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Monday, 10 September 2012 05:35 Written by 

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Those arguing for finer, more realistic films just don’t get what the Indian Movie Experience is all about, or why Mumbai is now producing so many southern remakes

 

Awise man once said, “Tamil film makers don’t do different things, they do things differently”. Okay, so I may have taken a little columnist’s license with that particular proverb there, but that’s what it is. The difference isn’t much, really, but the notion that Hindi and Tamil movies are as different as chalk and Chihuahuas has been on the rise this past decade and led to the rise of quite a few stereotypes.

 

The most popular stereotype that people have been tricked into is that all Tamil films are essentially Rajnikanth saving humanity from all kinds of evil while defying every law that Newton took the trouble of coming up with. This is total and complete nonsense. For starters, Rajnikanth films take at least three years per release.

 

Anyway, it’s simple enough, all super hit Indian movies up to the early 1990s had pretty much the same formula. Then, Bollywood changed course while South Indian Cinema didn’t. So today, the ‘formula’ part of the Bollywood ‘formula’ movie involves a story (or something like it), which is embellished with an impossibly good-looking star cast, lots of Manish Malhotra and a dance number with a special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan. Add an ‘item number’ which features the latest ‘it girl’ and air it as a ‘promo’ a couple of months before the actual movie releases and voila, empty hype! I mean, formula complete.

 

Now, the Bollywood story almost always involves a value, such as family, friendship, love and the like. Tamil formula movies, on the other hand, thrive on old-school. The hero is the story, the Manish Malhotra, the dance number with the special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan, hell, he’s even the Amitabh Bachchan of that number. Tamil cinema takes the term ‘hero’ very seriously. The story is never about friendship or family per se, but his family, his friendship, his love, and his occasional association with the local goons.

 

The truth is, it doesn’t take much for a formula movie to do well in the south. Take the super-hitbeyond- human-comprehension, Baasha. This was not just the movie that elevated Rajnikanth’s status from superstar to demi god, but also the only Tamil film (that I know of) which had a flashback within a flashback. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it ever comes out that it was Baasha that inspired Nolan to make Inception).

 

I have watched this movie about 25 times and enjoyed myself thoroughly about twenty-four times. The exception was the time I tried to apply logic to the story, and my brain fried itself in the process, because there is none whatsoever. None. Nil. In fact, it defies anything and everything that logic stands for. However, nobody really cared, and truth be told, no one cares even today, even with our newfound penchant for ‘better’ films and such, because it’s so entertaining.

 

The Tamil cinema audience is really easy to please. All that we really care for is a tight storyline, fast screenplay and a convincing star cast,and we’ll lap it up, logic be damned. A lot of filmmakers forget that the primary purpose most people even watch movies in the first place, is to be entertained—we want to be thrilled, we want to pick sides, we want to cheer for the leads and then come out of the theatre feeling good. That Bollywood is now remaking Tamil movies, or making Tamil-style masala movies (like Dabangg) is just proof that there is no school like the old school.

 

However, it is important that Bollywood film makers pick the right movies and stick to the original screenplay. Singam was a wildly successful movie in the south because of its racy, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it screenplay and incredibly simple story line, but the remake was a total disappointment because of a couple of unnecessary twists that the remake team introduced.

 

I don’t think it matters whether people make or remake masala movies, just as long as they are done right, because when they are, they are so much fun. Masala movies are the epitome of the Indian Movie Experience. I know quite a few people who argue the cause of finer film making in India, with more realistic subjects, honest emotions and matter- of-fact endings. Personally, I am against that cause. When I watch a movie, I want to be told that the impossible is possible and that there is no such thing as too much ambition. I want to be told that there are police officers who stop at nothing to uphold the law. I want to see bad guys go down for whatever they did and I want to see everyone getting their happily-ever-after. Cinema, to me, is escape. Besides, if I wanted to watch something ‘real’, I wouldn’t watch a movie. I’d watch the news.

 

 

 

 

Read 1013 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 07:44

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