Bollywood Follywood
   Date :04-Sep-2022

Bollywood Follywood
“There are three gates to the hell of self-destruction -- lust, anger, and greed.”
These words of Lord Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta, elaborate the reason behind the current phase of the Hindi film industry popularly referred to as Bollywood. Bollywood stars, directors, producers, trade analysts, and even the copycats have started speaking about boycott calls for various movies trending on social media. In the voice of some, one could sense fear of loss of investment made in a movie. While, in the voice of some others, one could sense still-prevailing arrogance. Since this trend has started, social media is all abuzz with hot debates, trading of charges, attempts to label opposite side as foolish, attempts at promoting certain movies and boycotting certain others. However, a rational look at all these debates brings to forth one point that somewhere Bollywood has erred. Erred? Yes! Bollywood, which was till recently self-proclaimed representative of Indian Cinema, has committed certain follies. Let us take a look at them one by one. The first folly has been selectivism. Over the years, Bollywood writers have been engaged in selective targeting of some communities and traditions. Either it is through dialogues, choosing name of villains, portraying some traditions as ‘superstitions’, calling some customs as ‘regressive’, planting symbolisms through wearables of heroes or villains, use of ideological imageries to create positive or negative impression about some religion or caste or grouping, picking up selective parts from real-life incident and tweaking them through change in settings in the name of ‘cinematic liberty’. One need not spell out the examples. For, ‘yeh public hain, sab jaanti hain’. 
Another folly that Bollywood has made is creating strong lobbies. These lobbies have been active in promoting an artist or sidelining an artist. Often, many actors have spoken openly about existence of lobbies that ridicule guys and girls from small towns thus weakening their confidence, unless they ‘conform’ to the standards. Even small things like social drinking, consuming drugs, having long and well-trimmed beards, or men growing hair and women cutting hair are indicative of who is following whom. These lobbies are often referred to as ‘camps’ in Bollywood parlance. They leave little scope for rise of an artist purely on the basis of merit. Instead, they give opportunities to those following certain ideology and alignment. Such ‘camps’ have their own set of writers, actors, music composers, lyricists, singers, fashion designers, and publicists. Sad, but any struggler will tell how he or she had to face difficult situations until he/she joined some or the other ‘camp’. Distortion, deception, and misrepresentation are some of the tools that have been used for years in countless Bollywood movies, without any pulling up of perpetrators by even the veterans in the field. As these things went unchecked, tendency to take the audience for hostage to the content being dished out grew.
So, some incident from real-life was picked up, but names were changed to suit a particular narrative. There were cases, which social media has been pointing out these days, in which linguistic, religious, ethnic, cultural, social identities of characters were ‘carefully crafted’ to peddle even the political interests. Out of this, Bollywood committed another folly of stereotyping certain communities. In recent ordinary movies like Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, which have been touted as entertaining, superstition formed the core. Brahmins were shown as idiotic, Thakurs were projected as superstitious, and half-naked women danced to the tune of song using name of Indian deity. There were movies in which children in typically Indian attire were shown as dancing and making moves that did not suit their age. Actors dressed up like Indian Gods and Goddesses were shown smoking and even dancing. The trading community was always shown as corrupt and greedy, as if all were like that. All these were attempts at stereotyping certain communities.
Once stereotypes are repeated movies after movies, ordinary movie-goers start using those in real life. This, in long term, affects the social harmony. Often, when movies were ‘inspired’ from real-life incidents, perpetrators in real-life were painted as victims and the real-life victim groups were portrayed as perpetrators to create a wider guilt in social groupings. Another folly of Bollywood has been to believe that the Indian audience has not grown up in intellect. So, movie after movie, big production houses in Bollywood kept churning out movies with foolish (innocent, in their promotions) love stories, extra marital affairs, or same ‘masala’ song-dance-action routine. In the name of ‘demand of story’, they overemphasised upon sleaze. When the saner segments in the audience woke up to this woke practice, the Bollywood movie-makers realised that they could no longer fool people in the name of ‘demand of story’. So, they started picking up stories of gangsters, reallife vile characters, women in crime or obscenity and continued showing blood, gore, violence, and sleaze. Now, things have deteriorated so much that sleaze has degenerated to soft-porn.
Use of abusive language, objectification of women, normalisation of drinking of liquor, smoking, drug/substance abuse, teenage immature love affairs, conspiracies etc became ‘trending’ in Bollywood movies. The advent of OTT platforms and ushering in of the era of web-series has done some good things, but the popular (not critically acclaimed and decent ones) web-series centered around sex, abusive language (abuses mostly revolve around mother and sister, but the so-called free-spirited women in industry appear to have consumed gallons of glue in this regard), violence. Clean presentation of story is a rarity. Web-series such as Grahan set against the backdrop of Bokaro riots, Tokyo Trials, Shoorveer, Gullak are fine examples of storytelling. Even The Family Man can pass as gripping series, minus the abuses and teenage kissing scenes. However, web-series have earned such a bad name that young viewers can’t imagine any such series without filthy abuses, cuss words, violence, and soft porn. Gradually, these things become a ‘new normal’ for youngsters without they realising that these things are not welcome in professional life in good companies/corporates. The biggest folly of Bollywood has been to mock Indian cultural values frequently, and show these in poor light. No sane enterprise would take target group for granted for so many years.
Is everything bad in Indian culture? Ridiculing joint families, satirical comments on the sacred institution of marriage, mocking elders in family... became order of the day in the movies, which the ‘mighty clique’ was associated with. They portrayed aberrations as general, and general goodness was reduced to a subject of mockery. There was a time when Bollywood used to make good, entertaining movies for children. Now, several years have passed by and Bollywood has failed miserably in coming out with good, clean entertainment for children. Whatever is dished out as ‘content for children’ has women clad in scanty clothes, making sleazy dance moves, and focuses only on colours instead of story that enriches their childhood with ideals and inspiration.
