Thursday, November 17, 2011

OLD WINE- WITHOUT THAT NEW BOTTLE PLEASE!!

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Bollywood films take us to a world of make believe where “anything” is presented as being possible. Remember those Big B films of the 1980s and 70s when Vijay would single-handedly bash up dozens of the bad guys.? He would romance the heroines ( never mind if the heroines were daughters of millionaires while he may have been a car mechanic), sing songs and care for his mother- the hero in other words was a super human being  also know as “superman”! These films were said to be very cathartic for our masses who felt that they were living their dreams through the three hours that they spent inside the theater

But the same period also showcased some films which were about “ordinary mortals”- or the middle classes. It dealt with issues around their lives. Though it had “de glamorized” heroines and heroes it still managed to have an audience among a group of people. Hrishikesh Mukherjee , Basu Chaterjee and later Gulzar made a number of such films. There was another group of film makers who also made  the same genre of films– The Rajshri productions.!

While Hrishida and Basuda’s films died a slow death in the post nineties era of liberalization and open markets, the Rajshri films did not. Actually, like the phoenix this production house rose again- making and remaking films to fit the need of the new times.

Thus, was made “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” -  a saccharine sweet love story with a middle aged heroine masquerading as a teenager. Compare this to the original – “Nadiya ke Paar” which was made in the 1980s .Set in the rural districts of northern India, it had a young Sadhana Singh and Sachin playing very believable characters of Goonja and Chandan. It had no great wedding songs and neither did it have any garish sets. The movie probably did not do very well in regions outside of UP and Bihar.

But come, the 1990s the production house dished out the same story with a so called “star cast” going on to become one of the biggest hits of the decade! This film (or shall we say the longest wedding video?) had characters who lived “ extremely over the top” lives. They followed it up with “Hum Saath Saath Hain”.  “Main Prem ki Diwani hoon”- similar drivel with story lines based on an “ancient value system” irrelevant in today’s context but again made saccharine sweet in very over the top sets!


I have grown up watching many Rajshri production films – “Geet Gaata Chal”, “Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaye”, “Paheli” etc.  I  loved the simplicity that they were able to bring out in their characters. Sachin was one of their permanent fixtures – very symbolic representation of the uncomplicated youth of his times. Among their heroines, there were a lot of fresh faces –usually very ordinary looking girls that one could identify with- completely fitting the characters they played.

So why the shift to Salman and Madhuri? Can a person seriously believe Madhuri’s portrayal of Nisha in “Hum Aapke….”.  or Kareena’s in “Main Prem Ki Diwni hoon”?  I think the closest that any character in  one of their recent films came true to their usual type was Bhagyashree in “Maine Pyar Kiya”. Trouble was that while “Prem” became a permanent fixture in their present day films “Suman” got left behind-this was a pity because  “Suman” was the real Rajshri person in “Maine….!”

But that has not bothered them because as they seem to have understood what the public wants. The public obviously wants  what they consider “Indian Values” sugar coated in yards of silk and chiffon with jhatkas and thumkas! I guess their “Paheli” heroine today might be mistaken for a extra in their own movie!

The biggest victim of this kind of “going overboard” with gilt and glitz has been the music. While their earlier films had some sweet and melodious music, today we have in their films some very inane tunes with words that somehow do not gel with the times. To put it very simply I can only say that it sounds very false!

I wish the Rajshri Group would go back to making the kind of movies that they used to . .Making  it relevant to today’s times, does not require fancy sets and highly paid heroines. The story just needs to be made contemporary but the simplicity which I always thought was their USP need not be compromised upon!

To conclude, I can only say that their films today  remind me of a favorite aunt from a small town who has gone to a beauty parlour  for a “make over” and emerged looking like she has entered a fancy dress competition. Barjatya babus- bahut ho gaya. Give us back some of your old characters. Salman , Hrithik Kareena or  Madhuri are poor substitutes for Sachin, Sarika and Rameshwari. Even  Arun Govil in "Saawan ko Aaane Do" was preferable...!!!

13 comments:

anilkurup said...

