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The aftermath of “The Matrix” on Indian Films…

April 10, 2009

Film Studies, as some of us know, is primarily divided into Formalism and Realism. There can be numerous explanations to what exactly these two areas of study are, but in Indian context the simplest explanation would be that the commerical cinema falls under Formalism and the Parallel Cinema falls under Realism. Of course, there are several instances where the lines between these two theories have been blurred and sometimes even overlapped. The early days of Hindi cinema were heavily influenced by the socio-economic conditions of that era which have been charmingly brought to screen in films like Pyaasa, Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Naya Daur etc. And couple of decades later, the Kapoors ruled the film industry. It wasn’t till the late 70’s when Bachchan became the star and the rest as we know is history.

Around the same time, elsewhere in Southern India, the film industries saw the Golden Era of their respective films under the aegis of NTR, ANR, MGR, Shivaji Ganeshan, Rajkumar and many others. It’s also interesting to see that many of the films done by Amitabh Bachchan were successfully remade into Telugu and Tamil films. Eventually the older generation made way to the next generation of actors of whom Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth were the stalwarts. Over the past few years, their status has reached a zenith, they are almost demigods to millions of fans across the world.

But this post isn’t about their stardom…this is about

1. Why do villians fly and somersault in air?

2. How does one guy kick 100 villians around him?

3. How does the hero manage to dodge bullets from AK-47 while he knocks off 6 people with his revolver?

4. Why do vehicles fly to a height of 20-40 feet in the air?

5. Why do trains stop and even go in a reverse direction right after the hero’s histrionics!

In the early 90’s, commercial cinema reached new heights when movies started making more money and eventually this led to the concept of making films to thrill the audience. So, if you have seen Rajnikanth’s “Muthu” and are bewildered how does a horse carriage leap across a gorge, it’s a clear message that you shouldn’t think while watching movies…just go with the flow and come to a conclusion that everything is possible in movies! But then, Rajnikanth is a demigod of South Indian film industry, and absolutely anything and everything is possible in his movies!..:)

Something happened in the year 1999…something which changed the way we see action films. “The Matrix” came into being and it took the world by storm. It was a sensation everywhere so much that we had to see it atleast 5-6 times to understand what exactly the theme is! I didn’t get it till the 9th time I saw the flick, but fell in love with the action sequences, its innovative “Bullet Time” and Time Slice effects in Cinematography. And in the subsequent years, “Matrix Reloaded” and “Matrix Revolutions” continued to raise the bar in this genre. One reason why those movies were such a big hit was because right from the beginning, they pushed the audience into the realm of something totally new and fascinating. It opened a new chapter in action and cinematography to the audience, so much that it inspired too many copycats all over the world. Almost fiddling with surrealism and gravity defying stunts, we were sucked into a different world where just about everything was possible. But we didn’t take into account one thing while trying to imitate “Matrix” in our own desi films. Conviction.

One reason why most of the stunts in Indian films look so ridiculous is they defy all forms of logic. No wonder, a 70 Kg fellow will go on to floor a 200 Kg villian! He’s no Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan! So, how’s it possible?! There might be several reasons for that, most probably it’s because, the audience don’t want to see their heroes getting kicked around too much…hence he has to win! And sometimes we overdo just about everything…here’s a small sample.

1. If there are 10 people fighting with 1 hero, the other 10 approach the hero one by one to fight! I have never been to able to comprehend why all 10 of them don’t jump at once!! We don’t use too many editing techniques, so filming a scene like that shouldn’t be too difficult.

2. Why do the window panes and other Glass material always have to get shattered everywhere?!

3. Why’s the hero always the sharp shooter while the others can’t even aim properly!

4. How does a hero who’s been shot atleast thrice manage to kill 100 more before he’s taken to the nearest hospital?

Are we trying a bit too much here? Or am I missing something? Maybe the logic behind all these sequences is frivolous, maybe I shouldn’t give it so much of a thought! But it concerns me that, we hardly have a properly screenplay and script for action choreography. Take any Hong Kong action movie and you will realise how important these units of film making are! Of course, we don’t have the same budget as that of film industries of US/Hong Kong have, so why we do make the mistake of trying to copy those styles in an attempt to reach their standards! Barring few movies, none of the contemporary Indian movies have reached to that level. My favourite in this genre of pathetic films and action sequences is aTelugu movie, “Vijayendra Varma” starring Balakrishna. It has just about the right mix of stupidity, horrendous fights with disastrous results and some of the most hilarious and logic defying acts you will ever come across! Watch it and am sure we all have a thing to learn from that! How Not To Make a Movie!..:D

Indian films have a specialty. They copy from just about everything. And all I can request is, atleast have the decency to not make a mockery of the original piece! Stop plagiarizing all those “Matrix” stunts! Stop using “Time Slice” technique for no reason! Even if you do make something like that, atleast let the audience realise what and why something is happening. Transform us into another world. The lines between patience and anger are sometimes too thin! And all we ask is…

