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Big Is Not Always Beautiful

Friday, November 30, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Some denizens of the Hindi film industry do not like it when it is referred to as Bollywood, but do nothing when the Hollywood wannabe-ness shows; and not always in a nice way.

The latest example is Thugs Of Hindostan, which tried to be a desi Pirates Of The Caribbean, and instead of a relatable plot, stuffed the film full of computer generated imagery. Special effects should, ideally, complement a story, not replace it. Hollywood somehow manages to turn videogames, theme park rides, comics and children’s books into grand spectacles, which are then turned into long-running franchises. But their large studios have the resources, and they have a global market to help recover costs and make profits. When Indian filmmakers try to make superhero films, they usually flop. Because they replace a good script with big-budget effects, so that they can boast that they have made the most expensive film of all time. But the general audience does not care how much the film cost, they want to be entertained.

And no matter how big the budget, there are limitations, and so much of the CGI in Indian films ends up looking tacky—though many Hollywood filmmakers outsource their animation and VFX to Indians.

Now that the big Hollywood franchises are being released after being dubbed in Indian languages, audiences expect that level of quality and entertainment, and as far as the sci-fi, fantasy, superhero franchises go, India is badly lagging behind.

Shankar’s Enthiran (Robot) was technically polished, but its science was totally nonsensical and in its sequel,2.0, it is even more elementary.  But if the story engages in other ways, the Indian audience doesn’t care, in Rakesh Roshan’s three Krrish films, audiences accepted an alien (Koi Mil Gaya) and a superhero (Krissh) in a terribly designed costume, because at the core of the films were family, love, revenge—which usually work for Indian audiences, after the masala of song-and-dance is sprinkled on it. Then they won’t laugh at how a scientist made contact with outer space by just using a computer and the word “Om.”  In 2.0 there is some talk of hitting negative forces with positive energy, and it’s too ludicrous to even snigger at. Never mind that the name of Asimov (sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov) is invoked in vain.

When Bollywood does time travel, there is the awful Action Replay, when they do a futuristic fantasy there’s Love Story 2050, which probably nobody remembers. Thankfully, Bollywood has spared the Jurassic era, and a Star Wars kind of inter-galactic saga is beyond them.

Hindi cinema’s strengths—romance, emotion, family, music—always work with a good story, if done well, and the world appreciates these aspects of Bollywood cinema; but our filmmakers want to make the most expensive films ever… which are not necessarily the best.

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