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|December 17, 2001||
All for love
Are there stories in Hindi films today? Not that I know of!
Sure, every now and then, Hindi film directors get something right. But for the most part, the formula-driven industry has shown creativity in almost every area but story-telling.
How important are stories anyway?
Because for some time now, Hindi films have used the same story ideas. Technically, filmmaking (cinematography, editing, art direction, etc) has improved. And improving every day.
Imagination has been poured into the visual aspects or the songs. The songs are lavish, the locales, stunning. The films look great visually, the sets are clean and beautiful. Yet innovation in stories is forgotten.
There have been numerous articles written about this and even more excuses for this trend: The same elements are proven safe -- the classes vs masses aspect, especially. (If a certain film does well only in the metro cities or overseas, it is a 'classes' film; if the film does well throughout the country, it is a 'masses' film.)
True, some themes work only for a limited audience. But more often than not, the film is compromised in a bid to grab the largest audience and extract some of the money from the project. And almost always, the story suffers.
Take a theme where humans colonise the moon. Imagine how various film industries would shape their films.
Hollywood films would portray human emotions; they would struggle to create the first civilization perfectly, like setting up gravity domes for people to live in; they would touch on the power games that people play.
European films would include the humane aspects of such moon colonies, rich stories outlining everyday hardships that certain characters undergo on the moon, the awakening of the human soul, etc.
Eastern Asian films would have had a fun time with martial arts on the moon or the journey of the soul that the characters could undergo. There have been some Indian directors in the past who would have dealt with the human problem in colonising the moon.
Hindi films would take a totally different angle. The hero would be driving his moon buggy. By chance, he spots a female moon inhabitant. Cue for a song. Naturally, the absence of waterfalls on the moon would pose some serious problems. But that's what the experts are for.
The waterfall song could take place on earth where the main characters imagine their lives. Some intelligent directors might choose a different approach. The heroine could be pictured standing on the horizon with a sudden meteor shower. Amazing visual prop, wouldn't you say?
Some other directors would focus on the dark side of the moon -- shady characters. These films would be labelled gritty, realistic. And the applause for such talented directors would never cease.
Nevertheless, one must give credit where it is due. The formula is amazing in Hindi films. Take any time period -- the 3rd century or the 21st -- and make the same film with the same song sequence.
Clever song innovations exist, too. Certain songs move the story along or act as monologues portraying the character's misery. Sometimes the film deviates a bit to make room for the song. For example, a hero on the run hits a village where certain festivities are taking place. Why not relax, eat, sing and dance a little before the chase starts again?
Every now and then, a wave of change sweeps the industry. If a college romance or a Hinglish film works, then you can be sure of a few take-offs. Even if a fresh new story is given the green signal, by the time it is flushed through the process of filmmaking, it ends up looking similar. The industry checklist ensures that key elements are not missed out.
The proposed checklist comprises the following:
By the time a story is bathed in the above elements, it turns out very different from what was originally intended. The essential story is buried; the film conforms to the usual standards -- song, dance, laugh, cry.
So a love story is a love story is a love story. The love angle does not matter.
Ditto with underworld films. They could be about an underworld don or an innocent person dragged into the criminal world or bar girls. All have the same core idea. Adding a few shocking scenes does not deviate from the fact that it's the same material in a different package.
If only filmmakers took time off to look around the country so rich with history and knowledge. Each street and fine architecture has a story to tell.
And none of them are about a boy seeing a girl and breaking into song thereafter.
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