Bollywood's Lakshya

Published On: 2012-03-19

Author: unknown

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Bollywood’s Lakshya


By: Dufan Vish

When deciding how movies are supposed to be made, there are many conflicting views. Some believe that movies with depressing, kitchen-sink realism is what true cinema ought to strive for. Whatever is fantastical, escapist and idealist is automatically disqualified as “masala.” But the different receptions of “Koi…Mil Gaya” and “Lakshya” show that movies don’t necessarily succeed because of either realism or its political, social or cultural messages. For a movie to succeed in Bollywood, one needs universal themes…themes such as love, loss, heroism, hope and a little magic. And most importantly, song and dance. People go to movies to take a break from reality.

Lakshya is a fantastic film. But it is about something all newspapers are always about. Why would anyone whose life is mired in poverty and problems go see a war movie? Bollywood has thus far been the opera of the poor masses, and critics seem to miss this point. Through the several decades of struggles of modern Indians, Bollywood provided comfort, beauty and song and dance. In a world where we sit in monochromatic cubicles with 9-5 jobs, Bollywood reminds us that we are most human when we sing, dance and run around the trees. When we have enough of technology, protocol and heavy “art”, there is always a beautiful Hrithik chasing a pretty girl to a very hummable tune. We are reminded that we are not just robots, consumers and taxpayers, but also human beings. Sadly, this humble but human emotional masala is exactly what critics continuously look down on as kitsch.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not against innovation, and I am not against exploring new standards in film. But the point remains: there is a limited field of universal feelings. Even in Hollywood, Spiderman is most likely to be a blockbuster hit than a movie about the artistic turmoil of Virginia Woolfe. Innovation and exploration might work best if technical brilliance remains supportive of the larger, human element. That element is tried and tested: optimistic, operatic masala that everyone in the universe can relate to and enjoy. That is a necessary, but not a sufficient recipe for success, of course. Therefore we need innovation, a twist, a gig. Movies, which think masala is enough, flop. Movies that think innovation is everything risk a gamble, which may not pay off. Try remaking the critically acclaimed “Lost in Translation” for the Indian audiences, and they are (very justifiably) going to ignore it.

My opinions are not prescriptive, but rather descriptive. This is exactly what I see Rakesh Roshan doing. In an ostensibly sci-fi movie such as Koi…, he does not forget to include slapstick humor. Farhan Akhtar gave us a very goofy and adorable Hrithik, at least in the first half of Lakshya, which was universally admired. 

Lakshya did well amongst the NRIs, because their socio –economic well-being can handle realism. It is an emotional luxury their safer lives can afford. But the dehumanized poor of India and of the world need to choose between painful reality and optimistic, entertaining fantasy. (Which would you choose?) Rakesh Roshan does not forget this. He treats his larger, poorer audiences with compassionate dignity, and is willing to entertain them. His movies succeed because his superb craftsmanship is in the service of entertaining…not preaching. His accomplishment of “art” is never arrogant or disdainful of ordinary people and ordinary dreams.

Hollywood movies of the 50’s give us a hint. When USA was going through rough economic times, MGM was making movies about eternal love with lavish sets, improbable themes and plenty of warm tunes. This is exactly where a majority of Indians are in the rat race of economic survival and progress, and this is the type of cinema that we Indians now need. While technically catching up with Hollywood, Bollywood must remain confident in its understanding of the human heart. It won’t be long before a technically weary Hollywood and its jaded audiences would look to Bollywood for a draft of refreshing air.

I look forward to Hrithik’s next movie with his dad. Together, there isn’t a soul on this planet they cannot move. Long live Bollywood, the mesmerizing opiate!