At the time of India’s independence, the leaders of the country were faced with the mundane task of opting for a certain method of development that newly-azad India would follow. In the tremor of the 1945 war, the world had been cracked into two: The Soviets, and the United States of Americans. India could choose to follow either the USSR model, that of a socialist one, for it ensured well-being of the people along with a consistent growth rate… or it could go the “real” angrezi way: that of the US of A, the capitalist model, which was more angled towards the logic of democracy. The floating belief was that development was simply westernization, and westernization was basically becoming more like the countries of the west: basically, once again, referring to USA. What India did was logical: being the first democratic state that was poor, it chose a mixed model: with elements from both sides. One could say that India was truly non-aligned.
So what’s the connection I’m trying to make? I mean, no Bollywood, slash Hollywood, slash Tollywood film has ever tried to explore the economic side of the Great Divide. None of what I’m going to say is going to do that as well. So why exactly am I wasting keystrokes, words and time telling you about what model of development India chose?
Here’s why: I believe that there’s a déjà vu happening, and yes, where? Of course, it’s BollyKings ©right, therefore, the déjà vu is happening here, hamari pyaari film banana wali industry mein: Bollywood.
Bollywood has placed, and faced, loads and loads of flak from all sides. Therefore it is only natural that it keeps changing itself. And the change that everybody does and wants is of the same kind: that of becoming better. Therefore, Bollywood has made, in response to the loads and loads of flak, loads and loads of changes in its basic character. Some might call these ex-ante [an Economic term meaning ‘planned’], some claim that they are natural. As the world changes, the mind changes, and therefore Bollywood films change. Overall, there is broad acceptance that change is happening at all times. Change is the only thing constant, right?
Change, too, is of various types. The basic stories change, the actors change, the censor board changes, the level of openness changes, the level of courage of movies goes up or down [implying that movies take on things, directly, fearlessly], the script-writing changes, the style, the music, the producers, the language, the dances, the prances, the chances, all of it, is, at all times, changing. But there is ONE thing in the Bollywood industry that is changing at an alarmingly fast rate. Remember the logic of development being westernization, westernization being the becoming of more like western countries? Same thing here. Bollywood has permitted sexuality, nudity [of a certain level, but it’s a start], physical love, basically, to creep into the industry. Slowly, and steadily, from a shot of the room from the outside with sweet music, to the man actually leading the lady in, clad in saree, but still with a smile, to a trick-camera angle where we think they are smooching [like in the Dostana climax, except not so “gay”], to the simple kissing on the lips [inviting roars from the crowd], to the intense smooch [remember Bips and Ranbir in Bachna Ae Haseeno? The crowd went crazy.], to simple bed scenes with a blanket [almost every darn movie. I can recall New York. What do you think the crowd did?], to complete scenes [the famous debate about Kurbaan... the crowd went berserk, haha!], to, finally, whole movies dedicated to sex [Dev.D... and Love, Sex, Dhokha, for having the word in the title itself!].
Yes! I know, right?!
An article I recently read stated that film makers are simply catering to the demands of the crowds: they want to see more and more of sex on the big screen. Therefore the censor board is being forced into allowing ‘young’ people to take over, more and more actresses are agreeing to go nude “If the script really needs it”, our actors are discussing sex more publicly than ever before, script writers are trying their best to squeeze in one scene or more. Trust me – it really gets to us, the crowd, doesn’t it? While a mommy desperately tries to cover the eyes of her child sitting beside her, the husband on the left squeezes her hand, as if to say, oh yes, I like this part.
A simpler way to follow the changing trend is to observe the lyrics of the songs. No movie, in this era, is complete without an item number, these days. Rakhi ho, Mallika ho, Katrina ho, Malaika ho, koi na koi ho, only then will there be a resounding Jai Ho! Here are the lyrics of one of the classics of Bollywood:
Song: Jaane Woh Kaise Log The Jinke [by S. D. Burman]
“Jaane Woh Kaise, Log The Jinke, Pyaar Ko Pyaar Mila, Hamne To Jab Kaliyan Maangi, Kaaton Ka Haar Mila, Jaane Woh Kaise, Log The Jinke, Pyaar Ko Pyaar Mila.”
Let us now shift to the 21st century. Here is a famous number from Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003):
Song: Mahi Ve
“Jind Maahi Ve Jind Maahi Ve Jind Maahi Ve Soni Soni Aaja Mahi Ve Everybody Sing Soni Soni Aaja Mahi Ve Jind Maahi Ve Soni Soni Aaja Mahi Ve Everybody Sing Soni Soni Aaja Mahi Ve Soni Soni Aaja Mahi Ve Soni Soni Aaja Mahi Ve.”
The present era, ladies and gentlemen, ever so clean and gentle with handling love:
Song: Dum Maaro Dum [modern version!]
“Hey, tu phir dekh raha hai Aaj aankh sek raha hai, kal haath sekega Aaj deel chod raha hai, kal khudi rokega Aaj mere liye chair kheech raha hai, kal meri skirt kheechega kheechega ke nahin hun.”
In the first case, the lyrics speak of nothing but the beauty of love, in a genuinely beautiful way. It is mesmerizing how our industry was once a place which was nothing but a centre of true poetry, art and lyricism.
In the second case, the beauty is still there. The music is still there. The feelings are still there. But there is a certain level of crude rudeness, very sweetly spoken, of course. Whilst songs earlier were full of praise for the woman/man, this one is telling the woman to come to him. No one really notices the slight changes that imply a big change in the mindset.
The third case, do I really need to say something? Tell you, they have really pulled the skirt down, haven’t they!? There is a galat fahmi that Shiela ki Jawaani, Munni Badnaam Hui, etc, worked because they were good songs. Wrong! They worked because of the sexy movers, Katrina and Malaika. Dum Maaro Dum was hyped not because of the fact that it’s an age-old song being renewed in this world, but because it’s Deepika who’s wearing even shorter clothes. That way, people get to see a lot more of her.
Dev.D is the Abhay Deol’s biggest hit. In his path of experiment-type-cinema, the one where he explored sex was the one that sold so much. Love Sex Dhokha, virtually unknown, performed well at the box-office. Actresses being offered crores for item numbers, actors claiming it is all ‘open-mindedness’, the demand for a change in the censor board’s members, bare backs… these are all facts, facts of an ever-changing film industry that’s doing it all.
Let me be clear: I am not against it. I’m the Youngistan, remember? All I’m doing here, is bringing to your kind notice, dear viewer, that if you’re planning to take your kid out to a movie, and you suspect, or know, that you’ll feel embarrassed watching Saifeena make-out on screen, you must consider the basic fact that is at hand. The time is not far that A rated films will start having a U/A rating. The time is seriously not far.
There is Westernization, or rather Hollywoodization. And therefore, Bollywood is developing.
Or so we think?