June 30, 2009

Rum's Famous Making Article, or Bollywood and Mythology!

Manoj says READ IT
I'm back again, and here's my article that will be published in a independant Vancouver magazine, its just how Bollywood seems to be influence by the Mahabharat and the Ramayana! Its pretty long but I think it's pretty grrrreat!

Bollywood and the Mahabharat/Ramayana

Bollywood conjures up many images of spectacular dance numbers, opulent sets, hyperbolic acting and general mindless fun. Since the beginning of Indian cinema, religion and faith have influenced the storylines that created the largest film industry today.
The Mahabharat is one of the two major Sanskrit texts of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The Mahabharat is an epic poem that discusses dharma/duty, artha/purpose, kama/pleasure, and moksha/liberation with the story of a power struggle and war between two families the Pandavas and Kauravas. The Mahabharat contains 18 stories, and has 100,000 verses. The Ramayana focuses on Rama and Sita, a married couple that deals with infidelity, kidnapping, and war on a cosmic level.
Bollywood since the age of the silent era has used aspects of the Mahabharat and Ramayana to highlight the struggle of good against evil. The two epics were performed at the theatre and as Ram-Lila plays, which are performed on the street, but with the advent of cinema the epics were translated to screen. The growing number of religious or mythological movies in the 1920’s made these epics available to the working class. The Talkies era of Bollywood established the star system, and religious movies were swept aside by the tidal wave of song and dance movies. Religious movies relegated into the B movie territory with low budgets, tacky special effects, and bad acting.
Faith in mainstream Bollywood was not lost, because as long as the Mahabharat and Ramayana are, the characters of these two stories are found in the hero and heroine of Bollywood movie.
The hero in a Bollywood movie is fashioned as all rounder that adopts traits of the many Hindu gods and characters in mythology. A hero is also expected to rescue his heroine when a big bad badly dressed villain tries to rape, this scene is so common in masala movies which combine action, thrills, and romance into one melange of a movie. But if you look closely, when Draupadi, the shared wife of the Pandavas clan is captured by an evil god and about to be dishonoured all five brothers show up to rescue her virtue.
A hero in Bollywood is a symbol of the gods and mortals featured in a Hindu mythology. A hero embodies the mischievous nature of Krishna, righteousness of Bhima, the nobility of Shiva, the morality of Arjuna. The golden age of Bollywood of the 1950’s challenged these idealized versions of heroes by having a vagabond in Raj Kapoor’s “Aawara” (The Tramp) or a seedy blackmailer of Dev Anand in “Jaal”(Trap) the heroes were now grey and full of ennui, which was why the Golden Age lasted for a decade.
With the Indo-China wars in the 60’s, Bollywood once again became a route for escapism, with heroes and heroines sharing a tame kiss on the cheek, or a sexy rain song. The hero became a complete do-gooder, reflective of the gods. More and more Bollywood films churned out in the 60’s were storylines from different parts of the Mahabharat but more so on the Ramayana. Which brought a spate of female oriented weepy dramas that had an upright hero marry a pregnant heroine to save her honour or a put upon heroine that will do anything for her man.
Then came the Emergency rule by the Gandhi government in the 70’s, people were upset and angry, and the hero that represented the chaos was a tall, dark and Byronic Amitabh Bachan the first hero to be all the gods and kick some ass too! Bachan’s breakout movie “Zanjeer”(Symbol) had him playing a vengeful police officer who obsessed over finding his parents killer. The movie gave Bachan his Angry Young Man Persona and birthed the term “dishoom dishoom” the sound of Bachan’s punching and beating up villains! The vigilante hero image that Amitabh Bachan created was a voice to the people upset with the regime, but the vigilante was at the heart of the Mahabharat too, with the illegitimate son Karna Pandavas seeking to ruin the Pandavas clan for keeping his parentage in the dark. Karna was the new symbol for all revenge dramas that Amitabh and other actors starred in. Yash Chopra’s “Trishul” was a direct version where Bachan played the wronged son of a wealthy industrialist and plots to ruin all his business.
The heroine on the hand has endured some shape shifting in her time. Bollywood has idealized the heroine as a sacrificing Sita of the Ramayana, and the powerful Draupadi of the Mahabharat. Since the beginning of Indian cinema, a heroine has had the voice of a nightingale, has sacrificed her love for her family, been a wonderful mother and wife, and encouraging the hero to embrace his religious side.
During the Roaring Twenties a heroine was allowed to kiss her hero and in a shocking movie called “Typist Girl” (1926) the heroine defied her parents and hero to work as a typist. The twenties and thirties in Bollywood was an experimental time for the heroine, she could go to work, wear trousers, and kiss her hero torridly. A milestone for the growth of the heroine was “Hunterwali” (Hunter Woman) where the Anglo-Indian heroine Fearless Nadia performed daring stunts on top a train and wore trousers and cracked a whip! Nadia went onto doing many other stunt movies and earned the title India’s Original Stunt Queen.
The 1950’s were the Golden Age of Indian cinema, where directors toyed with the darker realm of the hero and heroine. The heroine could be a cabaret dance with a heart of gold like Geeta Bali in “Baazi” (Game) or a strong fearless woman of the untouchable caste like Nutan in “Sujata.” But the return to the Sita figure of the Ramayana was in “Aawara” (Vagabond) by Raj Kapoor. The protagonist played Kapoor is fatherless, and he learns that his mother was married to a judge, played by Kapoor’s father Prithviraj Kapoor, but was kidnapped by a bandit, upon her return to the husband, he questions whether the child is his, and throws her out into the street. The literal use of the Ramayana story in Aawara highlights the sacrificing duty of the mother in the movie, which makes Kapoor use the argument of nature vs. nurture during the movie.
