Bollywood–Too Much of the Same?
The men are good looking and cut. The women are assertive yet vulnerable. Still, there’s a growing sentiment among Indian movie critics that the unrelenting pursuit of the blockbuster has stunted the talent pool and given rise to a certain cookie-cutter class of movie in Bollywood.
Gone are the days when silver screen dandy Dev Anand caused hearts to palpitate with his inimitable style of filmy foppishness. Likewise, Amitabh’s angry young man has matured and waned. And while there are always exceptions, there’s no arguing that the new generation of leads: eye candy like Imran, Ranbir, and Shahid seem almost interchangeable in their different roles.
Today’s mainstream Bollywood filmmakers champion escapism. They want movies that appeal to the masses. Characters—both men and women—need to be cool. There almost seems to be some pinnacle of style and panache that everyone is working towards. As a result, actors dress alike, look alike, and talk alike—there’s not even a lot of variation on how they romance each other.
As legacy actors learning from the same schools and mentors, Bollywood’s industrialization is starting to show—at the expense of the stories and the audience.
These mainstream movies, which are usually not so loosely based on popular Hollywood films are easily identified by their abundant dance numbers, ambiguous plot lines, and heavy-handed action sequences, which typically involve the male lead losing his shirt in the fracas.
Mercifully, a new wave of art house filmmakers including Rituparno Ghosh and Jayaraj are growing in popularity, albeit slowly. Ghosh’s cinema strongly focuses on contemporary issues that affect modern India. The same is true of Jayaraj, whose film Karunam poignantly depicts an elderly couple’s vain wait for the return of their son who has settled abroad.
There’s nothing wrong with fluff movies that allow viewers to unwind and have a good time, but audiences don’t need a dozen reiterations of the same old formula. India remains a developing nation, and filmmaking is a powerful tool for affecting positive change. It also doesn’t hurt to remember films that have done the best—like Mother India–provided audiences with entertainment through genuine substance.