Monday, May 29, 2006

Mediocrity Thrives...

Long time back - about half a decade back to be precise, I had an argument with a dear friend of mine about movies. The premise of the contention was that whether acceptance of Govinda-movies is indicative of the psychological maturity and quality of consciousness of a society. My opinion at that time was to let people make the choice as to what they want to watch. And that it is completely justified for actors like Govinda to make such films.

Today, I hold an opinion which is completely contradictory to that. And I have my friend to thank for that.

The point is our sense of judgement is so very relative and is so grossly dependent on the choices we explore that more often than not we resort to hailing what is mediocre as 'good' and what is 'good' as 'excellent'.

This phenomena unfortunately is imbibed, ingrained into every aspect of our life. Each one of us - we thrive on mediocrity, we revel in it; little realizing that our best is nowhere near the parameters set out by the rest of the world - specially when it comes to cinema.

Of course, many think that we have arrived, that our movies have a unique proposition, that we are being 'discovered' by the world (reminds me of Columbus!) while some question the basis of classifying cinema itself ! (God help Eigenstein and Chaplin - wherever they are)

All of these mindlessly ridiculous logic stems from the belief that cinema is entertainment(which it is) and entertainment is frivolous. Many a time I have heard
"I don't want to think while I am watching a movie" or
"Kya movie dikha rahe ho yaar !" (when told about movies like One Flew..../Operation Daybreak/Scarface/Scarecrow...) or
"Why should cinema be always serious?"

While I am prepared to concede or rather unequivocally accept that most definitely the answer to the last question is a firm "No", the first two express a total ignorance about cinema and a disturbing thought that educated, fertile, apparently open minds wish to remain oblivious to reality or shall we say 'harsh reality'. Indeed 'feel good' has got to us !

So, whats the way out ? How do you make people watch good stuff ?

Is it possible at all ?

The answer is a 'Very Difficult Yes'. It requires a lot of patience and continuous exposure to quality stuff - which again is very difficult to define;(apparently everybody has his/her own definition of 'quality').

If we consider the top hundred movies of all times and blindly go about watching them, then chances are that in 80% of the cases, we would be exposed to really good quality movies - rich in terms of content as well as quality craftsmanship.

But the jump from the typical masala that Mumbai (Bollywood aka Follywood or vice-versa) churns out day-in and day-out to these symbolic yet refreshingly novel movies made by Europeans and Americans is so humongous that the initial experiences create a sense of revolt deep within and this is the greatest deterrent to pursuing the venture.

That remains for the first five to seven movies of such kind. Then its pure inertia and perfect bliss. But for this to happen the basic criteria is the knowledge or realization that what we are watching now leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality and an equal desire to change it - which unfortunately is lacking in most.

So, finally, since everything depends on personal perception and choice, all of the words above are useless !

Monday, May 22, 2006

Its Classified !

How many times have we heard this ? How many times have we been exposed to materials that is screened by others only to be told finally that 'this' is inflammatory, that 'that' is a sensitive issue, how many times we have we been the cynosure of abject humiliation ?

Yet, we do nothing.

Because the moment one of 'us' suddenly find a voice to speak, when out of the blue the thought strikes us to strike back - to question the very essence of authoritarianism, we are included as part of 'that' elite. By the allure of responsibility to safeguard the interests of society, by letting open the valve for a split second to let go off the steam !

And we never will do anything.

Because we are incapable of standing up.
Because its not a comfort zone.
Because it does not concern 'me'.
Because it is someone else's problem.
Because we do not even understand that we are humiliated.
Because we love to ridicule or question when someone does so simply because it hits us on the face that we lack character, that we lack strength, that we lack the most basic form of humanity - that of consciousness.

Rang De Basanti tries (and unlike as many think not for the first time) to address specifically this concern. Ankush did that before. So did Arjun. So did Main Azad Hoon. And Hum Paanch. (Did I hear anyone say that RDB is the first film not to have 'one' central hero ?) All of them succeeded - but only as a movie; not as an instrument of social consciousness. It never will be.

Because we end up doing exactly the same things that we loathe when we are on the other side. Its innanely, uncannily, perplexingly funny how we forget what we were, what we are and what we will be. Such is the power of power.

In a conversation I overheard one of my exasperated friends ask this critical question to another "Who gives you the right to decide what is interesting to me?" - to an explanation put forward by the latter about "how divulging the information would lead to mayhem and end the suspense!".

For a second I should have asked them to swap places !