Saturday, 9 February 2013

Special

One question that gets thrown up a lot is can Bollywood hope to compete with its infinitely more illustrious bigger brother Hollywood n its own terms. Yes not by making movies with budgets to rival the GDPs of some African nations, or by making dramas on boxing an ballet, but by making the same sort of masala fare that we have been dished out since the turn of the century(and last century as well). Can we create movies that are brilliant, and yet, uniquely Indian.

This would appear to be a moot question to many. Most would readily point out that we have in fact spent most of our lives seeing our fledgling movie industry copying its plots from some lesser known(and sometimes even better known) movies abroad. And the buck doesn't stop there, of course, not content with merely copying the storyline, some directors would even copy scenes and dialogues from the original. But hey, we don't complain. As a self critical antagonist in the (surprisingly) hit movie Gangs of Wasseypur remarked...Jab Tak Bollywood rahega...tab tak log chutiye bante rahenge (or reasonably audacious equivalent). Bollywood has always based itself of the smoke and mirrors stuff. Designed to sell movies, not make cinema.

Which is why there are many proclaiming that we are now entering the new age of Indian cinema. The sort of age where even a no holds barred gangland epic like Gangs of Wasseypur can open to a packed house and receive rave reviews. Original Indian cinema, which was previously relegated to the sidelines of mainstream public consciousness, has now emerged to grab the spotlight for itself. We now have the likes of a Dev D, a creative modern day interpretation of an extant classic garnering profits. We now have the likes of a biopic of a track and field specialist recouping its budget. Things look good for Indian cinema.

Except that those movies aren't really Indian cinema. The sort of production value  they have is still dwarfed by some of the more mindless films that sell blatantly due to star casts, and the sort of audience they enthrall is still limited to the urban working class. And the only reason why there is now a market for these movies is not because the movies are being made better or grander, but because the audience for such movies is growing at a rapid rate. As the bulk of India moves from being a bucolic farming class of people to an erudite technocratic service provider, the entertainment it consumes would naturally reflect in its shift.

Which is why Special 26 deserves a special mention. The movie seems to be typical Bollywood caper fare at first. Staid dialogues delivered in steadfast monotone, a pretty decent star cast, a sharp storyline punctuated by a song or two, a beautiful heroine in distress and so on. The only difference is, its not. Not staid, and yet, make no mistake this sort of movie is the bastion of Indian mainstream cinema. The difference is that Special 26 is not only based on real events, it aspires to lend a very intelligent plot to those real events. You see, Special 26 aspires to be the Ocean's Eleven of Bollywood. And yet, not quite. All the trappings of a traditional movie, with a sucker-punch thrown right at the end. A film that can be compared to its Hollywood counterpart not based on its storyline or even its cast, but on the sort of heights it aims to reach.

Movies like Gangs.. would always be made by rebels or by creatives. It is only now that mainstream is responding in kind, by evolving.

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