Damn! I swallowed the Red Pill..
Yes. I am certain that I swallowed the red pill. No wonder, I end up being perplexed at the movies. Recently, when I went to see a Telugu film called, “Shankam”, I spent more time reading people’s reactions and tried to arrive at a conclusion. Either I have lost all sense of humour or maybe it’s just that I have swallowed the red pill. Although, it wasn’t Morpheus who offered me the “Red Pill”. I can’t point out to one person who was responsible for it, maybe it was Ingmar Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, K Vishwanath, K Balachandar, Balu Mahendra, Mani Ratnam…the list is endless.
Over the past few months, I have been following Telugu cinema with great amount of interest. A careful observation about the content and quality of films made is enough to know why Telugu films rarely win National Awards. Here’s a list of possible things why Tollywood makes movies like it does:
1. The “Hahaha” effect:
More than 70% of the films made every year fall into this category. This kind of film is aimed to tickle your funny bone. The reason is simple, people work hard and they need something funny to entertain them. Hence, we make films like Kick, Shankam, Ride, Current, Anjaneyulu etc to name a few.
2. The “Boom Boom” effect:
These kind of films place a heavy focus on loud action. By loud, I mean, things like Cars, Bikes, Trucks, Tractors, SUVs…you name it…will fly 100 feet into the air whenever necessary. Of course, the scenes are moulded in a way to project the Hero as superhero or to throw him into great danger, only to come back later and end all evil.
3. The “All Happies” effect:
Films often to create situations which depict an ideal situation. The best example could be films made by Krishna Vamsi…like Murari, Chandamama. Atleast 50 people belonging to a big-joint family, are thrown into the frame to show how happy families live. Despite all odds, stories like these have “happy endings”.
4. The “mushy-mushy” effect:
Cheesy and lousy rom-coms. The very name which can make a connoisseur of Parallel Cinema cringe! The target audience is usually the college kid and youth whose harmonal levels are at full throttle.
The films made generally fall under any one or a combination of two or more among these categories. But then, once in a while, a film maker does try to jump out of this frame and makes a film. We have had couple of directors who have made some wonderful films like Gamyam and Baanam in the past couple of years. However, this post isn’t about them, it’s about why our film makers usually recycle the same old stories, concepts and paint them with a new “manufactured” date. I think from the nadir of my conscience that there is a fundamental flaw which is often ignored, when reasoning about why some films don’t work.
1. The story is “new”!
How do you define “new”? If it’s something which has never been done before, then yes, that’s new! If not, you are just….! I see directors, producers, actors and actresses reiterating that the story or the characterization is new. A supposedly “new” story would most probably have been enacted by another actor/film/film industry. A simple change in cast, hardly changes the fact that we have shamelessly ripped off or plagiarised the content. It’s okay to make “remakes” because majority of regional audiences might not have seen the original, but recycling our own films is what baffles me the most!
2. People need “Entertainment”…
Does “Entertainment” originate when a story is written with the perspective that people are in general, escapists? If yes, then…what can I say? The definition of Cinema has been narrowed down to “entertainment” and people like me look for new film industries which doesn’t ignore the possibility that Cinema can be much more than mere entertainment. It can be “art” which at times is too difficult to explain what exactly it means.
3. “Art” doesn’t sell…
Maybe. But the industry where big bucks are thrown in to produce senseless entertainment can be atleast sympathetic to the minority segment. I thought “Grahanam” was a wonderful movie…L.B.Sriram’s “Rallu” didn’t have a proper theatrical release and Rajnesh Domalapalli’s “Vanaja” is yet to find a buyer in AP despite it being ranked in Roger Ebert’s list of top 10 best foreign films in 2007!
Damn! I am still wondering why I swallowed the “Red Pill”. I could have had a great time at the movies, instead of trying to judge why the characters act so dumb all the time. I could have laughed, cried, whistled, howled….but I cannot. It’s probably true that people would hesitate to see their own day to day life stories on screen but it can’t be an excuse to create an hypothetical act which hardly makes an impact. During an interview, Kamal Hassan had mentioned a term – “Perishable Cinema” which caught my attention. If that term indeed exists, then we have imbibed it to a great extent. What’s more sad is the fact that we thrive on it and even sad is the fact that we are proud about it.
Ahh….still wondering why did I swallow the red pill? It was because I wanted to lose myself in a dream called “Cinema” and to live long enough to tell the future generation how that beautiful dream has changed my life.
P.S: I have nothing against Telugu film industry…I am too addicted to Cinema, I will watch anything and everything you churn out!
(The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)