I was wondering why you did not specifically mention "Sawan Ko ane dho" while you mentioned Rajshree productions. But you did in the end, and yes indeed Arun Govil was better than the steroid chewing Salaman Khan . Though the film was a revelation for music, Zareena Wahab and Amrish Puri. You also did not mention three other greats ,Mrinal Sen and his Mrigaya, Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihlani.

A westerner once asked me if Indians were always dancing , singing and merry making amidst the deprivation?

I do admit that the morphine that is the fantasy of Indian films may be a panacea for the millions who barely eke out a square meal a day, but it is just cabaret and not creative art or entertainment. It is drugging and perpetual mirage , fantasy.

I'm certain I will be in the miority!

Readitt said...

nice post,, impressed , joined your site too !!

www.readitt.in ( the e magazine)

Rachna said...

Have you seen Rajshri's Saudagar -- the Amitabh, Nutan, Padma Khanna movie? One of the simplest movies and one of my favorites. Ah, the old ones were so good. I loved Nadiya Ke Paar!

Meera Sundararajan said...

Yeah Rachna I have seen Saudagar. Didn't know it was a Rajshri film. @ Anil Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal et al are also my favs but they are a little too "high brow" for the AAM JANTA. This post is about easy to follow, simple entertainers!@ Readitt welcome to my blog

Juxtaposition said...

I can totally understand your stand on this. I too love the old ones better. But in many ways, movies like "Hum aapke hain Kaun" are just dreams of what everyone wants their lives to be like. Perfect! Not in the sense that tragedy is lacking. In the sense that its dealt with grace and beauty. Films were always about larger than life stories. The idea is to see something other than normal mundane life on screen, to relax the common janta. I agree with them on this. I too would prefer a happy movie on screen if I had nothing but sorrow in my life.

sunil deepak said...

Nadiya ke paar though targeted only at UP-Bihar, was a big hit during those times. But Rajshri films are in the grips of a time wrap. Their simple films probably won't have buyers/viewers now because that kind of films have become serials for TV and so they have big stars but living in another time zone! Rather looking to them for future, it is good enough to look at their long and rich past :)

Gayu said...

What's it with the songs these days...I am unable to remember the lyrics...I was famous in my school and college days to identify the song just as the music would play...but these days the songs don't interest me.

2012 is gonna be a remake year..with Don2, Krish2, Dhoom # and Race2..and what not...I even heard Dabangg2..huh...

We need good writers..who can write stories that touch the hearts of many...that inspire us...

BTW, here is the part two of my Single parenting story.
http://gsaptekar84.blogspot.com/2011/11/single-parenting-part2.html

Tomz said...

Unfortunately I hadn't seen many of the films that you mentioned in this beautiful article. But I can't stop without appreciating the way you portrayed the beauty of such old movies..

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Tomz you are too young to have seen the films I have written about or listened to those songs:)

@ Gayu rehash of what is already bad makes no sense. You are right about the music. The songs all sound the same.

@ Sunil Deepak, you are right about the simple Rajshri films not having any buyers. But I cannot understand how people watch the nonsense that they are dishing out these days!

@ Juxtaposition as we know movies are all about selling dreams. But Hum aapke was nothing short of a nightmare!

Rhapsody B. said...

Blessings and Namaste...
Although i grew up watching many indian movies i won't be able to name any of them though i remember some themes. I didn't like the ones that were too much into fantasy nor the ones that were too violent. I much preferred the once that were about human being triumphant over trials and tribulations throw at them in life and love winning over all adversties especially those of overbearing, opinionated parents that thought they new all.

My only contribution to this piece is to say that i don't fancy the films that have english i much prefer the subtitles. I don't like when it become too westernized its a turn off. While i do expect evolution and growth i don't expect and annialation of all the traditions.

take care.....
stay blessed.
Rhapsody
http://twitter.com/rhapsodyphoenix

Rahul said...

u shud have seen their tv serial 'woh rehne wali mehlo ki'..my mom used to watch it...it was one horrendous horror fest to me....

rama said...

Very True.
How I yearn for the old classics, where story, acting, and music all blended well...

Emmy said...

Never seen any of the movies you mentioned except the newer ones with salman lol

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