The New Year started with a bang in total Bollywood style, or more correctly Tollywood style. It’s got the whole audience jigging to Naatu-Naatu. There couldn’t be a better way to begin the year. It’s a positive and encouraging news and the song has got the world dancing to its tune.
Bollywood has for decades spun its magic and got everyone under its spell. Its spell is not just restricted to the subcontinent but has become a brand ambassador for the country. Decades ago, Raj Kapoor’s Awara had got the complete erstwhile Soviet Union singing songs from the movie. Raj Kapoor was a star with an amazing international following, and mind you, that too without social media. More recently movies like RRR, Pushpa: The Rise, Bahubali & Bahubali 2: The Conclusion all have been dubbed not only in Indian languages but also in French, German, Spanish and Japanese!
Then came the era of Karan Johar and his picture-perfect, glamourised Indianness with designer saris, karva chauths, candy colours and beautiful locales. He hit the spot with the expat Indians who were looking for something to identify with, which suited their acquired western-influenced refined sensibilities. Cupid and romance had a new poster-boy in Shahrukh Khan. Got to hand it, Karan Johar is singlehandedly responsible for bringing the big brands into our desi wardrobes.
Regional Cinema remains ignored
Indian cinema was primarily restricted to Bollywood, the Hindi film industry. All the big names, big money were confined to the glamour world in Mumbai. There were movies, exceptional movies, being made in the regional languages but they were restricted to a small population which spoke that language. I remember during the days of Doordarshan (the Indian national TV), they would telecast regional movies on Sunday afternoons. And that was a treat. I had seen countless movies in languages I didn’t understand but they kept me spellbound. It was the story, the way it all evolved (and some were way ahead of their times) that conveyed the message without me understanding a word of what was being said. Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Telugu, Assamese, all beautiful Indian languages with rich literature and culture. But they were sadly restricted to their little world.
Changing Trends, New Choices
If one thing good has come out of the pandemic, then it’s the loosening stronghold of Hindi / Bollywood on the viewers. Stuck indoors and bored to death of watching the same, stereotypical, stale (and also unimaginative) fare being churned out from the Bollywood studios made a lot of viewers explore other languages. Yes, BTS also has a role to play. From the saas-bahu soaps, people migrated to Korean series or tried out movies from beyond Bollywood. And that burst the bubble.
KGF, RRR, Kantara, Pushpa: The Rise, each one of them set the cash registers ringing for the producers but it was the public who was being treated to some mind-blowing films. These movies were from down south, they did not have any Bollywood connections, they did not have any Bollywood-style ‘heros’, the music was refreshing and most importantly the story had some variations from the usual Bollywood template. All in all – a winning combination.
It’s Raining Awards
And now a double bonanza – SS Rajamouli won the Best Director award at the New York Film Critics Circle, and Naatu Naatu from RRR has rocked the Indian film industry by winning the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It’s also got shortlisted for the Oscars 2023 under the original song category. Amazing!!
The non-Hindi people had heard about Rajamouli after the magnum opus Bahubali hit the theatres. Its larger-than-life visuals had shaken up the comatose audience. And when it comes to music, believe me, this is not the best from MM Keeravaani. He’s been around for decades, one of the pillars of the South Indian music industry, creating gems for the south but undiscovered until RRR happened. A musician par excellence, it’s only now that he has been acknowledged by the West is his true worth being appreciated. I’m sure most of the fawning crowd back home hadn’t heard of him before RRR.
The last time an Indian movie created this kind of buzz was Slumdog Millionaire, which won multiple Oscars in 2007. AR Rahman had delivered some (of course not his best) amazing songs and had won Oscars for them. Resul Pookutty came into the limelight for winning a couple of Best Sound awards (truly deserving). But unlike RRR, it wasn’t a totally Indian creation; the award-winning director was Danny Boyle. In that respect, one can say RRR is totally desi!
You can catch up on some delectable collection of Indian movies in different languages on Amazon Prime.
Bollywood, Meri Jaan
It’s time to get over the Hindi-non Hindi divide in the film industry and let it all come under one industry. The current hits have shown that what matters is what is being offered to the public. The hero need not be fair, handsome and light-eyed with bulging biceps, the songs need not be Punjabi tunes, the story need not be rehashed or repackaged. Bollywood needs to get off its high horse and do some major course corrections if it wants to remain relevant. Lots of the Bollywood actors were part of the current hits because they accepted this truth and decided to move on rather than be stuck in this world.
Personally, I’ve nothing against Bollywood films, having grown up on a staple diet of the ‘masala’ magic. But with time, tastes change and there’s very little to cater for that here. The newbies, with their knowledge of social media, are more focused on growing their followers lists than on working on quality and content. It’s all about glitz and glam with very little value. It’s like Bollywood is going through a transitional phase now. Hopefully, it’ll rise like the phoenix.
Keeping fingers crossed
Sometimes a good wake-up is needed to get the focus back. And that’s what’s happening. Let’s see if more good news awaits RRR and the rest of the other shortlisted movies. Wishing them the very best, because they are the best! Hai, kisi ki nazar na lage!!