The 1960’s became the Gilded Age for the heroine, as she was forced to sacrifice her love of the hero to marry her parent’s choice, and the only intimacy was a cutaway shot of the bees and the flowers! The return to religious allusions brought many female-orientated movies based on the stories of Ramayana, and other wronged female gods like Shakuntala. Faith in the 60’s was a point of reforming, a bad cabaret vamp that loves the hero is shown the light of religion and soon dresses in saris and sings devotional songs and then only does the hero fall for them. One such movie is “Jab Jab Phool Khile” (When a Flower Blossoms) where the glamorous heroine wears funky dresses goes on holiday to Kashmir; she unexpectedly falls for a simpleton boatman. She soon tries to reform him to her cosmopolitan ways by teaching him to do the twist and wear suits, but when this does not suit him he leaves. She then sings a devotional and lovesick song and transforms from haughty cosmopolitan to dutiful wife and runs to the station to stop him. Movies like these only lasted for a while till the turbulent 1970’s, where the vigilante hero took the focus.
As the Emergency rule disenchanted moviegoers, the hero who fights the law and evil villains came to forefront, and the heroine was now relegated to singing songs for the hero who was too angry to sing and dance. The rise of the multistarrers made the girls into trophy heroines, in the Amitabh Bachan dominated industry of the 70’s; the heroines were there to pacify Bachan’s anger and obsession with justice. Violence and sex were the fervour of the day, and heroines were wearing skimpier outfits to titillate audiences and feverish villains, only too ready to kidnap them Ramayana style and keep them in a funky den. Heroines also turned into vamps, who swigged alcohol with the hero’s and were sexualized by the camera and the rain songs that were rampant during the 70’s. Zeenat Aman, the path breaking revisionist heroine was relaxed about her sexuality and advocated free love her roles varied from junkies, to gold diggers, and a career woman, to an adulterous wife. Other heroines too, squeezed into to tighter clothes and adopted Aman’s vivacity. Here were heroines that would not cave too easily to religion and be reformed by a hero, as now the hero was a vigilante who blamed the gods for his suffering like Bachan’s famous character Vijay in “Deewaar”(Wall), though some heroines still repeated the patterns of the sixties. One of the most scandalous movies was Raj Kapoor’s highly sexed version of the mythological Shakuntala story, starring Aman as the burn victim version of Shakuntala who falls for a hero, played by Kapoor’s younger brother Shashi Kapoor, who hates ugliness and refuses to recognize her on their wedding day or her child, she then causes a catastrophic flood to wake up the ungrateful hero to her suffering. As noble as the story sounds, the audience did not see the allusion as they were struck by Aman’s braless heroine with see-through saris and the rest of the gorgeous village. Though the violent blockbusters raged on at the cinemas, the underground religious movies still had a place. And surprisingly a religious epic “Jai Santoshi Maa” (Hail the Goddess of Satisfaction) was one of the biggest money-spinners of 1975 along with Bachan classics “Sholay” (Embers) and “Deewaar”(Wall). The movie was a tacky but devotional film about a woman, who prays to Santoshi Maa, to get her husband to love and respect her.
The idealization of the mother figure on screen is inspired by the long-suffering Kunti the matriarch of the noble Pandavas clan. The epitome of the mother is from the movie Mother India (1957). The epic movie combines the elements of the Mahabharat with a good son against a bad son, and the mother who is torn between her love for her bad son and the law. Over time, mothers have become shrewd mother in laws that terrorize the heroine or trophy mothers that guide their sons and daughters to be good and virtuous. Another great mother movie is Deewaar, where the violent character Vijay’s rise to power is done purely to show his mother a good life, though she shuns it because of Vijay’s illegal smuggling and gambling. The mother of the seventies, now instructed her son to avenge her death or be an upright citizen, which was quite hard for Amitabh Bachans “Angry Young Man” persona.
Heroes and Heroines have changed, and rarely bear the allusions of the gods and mortals featured in the Mahabharat and Ramayana. But faith and religion still remain prominent in Bollywood, as devotionals songs usually start at the beginning of the movie, and the family unit is very close and pious like the Pandavas clan of the Mahabharat, they will do anything for each other.
The Family almost was a second character in the love stories of the 80’s and 90’s where family opposition to a lover, was soon sorted out when the hero or heroine sacrificed their love for their family’s honour. One such movie was Hum Aapke Hai Kaun (What is our relation?) where the two leads fell in love, but tragedy strikes when the soon to be bride passes away, and the heroine jilts her lover to get married and save the family honour. The 90’s in Bollywood was a return to traditionalism, although characters danced and lived in Switzerland or England, their hearts were still “Hindustani.” The family of the Ramayana were soon seen in any love story, with a stern patriarch like Dasharatha from the, a shrewish stepmother like Kaikeyi, a noble brother like Lakhshman, and a villain like Ravana.
The family in the Mahabharat have been adapted to screen with Kalyug (Obsession) and Hum Paanch (Us Five). While the latter has typical masala elements of songs, shrieking villains, it adapts the Mahabharat to a feudal village, where the five Pandavas brothers are friends from different castes who unite to take on the evil landlord family. Kalyug is the subtler art house version, with the Pandavas clan as wealthy industrialists at war with Kauravas over the next building contract. The movie painted a sympathetic portrait of both the families, which is not presented, in the epic poem, and especially Karna Pandavas with an understated performance by Shashi Kapoor.
At the heart of a Bollywood story is the allusion to the great poems of the Ramayana and Mahabharat, which is coated with a bit of singing and dancing, a bit of religious preaching and whole lot of dishoom dishoom.

