Saturday, October 22, 2011

Phoren Mamu at MAMI...

This appeared in Asian Age today...

“ Which language do you people speak in India?Is it called ‘Errr-du’?” asked the dapper foreign gentleman, who had just been introduced to me as the main MAMI man. I was taken aback. But given the occasion ( one of Mumbai’s super- deluxe soirees), I was mentally prepared to meet all types. This bloke was being treated like visiting royalty, and shepherding him around was a prominent socialite.Who on earth was he? I still don’t know, and don’t care. Clearly, he was an ill-informed jerk. I nearly choked on my white wine, while answering politely, “Perhaps you are referring to ‘Urdu’ which is widely spoken in Pakistan?” He looked slightly annoyed, and said, “ It’s possible. Is English still taught here ? Or is it forbidden? Discontinued? Do you write in a native language?” I didn’t bother to respond. The man obviously did not know when to cut his losses and scoot. He must have been jet lagged, I reasoned, as he continued the barrage . Someone whispered he was a big noise at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival.I should have guessed. Because, we had had a rather strange conversation on cinema , specifically on Bollywood . The man had pronounced pompously, “Nobody is interested in that sort of mindless song-and dance genre. If India wants to tap world markets, your films must change.” Oh really? And who the hell are you? I pointed out that our films were doing brilliantly across the world.Bollywood was one of India’s top brands internationally.The spectacular success of our films in countless territories was impressive enough to attract top Hollywood studio bosses and several global co-productions, ready to invest serious money. Bollywood was being assiduously wooed by ‘all those who matter’. I even threw in a few figures (confession: I made them up). He snorted dismissively, “But the overseas’ audience mainly consists of other Indians.” So? Their opinion doesn’t count? Their ticket money is of a different colour? “ Other people don’t relate to your films,” he went on, adding airily, “ You must change the format if you want to succeed.” That’s when I took off. I asked him whether ‘Crouching Tiger….” had changed its format to please Western audiences? I pointed out the gigantic domestic market for our films and how we really don’t need to pander.Besides, I thundered, what was Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ if not a glorified Bollywood film? And why the hell should be change a highly successful formula that we have always loved, in order to kowtow to the West? Are Western film makers saying, “ Oh… we have a potentially huge market in India. Why don’t we make movies that please Indians?” Are Hollywood studios rejigging ‘Batman’ or ‘Pirates…’? to impress desi film fans? Are those guys thinking, ‘Maybe, we should try and change our movies around for the humungous Indian market?’ ” Nobody is saying that, right? Not now, at any rate. But soon, they will. That’s when we’ll have the last laugh. Just like the Taiwanese and Hong Kong film makers did. Indian film makers should stop trying to accommodate the likes of this rather obnoxious chap who is here as a VIP guest of MAMI. He didn’t have a clue about our country, culture, diversity, music, movies. But he had the audacity to express strong opinions and damn our films. How come? Because he can! Because he knows we’ll take it.
After listening to my bhashan on Bollywood, and why Bollywood should never change, the man admitted sheepishly and lamely, “I never said you should stop making those song-and-dance films. All I am saying is that your film makers should go beyond that genre, and make a different kind of film that speaks a more universal language.” By then, I was all fired up. “Have you seen ‘Monsoon Wedding’?” I asked, sticking my chin out. He had. He countered, “Have you seen ‘Water’?” I hadn’t. Advantage Mr. Goatee. . He asked a few more condescending questions that left me wondering why we pick such people for our Festivals. Worse, why do we give them so much bhav? Our Bollywood extravaganzas are unique! They are completely bizarre. And totally wonderful. We love them for their craziness. We know what we are paying for. We like the absence of logic…. the many absurdities. We worship our stars. And our mad movies have a profound influence on our lives. We don’t need to clone the West. We have our own specific identity. A legitimate and highly entertaining genre called The Bollywood Movie. Take it or leave it. But by elevating people like him to important positions at our prestigious film festivals, we downgrade ourselves. This is seriously depressing. Let’s stop being so damn defensive and apologetic.Our younger filmmakers are talented and bold. Their movies are speaking a new, creative language that is very much our own. Look at ‘Dev-D’, ‘Band Baaja…” ‘Manu Weds Tanu…” ‘Delhi Belly,” and a few other recent hits that have captured a new audience, but stayed true to themselves and the new urban reality . Bollywood movies have always touched an emotional chord in us, whether it’s a weepy or a nutcase of a film (“My Friend Prateik”). This is what we like. Leave us alone, Mr. Big Noise..
There are several ‘gyaan’ givers like this gentleman, who show up for such junkets. They know next to nothing about the host country, but are placed in elevated positions, given super fabulous treatment (Indians really do make the best hosts ), and while here, they think nothing of talking down to the natives as we hang on to every word and all but prostrate ourselves at their feet. Nothing personal against this chap. The fact that I didn’t bother to ask his name after that ‘Err-du’ comment, shows my utter lack of interest in the ignoramus. But it did bug me that someone as erudite as a Shyam Benegal would have to put up with this person’s inane, superficial commentary during the festival. Am I being super-touchy?? I don’t think so. “ Obviously,English is no longer taught in India,” was one of his crass comments. I should have said, “And obviously, good manners are not taught in yours.” But the annoying asli Indian inside me kicked in, alas. ‘ He’s our mehmaan , jaaney do,” I shrugged. I had given him a pretty hard time . So, sab theek hai!
Blogdosts, here's wishing you a fabulous Festive Season ahead...


