Don’t know when this paradigm shift (as they call it) occurred, but it sure did. Time was when Indian movies were of the type that portrayed mainly the angst of the country side, the poor, and the rustic – Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (in fact, most Raj Kapoor movies), Gopi, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Awara, Jagte Raho, Apna Desh, etc. Now according to Mahmood Farooqui the poor and dispossessed have no role – literally – in Hindi cinema. One of the most comprehensive and acerbic of analyses done on our own Hindi cinema by writer and Dastangoi artiste Mahmood Farooqui appears here. Excerpt:
“Time was when one had to learn Urdu to survive in the Hindi film industry. Now, if one does not know English, one would find it difficult to find work of any sort. Most of today’s stars can speak only English fluently. Hindi film posters and promos rely increasingly on English. Scenarios, screenplays and scripts are written originally in English, and even the dialogues tend to be translations from English, but the actors’ and the makers’ lack of command over written or spoken Hindi seems of no consequence.
“This neo-real cinema, then, is also a neo-liberal one. It is made by English-speaking middle classes, for the English-speaking middle classes, for people who also watch Hollywood and regard it as ‘world cinema’, for people who live in flats and aspire to a universal, americanised lifestyle. As such, Bollywood today produces two kinds of films, fantasies of the old sort and a new socially relevant film. Whereas earlier masala films pitted their relevance on certain universal truths about Indian society – love between social unequals, poor vs rich, badmash vs sharif – this cinema tries instead to recreate an expanding and self-referential middle-class habitus, where the poor and the marginalised do not even find the token representation they did earlier. Films that have been big hits in recent years treat relationships either as a matrix between two adults who do not occupy a social space – Chalte Chalte, Hum Tum, Fanaa, Salaam Namaste – or as a story of families where emotions (the Karan Johar films) and not their social location provides the main conflict.”
Nowadays even the poor are shown in incredible fashion, something to overwhelm and wow the audience – Vasthav, Satya, Hera Pheri – (A very slender list, because I don’t see many Hindi movies these days. What with the prices of movie tickets in multiplexes, the number of kerchief-in-the-neck-and-whistling-at-heroines front bencher is gone. Nowadays I am more glued to UTV World Movies.) with sets that makes one go “What’s that?”