It’s been a while since we last met, or actually not. It was odd two weeks ago that we met at a plush theatre while you shared the popular tale of wrestling queens, the Phogat sisters.
There was a time when our interaction was limited to the TV screen, the advent of CDS and DVDs made you a frequent visitor on my home-screen; and oh boy, the multiplexes started our dainty love story. We would meet every Friday evening, like Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore from 50 First Dates, not knowing what to expect, because every time I met you, it seemed like a first date full of surprises.
At the age of 5, my endless chattering reminded my uncles and aunts of Basanti from Sholay they would say. Despite oblivion, in my head, she became my answer to “Which Bollywood character are you?” quiz back then.
As understanding of cinema sunk, I did make sure that I watched the 3 hours 24 minutes long drama to eventually realise how simply the makers had managed to create magic, the kind that makers struggle to create today. Cliché as it sounds in present times (although it still holds true), I haven’t come across a dialogue in Indian cinema enjoy the cult status like Gabbar’s, “Jo Dar Gaya, Samjho Mar Gaya,” did.
While I understood and appreciated Sholay at a later stage in my life, my first big screen viewer experience began with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai at 4 years of age! For the longest time, I had Anjali’s haircut and aspired to play Basketball. Oh, and did I mention, my neighbour (who was about 6 years old then) and I greeted each other like this?
As a 20 something, Karan Johar, the acclaimed/criticised/envied director played a major role in the films I grew up watching. As I mentioned earlier, K2H2 won my heart but K3G won my applauses. I mocked but secretly loved Pooh because, “Tumhe koi haq nahi banta ki tum itni khoobsurat lago.”
Aman from Kal Ho Na Ho was a magician who could fix all problems. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna confused me at 12 because weren’t movies, KJO movies about happy endings with the one and only? “Aren’t extramarital affairs a big no-no?” I thought to myself back then.
As time passed, I grew distant of KJO films because they started to come across as elaborate sets, less content, featuring leading stars, mostly Shah Rukh Khan until Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani with its commercial value managed to grip my attention. The Ranbir Kapoor starrer movie was a reminder that Karan Johar movies aren’t supposed to please the Shakespearian thought cloud in you, but instead, for those 2-3 hours, make you forget that you were having a bad day.
Realisation dawned upon me that larger than life sets, rich urban and NRI nostalgia are perfectly fine because cinema doesn’t always have to confirm your version of reality, but should strike a chord with you on some level.
While that was Karan Johar’s share of films (I couldn’t fit them all) in an odd 20 something’s life, we all rooted for Bhuvan from Lagaan, firmly believed in Munnabhai’s Jaadu ki Jhappi, took a trip to Goa like the boys from Dil Chahta Hai, memorised Kaho Na Pyaar Hai’s signature step and mouthed, “Mein Apni favourite hoon” on several occasions.
We’ve loved it each time Bollywood shared a message loud and clear with films like Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Oh My God, Pink and others, but each time we witnessed Bollywood being ‘inspired’ by Hollywood flicks without crediting the original source, our confidence in Bollywood fell a little like the stocks’ value. Each time, the climax moment was dramatised to a peak level for no apparent reason, we cringed, “Why Bollywood?”
Every time the ‘representation’ of the youth, gender equality, relationships took an extreme turn, we changed our path and shifted our alliance to Hollywood the next weekend. Every scene that suggested eve teasing or dialogues cheesier than we like our pizza could woo a woman, we died a thousand deaths.
To conclude this open letter to Bollywood from a 20 something, here’s a little request: Dear Bollywood, we’ve turned to you in times of restive and respite, please don’t disappoint us in the forthcoming years because much like our parents, we too would like to quote and boost of home-grown films than just being a generation of what I call the global desis, enamoured by the Western influence alone.
P.S: Dear Bollywood, here’s to sharing a consistent love-hate relationship for life, yours, a 20 something. Until next time, #StayCurious 🙂