One wonders why no movie has been made by superrich Bollywood on top scientists of the country? Why has there been no Bollywood movie on Aryabhatta or Chanakya or Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj or Maharana Pratap or Srinivasa Ramanujan or Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha or Dr Vikram Sarabhai or Dr A P J Abdul Kalam or Dr P S Khankhoje or Banda Bahadur or Lachit Borphukan or Khudiram Bose or Indira Gandhi or P V Narasimha Rao or Jadav Payeng... the list goes on. There are so many makers of India and episodes that have shaped the course of history, but they have been left largely untouched by Bollywood. Movies on stories like Anandmath by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Chandrakanta Santati by Babu Devakinandan Khatri, or historic episodes like the Emergency or Chimur and Ashti freedom struggle or merger of Junagadh / Kashmir/ Hyderabad into Independent India, Nandadevi mystery, could prove to be sureshot hits. But, Bollywood does not want the stories. Instead, it has got some overrated writers and directors who are happy making remakes or ‘adaptations’ of some foreign movies, by changing the context and names of characters to suit their propagandism. They are overrated because common audience does not watch many foreign movies, taking advantage of which these writers/directors copy scene after scene from the originals, and even the posters. Instead of celebrating good things, they show anything Indian in bad light, and feel happy to portray foreign things as glorious ones. In many cases, sadly, villain were shown as having firm belief in Indian values and traditions.
At the same time, the heroes were shown as having belief in unIndian, and hence, liberal values. Characters were deliberately shown as performing pooja in one scene, and exploiting or killing people in another. But, heroes were shown as questioning the pooja and such rituals in one scene and displaying kind-heartedness in another. This was done craftily to send across a message that would hit the subconscious mind of the moviegoers and to wean them away from Indian things, towards un-Indian practices. Gradually, phenomenon like ‘festival shaming’ were made part of this vile design under the garb of movie-making. Speaking of un-Indian portrayals through movies, one is reminded of the famous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings on Hollywood dating back to 1947. The book Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H Ryskind, Editor-at-Large, Human Events, brings out the entire thing in shocking details. Let us see some paragraphs from the said book: “John Moffitt was one of the more informative of those who came before the Committee. For fifteen years he had been the motion picture editor of the Kansas City Star, and then, in 1945, he became the motion picture critic for Esquire magazine, considered a prestige publication. He had also worked for MGM, Paramount, Republic, and Warner Brothers... He then testified that (John Howard) Lawson had told him personally, in so many words, “As a writer, do not try to write an entire Communist picture.
The producers will quickly identify it and it will be killed by the front office. As a writer, try to get five minutes of the Communist doctrine, five minutes of the party line in every script that you write.” “These men, along with hundreds of their comrades in the movie industry, were determined to transform Hollywood into a colony of the Kremlin. Indefatigable, they recruited Party members, taught radicals of all stripes their craft at Marxist “academies,” indoctrinated colleagues with their ideology, and schooled fellow writers on how to insert Red propaganda into American films.” The HUAC examined the influence exerted by the Communists in Hollywood movies to set un-American narrative. In Indian context, there is a mix of some ‘external’ influences including Communists, Pakistanbacked financers, and the forces that do not like the rise of India on the strong foundation of Indian values at the world stage. So, the efforts are getting increasingly intense, despite the commercial failures. For, no one questions the Bollywood syndicate regarding source of money. It does not matter for an actor to not act in a movie for a few years or act in a movie that fails at the box office. For, he/she continues to lead a lavish life. So, if everything depends on performance as they say, how can some actors manage to lead an extravagant life, invest money in real estate or firms or buy an island or produce movies, despite failures? This question calls for a deeper scrutiny into the source of funding of Bollywood. The Bollywood rot has started impacting the content-rich regional language film industries too. In some cases, even the regional language film industries are following Bollywood on this un-Indian path. Since their pace of copying Bollywood’s follies is relatively lower, they still come up with some rich content. Some of the South Indian films portray Indian cultural values in right spirit. Marathi movies have always been rich in content, but Marathi web-series are treading the path of cheapness. Some change is coming, but that is mostly from South Indian films and not from Bollywood.
One can write a separate article on content-rich films from Kannada, Bengali, Assamese, etc. For now, the focus is Bollywood and its follies. As people have started seeing through propagandism in especially Hindi movies churned out by Bollywood, they have started using the social media as a potent tool. As a result, The Kashmir Files has become a big-time grosser despite sort of ban on the movie and its makers by so-called mainstream media. And, movies like Laal Singh Chaddha, Shamshera Rakshabandhan that had all the patronage and promotion on so-called mainstream media, have failed miserably and turned out to be disasters due to highly effective boycott calls on social media. Of course, there have been some excellent movies even during the ‘folly years’ of Bollywood. These movies were sound in technique and style, content and intent. Lagaan, Lakshya, Swades, Rocket Singh, Uri, The Tashkent Files, Thalaivii, Hungama, Baahubali, Chak De! India are just a few of the excellent movies from different genre.
They offered some really good content, and were made well. If Bollywood does not introspect and does away with its follies, it will continue to suffer. It needs to shun its arrogance, which got reflected in statements of Arjun Kapoor. Else, the indiscriminate social media campaigns against films, may prove to be bad for any film industry in the long run. Time has come when Bollywood must behave responsibly, respect sensibilities of the audience, be objective instead of distorting facts to peddle un-Indian narrative, and save lakhs of people associated with the film industry from the adverse impacts of boycott campaigns. It is time for Bollywood to stop being Follywood.