June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson and Bollywood

Yupp, if you didn't know already Michael Jackson has passed away, he suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this afternoon and was reported dead a few hours later, though TMZ and other sites went rampant in saying that he died. Which was awful, I mean at least wait for the FRIKKIN announcement by the family!
I was gonna post a tribute to the bromances in Bollywood, but NAA, I have some good news an article I'm writing about Bollywood and its allusions to the Mahabharat and Ramyana will get published in a local Vancouver newspaper, and this wonderful blog with all your nice comment might get featured in the GeNext section of Filfare, an honour Beth, Filmi Girl, Bollywood Fan, and others have accomplished!
But back to MJ, he did manage to ruin much of his great career in the last decade or so with the child molestation charges and wacky mad behavior, but let him not be judged in history just for those. MJ was a wonderful artist, troubled man- yes, but how can you forget Billie Jean, and Thriller and lesser known songs like You Rock My World and Human Nature.
Mj had a profound impact on Bollywood, especially during the 80's. His glorious and new and fresh choreography influenced the Saroj and Farah Khan's into giving young heroes some new moves as opposed to pelvis thrusts and running around the trees. His funk and pop sounds also made their way into the pop charts with Bappi Lahiri and Kalyanji Anandji copying the same Billie Jean beats and funkadelic guitar riffs.
His fashion sense was found on even Amitabh Bachan in the godawful Ganga Jamuna Saraswati with the line in Disco Bhangra saying "Dance dikha Michael Jackson ke" (I'll show you to dance like MJ). The glove was imitated in cheesy dance numbers, and the red Thriller jacket was worn by even my ANil!
MJ had a lasting and influential impact on Bollywood and the pop culture, he and his music will be sorely lost.

June 9, 2009

Bollywood Posters Galore - An Alternate Career for Rum?

Shamelessly nicking the idea from the great BollywoodDeewana, I had to share some of my favorite hand-drawn Bollywood posters also! There's something so pop-art about posters, with the vibrant colours and flattering or unflattering painting of the stars, and exagerations such as guns inserted into a poster of Kora Kagaz!

1. Don - this poster is just fabulous, the mad colours and the great depiction of Amitabh too, and here's a gun that fits with the theme of the movie!2. Kabhi Kabhi - this poster is lovely, I love how it shows the different stages of Amitabh during the movie as a hearbroken poet and a stern moustachioed father, and a poor looking Shashi, the side painting are beautiful too, Raakhee with Shashi and Amitabh

3. Muqaddar Ka Sikandar - this image I had printed on a t-shirt and everybody loved it! The funky title letters, and the gritty green colouring work well to show the tone of the movie too, and of course Amitabh on a bike needs to be there as he's the headliner4. Jaani Dushman - This isnt quite painted, but it combines the stills and drawing, but it looks ghoulish and hilarious as that movie ranks as one of the biggest star casts in such an awfully bad/yet trashily good film! I love that the beast looks more scarier than it is in the movie too!

