Just like all things sequel, this part 2 of “The strange ‘genres’ of Hindi cinema” will be longer, have a bigger kill count than the original and might give the impression that I have run out of new ideas to write about. But Hey! at least its not in 3D.
The 100 Crore Films: In the last 10 years, blockbuster Hindi films have become almost unrecognisable from what their ancestors used to be in the ’80s. The biggest difference is the amount of money at stake. It’s still show business, but now show is written in font size 10, while business in size 72. Gone are the days when cinephiles would discuss finer aspects of the craft in their criticism of a film.
Today, all conversations about a film end with a fan drowning out everyone’s voices by screaming “100 crore”. This oft misunderstood and misreported tag has gained precedence over everything else and has managed to capture people’s imagination more than the films themselves. The 100 crore club was started by Aamir Khan with his 2008 hit Ghajini, and today, it’s the hottest place to be. Membership is usually achieved by creating a product that suspends a viewer’s sense of disbelief, aesthetics and gravity.
The Subsidy Films: Indian tourists are xenophobic ‘checklist-charlies’ (a phrase I made up for people who travel only to check off destinations on a list). They refuse to experience the food, drink, fashion or temperature of the place they are visiting. But their love for Switzerland, which stems from a lifetime of watching portly actors serenading a near-freezing sari clad actress, is world famous. Wanting a piece of this Kesari Tours action, some governments offer Hindi film productions subsidies to shoot films in their countries. This has given birth to a whole new type of scam. These movies are normally identified by their ‘Hastily-written scripts’ (often penned on the plane ride there), ‘The lack of any A-list actors’, ‘Innumerable reminders to the audience about which country the beautiful landscape they are viewing belongs to’ and ‘An unhealthy number of cameos by the film’s crew’. These movies usually flop at the box office, but since the producer has already recovered most of his money by showing inflated budgets to the tourism department of the host country, the only ones suffering are the 3 people who ventured into the theatre enticed by the bikini shots in the trailers.
The Adapted Films: Hollywood has always had different screenwriting awards for ‘Best original screenplay’ and ‘Best adapted screenplay’. This is because their filmmakers have a long history of literature at their disposal. The only Indian literature that seems to have made it past independence is in the books written by Mastram, which have recently inspired a film. You may think that the two exceptions to this rule are the epics that have been filmed innumerable times. However, they don’t count, as Indians consider them historical fact and not mythological literature. Recently though, there has been a spate of Indian books being turned into movies, but this is largely a result of both producers trying to disprove their illiteracy, and some screenwriters cleverly hiding the ineptness of their writing under the disguise of novels.
There is another type of Hindi film whose category has become so big that it’s difficult to call it a genre anymore. It seems to be the category that most Hindi films fall into these days. These are popularly called ‘The-leave-your-brains-at-home-films’. This description is usually used by people who have enjoyed these turds, but don’t want to be judged for that. They offer this disclaimer to you as a warning that if you are the type who is unable to switch off your aesthetics along with the ringer on your phone, then the suffering is entirely, your own fault.
[The views expressed here are the author's own.]