The Bollywood Quality Conundrum: Ata Mhaji Satakli

Saidas M. Ranade, Houston, Texas

Note: It is great that the Indians are one of the richest minorities in the US. I am proud of our achievements. I am eager and excited to introduce our wonderful culture to everyone. Unfortunately there is a problem of perception about our culture when it comes to quality and ethics. I have illustrated the problem with three separate articles. This blog entry is about the state of Bollywood, the others are about the state of Indian Cricket and about the state of the local Indian vegetarian restaurants in Houston.

Recently, I watched the movie Singham Returns at a movie theater in Houston. The last time I saw a Hindi movie in a theater was probably 15 years ago.

The Bollywood buzz machine had spiked my expectations. The music, songs, the scenery of Mumbai and the humor lived up to my expectations. Unfortunately, everything else appeared to have been put together in a hurry. For an industry and the stars that make crores of rupees, this to me is unacceptable. I tried telling myself that the movies were not made for me but for the hardworking overworked masses in India. Still I could not understand the overt flaws.

The dialogue was more like mini-lectures. There were monologues followed by monologues. What I expected were conversations. It appeared that they had defined the message and then written a story around it. The writers went out of their way to state that the Hindoo girl lights a candle at a church every week. This seemed completely out of character. They had the slokas in the background score and showed the traditional visit to the Holy Darga. Why do Bollywood movies have to have everything for everyone in every movie? The main dilemma of the Hindi film industry is this. For the United States the reality of life in India strikes the imagination whereas for the average movie-goer in India the reality is too harsh and fiction is more appealing. Unfortunately, the Hindi movie industry which basically is about fictional story telling seems to also want to send out real messages rather than simply tell stories. There clearly needs to be more emphasis on excellence in stories, scripts and dialogues. We need a shift in mindset from movies as a vehicle to sell stars to movies as a medium for truly engaging and entertaining the audiences.

What made me say “Ata mhaji satakli” was some really easy to fix elements. The lighting kept changing during many single takes or scenes. I thought we had made technical advances in that area. Same problem with the sound. It was too loud or too low and some sounds like the sounds of “camera flashes” were distracting. Another difference between what I see in the Hollywood movies and American TV is that in Hindi movies several actors seem to deliver dialogues as if they are on stage in a play or giving a lecture without a mic. The volume is typically too loud. This also seems to be the case with many of the emcees on Hindi TV shows.

It is time we the Indians demand quality. I hope you agree. We the DESIS deserve better!

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