We Indians love to exaggerate. Gandhi is not only Bapu but Mahatma also. It is not enough that Patel is Sardar, he has to be called Lauh Purush too. Tagore is Guru and Dev both - together. Nehru was Chacha... Thank god he was not called Mamu also!! Even Indira Gandhi who mothered (politically also) the thuggish Sanjay Gandhi was called Durga!!!
The film Industry in India is, arguably, the most powerful expression of popular culture. Our movies amplified the unreal so much that it became an escape from reality. Our heroines knew nothing except purity, virtue and sacrifice. They fell in love with men like Sunny Deol who took on the entire Pakistani State all alone in Gadar. That love gave them so much warmth that they could gyrate in skimpy clothes on the frozen lakes of snow capped Alps.
The movies made by Benegals and Nihlanis in late seventies and eighties on real issues were called parallel cinema. Escape was the mainstream. Nineties was the Zenith of escapist Cinema. Kitsch was at its pinnacle in Karan Johar combining with Shahrukh Khan and making Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam where Shahrukh Khan was so good at not acting. Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan, by achieving so much success with such sloppy escapist work, epitomized the mediocrity which thrives in every other sphere in our society. No other combo has achieved such success with such shallow delivery except, possibly, the director and actor combo of Sonia and Manmohan.
The last decade though, has been a welcome change. The emergence of directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag kashyap, Thigmanshu Dhulia, and the likes has given us stories of real people. They have got rare acting talents like Irfan Khan and Nawajuddin Siddiqui to give flesh and blood to these real people and not rouge and mascara of the escapist cinema.
Their movies, in their attempt to discover reality, have taken us deeper into layers of our existence which is good, bad and ugly at the same time. In our daily existence, we attempt to ignore the unpleasant or sweep our passions – good or evil - under the carpet. Their work has tried to show us the mirror. They are fascinating because they tell us about the most unpredictable story, the real Life. Watching the filth of hinterland has made us more lively. The imported beauty of Swiss locations was numbing us.
Bombay Talkies is an unique joint effort of different directorial talents. Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar and Dibakar Banerjee tell us four separate stories combined by a common thread in celebration of hundred years of Indian Cinema.
Dibakar Benerjee has adapted a short story of Satyajit Ray. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a failed actor who can not even get the job of a security guard. Telling stories would have been his vocation if he had stuck to acting. However, he looked for the safety of a job, landed nowhere and is not even able to tell a story to his daughter. He finds an opportunity to do a tiny role by accident. He gets in touch with his lost soul and finds the story of his life.
Karan Johar’s violent discovery of the bisexuality of a married man is hard hitting. The easy going manner of the young gay man hitting on the intense and married journalist in the background of the song “Lag Ja Gale” creates artistic tension. I am still grappling, whether, the use of lovely old song was to soothe the nerves or to inflame passions! The pain of your most tender passions being in conflict with social norms is portrayed touchingly. A brush with reality can do so much good to Karan Johar. Karan, Please leave Shahrukh and Firang locations. Go to Kalahandi or Gorakhpur and tell us some beautiful stories which you seem to be capable of.
Zoya Akhtar takes up the riveting conflict of desires of a middle class father and his tiny son about the latter’s future. The father wants him to play football and be Macho. The tender hearted kid wants to dance with effeminate moves. The stage is set for a pulsating story but it splutters when the story moves to the kid’s fascination about Katrina Kaif.
Anurag Kashyap tells the fantastical story of the obsession of a father-son duo from Allahabad about the Mega Star Amitabh Bachan. Anurag’s story is the weakest link of the battery. Is it so because he is not in his familiar territory of reality and has gotten into fantasy?
Dibakar Banerjee’s story is the true celebration of hundred years of Indian cinema. Dibakar seems to be perfecting his art in his fifth movie. He shows almost complete command over the medium and gives a flawless treatment to a beautiful story. This is expected from somebody who has made Khosla Ka Ghsola, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Love Sex & Dhokha and Sanghai.