Links: Raanjhanaa, sex tapes and what it takes to make a hit in Bollywood

I’ve been terrible about updating this place, which isn’t quite the end of the world or affecting anyone even remotely. But the least discipline one should show when they’ve taken the decision to open a blog for links to their writing is to, well, link to the writing. So the next few posts will be me trying to play catch-up with, er, myself.

First up, here’s a piece on suicide as a wooing tactic, as seen in the film Raanjhanaa.

Bollywood would also have you believe that the maniac who threatens to kill himself will disappear the moment his lady love says, “I love you too”. In films, he magically becomes the ideal partner. Except if it’s not an affectation, then such behaviour in real life is a dangerous part of one’s personality and it won’t vanish because she said the three little words. If it is an affectation, then the relationship is definitely doomed.

The real problem, of course, is that because suicide as a wooing tactic is just a device in a plot for Bollywood, it simplifies the matter. It’s very easy to draw blood in a film. It takes incredible determination and conviction to slice skin deep enough to bleed, to break your body so that the wound kills you. Watch it happen in Bollywood, and you get no sense of how desperately unhappy one has to be to even try to kill themselves. You don’t understand how so much of a person’s self-esteem is wrapped into the figure of the woman they think they love. Bollywood doesn’t show you any of this and neither does it show the self-centredness of the act or how horrifying and infuriating it is to be a witness and forced to take responsibility for something that is not your fault.

From the poster of Raanjhanaa. I think my reaction to the film and its success is pretty much Sonam's expression.
From the poster of Raanjhanaa. I think my reaction to the film and its success is pretty much Sonam’s expression.

Incidentally, Raanjhanaa was a huge hit. It’s one of the few occasions where I’m entirely perplexed by how a film can become a hit. Most of the time, whether or not I like it personally, I can see why an audience would want to spend time and money on the film. In this case, I’m completely clueless. Also, I’ve rarely come across a more ghastly set of women characters. Both thtaye heroine and the hero’s woman friend are appallingly-written characters. The heroine is an idiot who can’t look beyond herself and thanks to whose stupidity, two heroes die. The woman friend gets hit for no reason and used by two men (who are supposed to be her buddies) to pose suggestively with a stranger. It’s sickening. And, like I said, a huge hit.

From cinema to politics: MLA Jose Thetttayil’s sex tape was on YouTube and actually shown on some tv channels. Why this sort of thing should be on news channels is beyond me. It’s just another example of journalism being equated with sensationalism, which is a bloody shame.

The worst part about scandals like these is that when good journalism is needed — during crises and complex cases, like those involving allegations of sexual abuse — the Indian media seems to be hell bent on proving its ineptitude and greedy sensationalism. The justification is always that the viewers or reading public want it, that this is simply a journalist doing their job. Except of course it isn’t. The role of a journalist is not to exploit circumstances, but to report them and provide perspective. So here’s a news flash: journalism is facing enough challenges in the modern era without journalists themselves making the tribe a laughing stock.

Back to movies, but now from a number-crunching angle. The chief financial officer of Eros, one of the biggest Indian distributors, said they were focussing on medium-budget films. Except his notion of medium budget was rs 35 crore. In case you were wondering, that’s more big than medium. So the moral of the story is what we’ve all suspected: big budgets have more of a chance of becoming blockbusters, and so, more producers are inclined to put money into star-struck productions than medium budget films without stars.

Rarely do producers pick a film whose central strength is story over a star-backed title. Why? Because the numbers inevitably favour the titles touted as blockbusters. They have the stars, it’s easier to publicise such films, there are more brands that want to be affiliated with them and (unless it’s an exception like Himmatwala) drawing audiences is less of a challenge for big budget films. So far this year, Aashiqui 2 and three other films have made Rs 100 crore or more: Race 2,Vishwaroopam and YJHD — all big budget, multi-starrer films. In 2012, not one of the nine films that made the Rs 100-crore club threw up any new names or faces. Luck and producers favour the stars, it seems.


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