Think. Act. Do. before Lights. Camera. Action

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2009 12:00 pm

    Hem.Again in my trademark fashion (which I just recently started :P),I shall comment.
    1.The Matrix did revolutionize the entire action sequences (throughout the world). here’s a little reference (though not directly related): http://www.xkcd.com/566/
    2.Freeze-frame technique! It’s a WOW to action scenes.But,Indian industries use it to very poor effect (seems ridiculous to use it very often and Woosh Whoom sounds that go with it and the replays seems downright silly)
    3.You are right: hero can never go wrong. Villain dies with a gun shot.hero survives even with 3 shots (or atleast there is an extended scene in the hospital with the heroine giving him a curing-kiss.)
    4.No physics.Don’t even question it because the very question of survival is being overlooked these days 😛
    5.For me,if other heroes do silly stuff it is beyond being silly but Rajnikanth does it => Awesome :D. We just got used to the hero being iconic. we just have him there and refuse to bring him down.hence everything associated with him is Soooperrr.
    6.Even the weakest heroes have amazing muscular power!
    7.I prefer having true martial-art to this stupidity sometimes. Ex: Brahmanandam’s claims to know martial arts in ‘Anaganaga oka roju’ looks much better.
    8.No thinking.Only over-acting.Done.Wow after lights.Freeze camera.Applause.

  2. April 10, 2009 2:36 pm

    The title of the blog is a misnomer. I started reading it hoping to see an analysis of things from Matrix fit into the Indian films…but was disapointed by what followed.

    Heroes in Indian films have been beating up hundreds of goons from times of yore, atleast 75 years before matrix was released! We never copied this form of action from anywhere. If there is anything indigenous about our films, then it is this. Accusing our film makers of copying this from Matrix is blasphemy.

    But there is one aftermath of matrix that has affected our films adversely. Prior to the trilogy, we never ever questioned our hero’s godly abilities. When Hollywood had to create a scene where a mortal could dodge bullets or screw a hundred people at the same time, it had to put in some logic somehow somehow in the script. Thus you have a superhero or a complicated futuristic story like the matrix. And once this genre caught on we started questioning our hero’s. But therein lies the catch. For Hollywood or hong kong, their actors are actors, mere mortals, who are born with flesh and blood and die a pathetic human death. But in India, and specifically South India, a hero is ALWAYS a superhero, a notch above the mortal. And sometimes, atleast once a decade, comes a hero who transcends all the superheroes and becomes God. And as we all know, God can do anything, so whats stopping our heroes to do it!?

    If you are so desperately looking for logic and reason, there is really a valid reason why our heroes’ are the way they are.

    When pictures began to move long ago in the early 1900’s, the only stories that filmmakers could tell were mythological stories where the hero would actually depict Gods. The God in these films routinely did magic, stopped time, flew and threw heavy objects high into the air. When film makers ran out of stories from pre-historic legends and started telling new stories, they still had to carry over the hero from the original stories into the new stories because the audience had a created a notion by then that an actor is a god and god can do anything. And thus the saga continues.

    There is only one way to change this notion. Move away from stories that have a “hero”. Start telling stories which have actors (like the many low-budget films now do). But as long as there is a story with a ‘hero’ he will always be God, or atleast a superhero.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      April 10, 2009 2:53 pm

      @Sars…awesome analysis dude! Thanks for your insight into Telugu Films! I think I have found answers to some of my questions in your analysis.

    • April 10, 2009 5:41 pm

      I think it is more about the absurdity rather than a mere copy of the Matrix. it is the way these scenes are portrayed more than the mere content.

  3. RandomNeurons permalink
    April 10, 2009 8:39 pm

    Have you seen Transporter series or any hollywood action movie that involves hand to hand combat and any Chinese Japanese Martial art movies, the hero never gets attacked as a group, all thugs come one after the other. Some of the older Chinese, Thai movies are even worse when it comes to defying physics.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      April 10, 2009 8:54 pm

      @RandomNeurons: Yeah…I have seen those flicks…but most of those flicks have a certain amount of grace! Atleast the hero and the rest of the group are very fast with their movements…it doesn’t look too odd! What I am pointing at is the movies where the members of the group wait for their turn to fight! That looks really odd…

      I still cannot understand why everyone doesn’t attack the hero at the same time!…:D

      Thanks for visiting the blog! Hope you have liked it..:)

  4. Madhu permalink
    April 12, 2009 1:19 am

    If Hero had to fight all of the goons together it would would end as a regular street fight ans is no interestn to a regular movie goer…to be effective and to enthrall audience each one comes in from a direction direction which our “hero” would have already predicted and is all set for some super cool single move to finish him off 🙂 ….

    Specifically pointing to gult movies…they are always to targeted to certain section of the audience..broadly categorized as “mass” and “multiplex” movie. While the first always attempts to make some breathtaking and science defying stunts and logic’s, the second one is more practical and realistic. Nevertheless, “mass” category movies have proved to be safe house for producers. This notion continues until movies like Gamyam, Anand etc keep coming in frequently and bag some huge money at the box office and change producer’ and Director’s thinking. I wish that day is not too far away…

    Last two posts of urs have been amazing…liked it!!
    I would expect to see good number of gult movie reviews in ur blog 🙂

  5. April 15, 2009 10:06 am

    Though at times I cringe seeing the gravity defying, Physics defying brainless stunts, but believe me, those work as the best stress busters at times…

    That’s the reason I love Balakrishna and Rajanikanth! 🙂

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