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kakaka said...

ugghhh i dont think so. I am not going to defend something just becuz it is Indian. Quite frankly it would benefit me if the quality of films improve.
dev-d etc were alright. I have had the chance to watch some amazing movies from places like iran, argentina....unheard of and i have to admit there is more quality than quantity.
And Indian movies arent really all tht original. Item songs, bhangra music with western beats, man singing like rap artists, women grinding like they do in american music videos.
I have never seen a movie, except 3 idiots recently and have been able to relate to the movie in any way.
dabangg etc cater to certain audience and then there are those very social boring movies like peepli live.
issue based movies that i have to admit i cannot sit through.
I want movies based on the lives of normal middle class indians for a change.
Shyam Benegal's movies are very boring...the artsy types may like all that but i dont find them entertaining at all.
if we could make sensible movies and make them entertaining tht would b gr8.

AdvoSidharth said...

You have mellowed down ..........may be the need of times.Once upon a time you were so critical of lack of 'class' in Bollywood including Kajol and suddenly you are supportive of the crap doled out in the name of entertainment from Bollywood.Its okay to acknowledge Dabangg/Wanted/munni/sheila a success but then all of us don't ply rickshaws for living .......Do we?

Songs Online said...


shankar said...

This article reminds me of the movie
Namastey London.
I visualised you in the role of Akshay Kumar giving your piece of mind, although diplomatically:)
I am curious to know who this person is?


चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

Our slave mentality is still on... and we are flabbergasted when we see a videsi and condone even if he hurls abuses:(

Harman said...

OKAY Shobhaa ...Being an Indian were Biased ..and slapped the guy looks like what you have written in your post...
I dont agree with you totally..
I am at work right now ..a group of American women's came to me jus now..its a coincendence after I read your post ..and asked abt India ,they had to publish ..abt india's Art and culture..
They asked me ..wht dress is that women drapes with huge amount of fabric?
should I shout on them...
they asked me ... there still are arranged marriages done in india? parents approval required??
should I yell at these questions..
I mean its not India is major Country on Globe or super power..that everyone knows abt that!
RESPECT and give respect!

Fashion with Compassion said...

We are a country of 1 billion and growing. The size of our middle class is bigger than the entire American population. Money wise, we dont need to please anyone but ourselves. With Big Noise Iam guessing it was just a case of sour grapes.

And besides who says American audiences dont like song and dance. Some of the most popular TV shows in America are "Glee", "So you think you can dance?" and "American Idol"

archie said...

