Originally written for Passionforcinema.com. The article has been published here.
Cinema is still frowned upon in many of the middle class families; it is only logical when the first concern is fuelling the stomach, fuelling the heart comes at a much, much later stage. Though I grew up in a milder version of the aforementioned setting, I, like any other movie enthusiast watched movie after movie every Friday. Those were not the days of multiplexes, but hot, suffocating theaters. No nachos at the oh so swank counters, instead there was a huge clank of bottles with the bottle opener seconds before the intermission, accompanied with Thanda, Thanda.
I grew up watching a host of movies; good, bad, ugly, boisterous, boring, bullshit. 90’s was an interesting decade for lots of things were happening simultaneously at the same time, Mithun Da’s Aai-Yaee , Akhsay Kumar crushing the genitals of all the baddies and proclaiming I do all my stunts myself. And this used to be the talking point at our school. Saala kya hero hai. There were few actors, only heroes and heroines. Barring Aamir Khan, almost every ‘hero’ had the same weird hairdo, the shoulder long length hair, and mouthing dialogues which even their kaam waali would have cringed upon hearing. Even the goddamn interviews were the same; it’s a very different role. I’m sure I must have missed the interview, where someone would have said, the role was very challenging for me. I play a different rapist.
But that was cinema in those days; it was so detached from the real life. Barring few movies, almost every other movie seemed to follow a certain pattern. Religiously. Six-seven scenes cut to a song, then again six-seven scenes, cut to a song, and so on. It looked as if the movies were being made by a group of programmers paid to execute certain instructions. So I watched and watched and watched. And waited, and waited.
Week after week, it was the same stuff, same Switzerland, same snow, same hero, different heroine. (I swear on god, I have no problems with the chiffon sarees, and the sleeveless blouse amidst the snow capped peaks, the only problem I have is everything should gel with the story. Does anyone remember the Europe that DDLJ showed us? That was not Europe for the heck of it. In a similar vein Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was honest enough).
On the other hand, there was the same corrupt police officer Shinde, same corrupt, flawed ‘system’, same nobler than thou hero sometimes as police inspector, sometimes as the nobody. To quote Norton from Fight Club, everything was a copy of a copy of a copy. And the sad thing is, back then, I even used to enjoy some of them, not because they were good movies, but because I had no choice. If you have never seen Tendulkar bat, you would start liking Ashraful’s batting someday. I can bet on that.
So basically that was it, I had started wondering, is this what cinema is all about? Is it only about certain particular things? Does it have to be shown in a particular way? Why everything that is shown to us is perfect? Why are families always happy? And even if things are wrong, why are they so obviously wrong, that it makes me puke? Not at the wrongness, but the crassness in which it has been delineated. Why does everything oscillate in extremes? When would someone capture the simple delights of life, or was it an unimportant chapter ignored while writing the ‘rulebook’ of Indian cinema in that decade?( I didn’t know at that time, that movies like Saaransh had been made and forgotten long ago).
The late 90’s still produced some watchable movies, thanks to one man. Ram Gopal Verma. There was an instant connection with his movies. His most talked about work, Satya, was also about gangsters as thousands of other movies in the same decade were. The similarity ended right there. The execution just blew everyone. ‘Kyun be maarna tha? Ae Amitabh Bacchan marega kya? With Rangeela he changed the way heroines would be presented, and followed it up with absurdly funny Daud. Everyone had enough of the cheesy lines, and the Ram Rajya being shown on the screen, the tryst with realism had to begin somewhere.
I’ve had various moments in the cinema hall, where not the movie but the people watching it were the source of entertainment. The most recent one that I can remember goes something like this:
The movie was Mission Istanbul’lshit’, where in one of the scene, they had shown a look alike of George Bush. Cut to the conversation in back –
A “Saala, lagta hai bahut paisva kharcha kiya hai. Dekho, Jorj Boos bhi acting kar raha hai.”
B – Pagla gaye ho ka? E to pirated hai.”
( Translating the above, would rob all its charm!).