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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Art and Analyze

What is art for one is junk for another and what is junk for one is sublime art for another! Movies keep affirming the fact that there are indeed cultural differences in this world and that different cultures will always intrepret movies in their own way. Take for example, the recent piece done on Ram Gopal Varma in Film Comment . Now, in recent months, American critics have been paying attention to Ram Gopal Varma and swallowing his movies up as an art form. There was a time (it seems ages ago) that I paid attention to Bollywood via a North American angle. I managed to get some articles published as well, but eventually I tired of it. No matter what spin one put on it, at the end of the day Bollywood is still an industry. It won't ever change. It can't because where there is money and profit involved, there will always be the invisible hand of the producer involved. No Bollywood movie is (and will be for that matter) free from outside forces and completely a director/writer's vision!

While Ram Gopal Varma seriously strives to make different movies, at the end of the day, his movies are mere factory productions. His gang movies are not original. In fact, he has taken real life gangsters in Mumbai and morphed their story as a Bollywood film. But you won't find him admiting that, even though it is common knowledge who his movies are based on. Why this double edged secrecy? On one end, he makes sure the movie does not poke fun of the real characters lest the gangsters get upset. It appears that he pays homage to the gangsters and gets their approval. And on the other hand, his movies get praise for being original & gritty. The end result is that he manages to appease everyone, especially a growing legion of fans outside of India. Playing all sides? All about perception!

Getting back to that Film Comment article. This one line bothered me:
"And his musical version of Ayn Rand’s The FountainheadI[sic], Naach (04), with dance standing in for architecture, is all snarling attitude and empty platitudes." I admired Naach to some extent and it does feature some wicked performances. Yes it was refreshing to see a director make a movie that he knows will not be a commerical hit. But it disturbs me that such a work can be compared to The Fountain head . If that is the case, then every single Indian parent depicted in Bollywood movies can be compared to Howard Roark. I know I am getting carried away. The rest of the article does indeed contain some correct comparisons and shows understanding of other RGV movies. This is why movie reviews can't ever be objective, there will always be subjective elements that will creep in. I have been guilty of this in the past as well.

I have been told I am biased when it comes to Bollywood. I don't believe biased is the word. I have gone through all the stages when it comes to Bollywood films:
Stage One: I grew up in admiration of the industry.
Stage Two: I feel in love with the stars and was star-struck in my teens.
Stage Three: I eventually grew up and discovered real cinema outside of the narrow confines of Bollywood.
Stage Four: I managed to find my way back to true Indian cinema that lay in the four corners of the country and was in some cases found buried deep within the ashes of Bollywood (Guru Dutt, what a genius!).
Stage Five: And at the end of it, I believe I can balance my love of Indian movies, be it Bollywood or a Bengali movie, along with my love for International cinema.
But I can't be expected to go ga-ga over anything Bollywood. Sometimes, I can be tempted by it. I admit it. But given a choice between an independent Indian movie and a big factory production, I will first give the independent Indian movie a look. Because if the independent movie does become a hit, then it will be inevitable that director will ever make a good movie again. He will be easily seduced by the lure of the flashy industry. Cue dance. Kareena impersonating Helen, standing in the doorway. The newly acclaimed director walks toward her and closes the door. Fade to Black.

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