Lately, there have been a lot of Hindi movies and soap operas that pick a particular piece of history or a real life incident and weave a Bollywood drama around it and with these comes a disclaimer right in the beginning that the movie does not intend to deliver factual details and is a work of fiction.
This leads the audience to question whether they should believe the instances shown in the movie or mindlessly watch just another random piece of entertainment?
What is the difference between such movies and other completely fictional movies (sometimes mindless too, remember Sajid Khan?) that only intend to ‘entertain’?
My question is, how justified is it to play with the ‘largely accepted facts’ when you are delivering your story through a medium that reaches a huge population and people tend to take it at face value.
I believe it becomes the responsibility of the maker to get their facts right before they even think of treading the path of history.
HISTORY LESSONS V/S MASALA BOLLYWOOD!
This should be taken care of even more when the events are connected to recent history because of more ways to record evidence due to emerging media, for instance, the recent release Rustom.
An extra angle of corruption and a political scam has been unnecessarily added to an already attention grabbing story of adultery and murder. Some facts have been played with.
For instance, Rustom Pavri played by Akshay Kumar, fights his own case and does not opt for a lawyer while in reality Nanavati’s case was handled by the most top-notch lawyers of the country back then.
While Rustom had some hits and misses, Mohenjodaro was downright disastrous. Bollywood has the capacity to apply its formula film plot to almost any context – rich girl meets poor boy. They fall in love. There is an evil villain who is ultimately defeated by the hero in his quest to save an entire community/society. End of story.
But when you pick up a topic like an early civilization, about which there are obscure evidences and multiple versions available for each facet of its existence, it becomes your duty to understand and give in your best shot to verify your stance and engage the audience in a plot that is refreshing and gives them some food for thought.
Right from the costumes; (particularly those worn by Pooja Hegde with the regular Bollywood deep necks and slits up until the thighs in the gown), to a sequence showing Arabian horses during the civilization that were only introduced in the subcontinent by the Aryans much later; to the fair complexion of the characters and finally, the basic identity i.e. the title of the movie, everything seemed highly under-researched.
Bajirao Mastani is another such example which was criticized for its bleak representation of true facts and of course what is a Bollywood film without a dramatic climax.
SOAP OPERAS NOT FAR BEHIND!
This is not simply restricted to Bollywood films, but even soap operas. Yes indeed, there is a lot of other stuff that is already indigestible and cringe-worthy about Indian serials already.
But when it comes to soap operas that deal with Indian history, one should not get carried away to use the regular tactics of plastic surgery or supernatural elements. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen.
Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat and Jodha Akbar are two primary examples of history being played with so brutally that they almost make you think that the protagonists were no different than what WE are in our daily lives.
The serial Jodha Akbar has had plots where Akbar wants his beloved wife Jodha to try on a Western dress or an incident where a ‘bad spirit’ wants to marry Akbar so she tortures Jodha while being invisible.
Say thanks to the Almighty that the show has gone off air!
Similar plotlines of bad spirit and black magic have also been seen on Chakravartin Ashok Samrat.
Moreover, there has been a constant increase in the number of historical or mythological soap operas since the new Mahabharata became a hit with the audiences. There are separate shows based on Karna, Hanuman, Sita and the like.
Why do makers pick such stories?
Half-baked stories that are easily available to which one merely has to add twists and turns makes the work of the makers easier and compensates for the lack of stories.
Forget Mughal or colonial history, the recent trend of ‘Biopics’ in Bollywood also highlights the same i.e. a lack of novel ideas.
The purpose then remains to create an aura of greatness around the protagonist which raises them to the bar of a quintessential hero of the 80s who was self-righteous and an epitome of ‘Sanskar’. The prototype of this approach can be the movie Azhar.
The man had such a controversial life – both personally and professionally. But the movie barely touched any deeper levels of his character.
The pointless screenplay lightly touched upon the two major yet obscure aspects of his life i.e. match-fixing and Sangeeta Bijlani and finally turned him into a hero for no reason.
I presume this to be a sheer lack of creativity, exhaustion of new ideas and a perpetual problem of writers not being given the opportunity to explore that filmmakers or soap opera writers sometimes seem to handpick a particular historical figure.
From there, the only work left is where they apparently change mere fringes of the story in their attempts to add ‘masala’ to it and bring it in conformity with the melodrama associated with Bollywood or Indian TV.
Moreover, the fear to experiment is a major deterrent. Stories that have already been heard and told many a times tend to be a safe route to follow. Adding mediocre dialogues or spectacular landscapes to embellish the movie in an attempt to leave an imprint of your style over a half-cooked story, cannot be passed off as creativity every time.
Stop disappointing Bollywood!
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.