I absolutely agree with your stand. I am an Indian student studying in US and just as in India, whenever I try to unwind taking break from my work, I try to catch up on a movie. And I sorely miss Indian movies. Seriously, we really need to ponder on what we are trying to live up to. In India, we mostly are marketed a few Oscar genre movies like Inception, Avatar (some of them are trashy too by the way!). But loads of what is released here in the US is depressing balderdash. Sleek production values and special effects can't save lousy scripts. The so called "comedy" genre mostly starts and ends with toilet humor or crass jokes with sexual overtones. Drama/Action will lead you to 173rd movie where Earth is under danger from invasion by aliens. We really need to respect the Indian sensibilities and respect our movie making. Who can forget movies like Iqbal, My Name is Khan, Munnabhai series... After all the main motive of cinema is entertainment, and using that platform if you can send a message across, it is a double bonus. Hollywood can learn a thing or two about moviemaking from bollywood.

Latha said...

The same question was asked to Aishwarya Rai in the US time & again & she said, "Yes, we sing & dance, wear colorful clothes, celebrate a lot of festivals at home & in public. In short we love life & celebrate it." so firmly that they were speechless. Another question everybody asked her was, "Are you still staying with your parents ?" to which she replied unflinchingly, "Yes. In India parents don't have to fix up an appointment with their children to have dinner with them." Now it was their turn to hide their face.
What she never said was that we don't scream at everybody, kill everybody, run around like fugitives, & yell cuss words like sh*t, fu*k, as*&%#e etc in our films. If that is art, we don't need it thank you.
We have made films like Robot. Now Ra-one. I think we are doing pretty well without the approval of the westerners.

NAT said...


One has to take such sods with a pinch of salt.
You will be surprised to hear that most of the westerners do not know that there is a NZ on the map, while they use the Kiwis as ginie pigs for their new products.

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kalika said...

I am on your side on this one,this is not something whether we support all the films made in India but it is funny and irritating that a guy who doesn't even know or bother to remember the national language of the country can comment on the genre of the same country's films. Besides when talking about Indian films people are forgetting that hindi is not the only language in India(I don't intend to imply Tamil)in which films are made.There are pretty decent films made in other languages too.

Besides, who says only the middle-class or rickshaw wallas watch the stupidly made hindi films. Some of these films are really fun to watch( not the really bad ones).But believe me sometimes we really need to give our brains a rest and watch just some comedy,song and dance.
But Now-a-days some Indians have become too pompous and believe that the only way to show their intelligence is by criticizing others.Even in med. college we used to see such films as a stress reliever, even now most of the docs I know do that(and I obviously know a lot of them).

x said...

Hmm, made me pull out some of my own lines on the subject:


'Oh so you just dropped in from a plane, eh?
And put your foot in it.
Got ripped off by public transport.
Bewildered by the sea of brown.
Stoked up in the mountains.
Beached out on a rave.
Flew by Everest or sighed at the Taj.
Wanna tell me about it?

Just curious.'

-by Arunesh Dogra

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Anil Kumar said...

It seems you were pissed off by that foreigner who may be completely ignorant. But why does it bother you so much. Bollywood movies have gone down the hill and sluts like Kareena Kapoor and other useless heroines are hogging the limelight instead of real actors and actresses.

When some foreign jokers praise idiot bollywood stars or stupid bollywood movies or some Indian gets an award abroad then people who are in the business of writing make it sound like MAJOR achievement.

Aishwarya Rai goes to Cannes and all jerk media starts making as if this is the biggest thing in the world.

People of this country are often fooled by those in the media into believing that Bollywood movies are something whole world awaits eagerly to watch it...Thats not the case. From my experience I have not seen more than 10 people in any movie I saw abroad. 95% of them are people of Indian origin.

Same is the case with cricket. People in media make this cricketers as if the whole world is interested in watching them. Unfortumately thats not the case. Majority of the cricket playing countries dont take some of the cricketers worshipped here seriously due to their poor track record overseas. They know that Indians will have all the batting records since they play on lifeless pitches are paradise for batsmen.

Pooja Rathore said...

Happy Deepavali!

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venk@t said...

What a fabulously written piece! we love bollywood for being itself, howmuch ever we crib at it. :)

Happy diwali

RAJ47 said...

Ignoramus ne ignoranus.
An ignorant AH.

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