5. Mera Naam Joker - the big Citizen Kane-esque opus of Raj Kapoor's ranks as one of my favorite Bollywood movies, and the posters is pretty cute too, the "Rosebud" of the movie is the joker a thinly veiled alter ego of Raj, and the poster has got the clownish letters and the sad clown reaching out. It also has the circus feel to as well as showing the three loves of the joker too.
6. Pyaasa - the famous image here, what I like about this poster is the simplicity: its got the three main characters and funnily drawn Mala Sinha and the Hindi all around it. The lyrics i think are written at the side of their faces which makes it nice. 7. Silsila - this one I would love in my room! It's simple and it shows basically the plot of the movie in two basic iconic images in the film. I like how gorgeous the ladies look in their face off, the artist really captured their angry faces.
8. Guide - the iconic pose, I really want to order this from somewhere, the yellow tone and lovely expression on Dev's face and the little poof is featured in the poster too!
9. Bobby - this is my funkadelic pyschedelic favorite poster of all time, true the Barsaat and Mother India are iconic and wonderful. But as a mad kid, I ADORRREEEE this poster it is so colourful and funky that i made it a poster on my wall and on my t-shirt! I think all the colours are vibrant and capture the rash and impetuous love in the movie!
10. Dharmatma - something from the King of my funkadelic heart Feroz Khan! Lol imagine this crazy poster as the poster for the actual Godfather. Michael Corleone meets his Indian funky alter ego in this poster that highlights some of the characters, and the best moments in the film!
Th-Tha-thats all folks! A part 2 will definitely follow, I have sooo many other favorites!

June 1, 2009

Masala Mini Reviews

I have been quite lazy in these summer holidays, especially since Prakash Mehra passed away, I sat on my bed and watched all his movies and a few others! So here are some masala musing on the many movies I've watched so far:!

Yes I dream of starring in Rum production

  1. Waqt - the old one, and the better one! I love this movie sooo much even though it had an exhausting car chase that allowed me to make some popcorn and walk around the house. The whole theme of destiny controlling a person's life was a bit interesting but i mainly liked this film because the Shashinator was acting hilariously OTT and Sadhana had some gorgeous saris and mad beehives. The whole court scene in the movie made me hoot with laughter, I'm quite sure that lawyers like Sunil Dutt are not supposed to scream and badger the witness into performing a Shashi meltdown! Raaj Kumar here was lovely and his famous dialogue "yeh bachhon ka khel nahi hai" was said with such swagger! Waqt is a funky film by Yash Chopra
Ohh no, Rum's BAAACKKK
    2. Mughal-E-Azam - I watched this in the black and white version with random spurts of colour during some songs, and I have to say I kinda liked it in black and white, it just accentuates the epic feel to the movie. I watched a second time in the colour restoration and though I liked it felt a bit too eye-popping in some parts. But it was wonderfully restored and Dilip and Madhubala have never looked soo swoon-worthy. I really liked Ajit's role in the movie, Dilip and him have a nice pair of scenes together! But the movie is completely Madhubala's, she owns it with her lovely dancing, epic acting! Just wonderful!
    3. Dharmatma - I love the Godfather and I really love Feroz's copy/pastiche of the Godfather movies! A proper review will definitely come as i LOVE it, its soo violent, brilliant and Funkadelic.
    4. Aan - Now this movie has been revered as some kind of classic, but i hated it! Nadira was awful with her mad expressions, it perhaps influenced me to pull those wide-eyed angry looks as if my life was a silent movie. Alas the movie had sound and her annoying faces and silly acting didnt work for me! But atleast Dilip Kumar was their at his swashbuckling best acting all Errol Flynn like in his fighting scenes. Even Nimmi annoyed me with her overexcited performance, but I laughed when her poofed up in her dance scene and i thought my alter ego was there, coz my hair becomes that big too!
    5.Yeh Dillagi - A Sakshay movie which is a redo of Sabrina with Kajol as the chaffeurs daughter, I tolerated this movie because unlike other other Sakshay movies there was no kick butt scenes (except for a few toned down ones) no idiotic banter, no overt Bromance though there was some! And Saifs mullet caused some immense trauma to me as well as the annoying song Ole Ole which doesnt leave my head for a while! Akshay was good in the Bogart/Harrison Ford role and round Harry Potter glasses kinda suited him!

              There you have it, a quick rundown of my movie watching so far, Dharmatma will come sooon!