection with the audience, the performance by the main protagonist, a young boy played by Naman Jain, couldn’t have been more honest.
One thing Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee have in common is the unconventional means in which they choose to present their films. You will never see a Khan or a Kapoor in their work, and more often than not, their films don’t sit well with the older generation, who have grown up and come to terms with the normalcy of the idea of singing, dancing and running around trees. Murabba, however, is probably the most “Bollywood” Kashyap could get. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; not in the least. In fact, it is a rather accurate depiction of the middle class population in India and their ridiculous, yet relatable obsession with celebrities. A story that could have been easily exaggerated and mocking turned out to be a simple take on the high regard Indians have for Hindi cinema.
While there’s a part of me that is extremely tempted to pick out the few, but existent flaws in Bombay Talkies, I think I’ll refrain this time. Simply because watching it reminded me why I love Hindi cinema the amount and the way in which I do. It was an evocative and honest attempt at celebrating 100 years of Hindi cinema, a sentiment I feel would be insulting to question.
Over the years, watching Hindi films have taught me one thing: they may be melodramatic, over-the-top and too good to be true, but these are the films which give us a ray of hope that more often than not, there is always a happy ending.