So we have seen a lot of new age Indian romantic movies or, as the west calls them, rom-coms. Consider a movie made in the 90’s. The story of any these movies starts off with an arrogant girl and an equally arrogant boy hating each other, who end up falling head over heals about each other. Essentially, the story writer then could not take any liberties in modifying this plot and all he/she could do was to modify how/why/where/under what circumstances these two, in some cases three or more also, met, fought and ended up liking each other. The reason I mention the brief history of rom-coms is that the next day after watching Ala Modalaindi, the movie was still making me think of how we have evolved. It made me think of how movies today, the good ones, do not have silly songs where couples keep running around the bushes anymore. It made me think of how the nakhre-waali ladki is no longer the heroine and instead we have a self-confident girl who is clear about her career and decisions. Look how far we have come in terms of character development!
We rarely see a college student based love-story, like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, thanks to Dil Chahta Hai which started the trend that a story involving folks who work makes more sense. Cinema is truly an reflection of our times. I am not talking about the outrageous southie movies, and Salman Khan movies too, which involve one guy bashing up a hundred goons but the ones like Wake Up Sid and Bommarillu. These did not really have a lot of content and story, like Pyaasa or Don, but the way they presented the protagonists, their confusions and habits, are something at least people from my generation can relate to.
We see more movies these days with the absence of typical love triangles, factionism, fights and stupid dances. Movies today have real-life scenarios like mis-understandings, failures with absence of out-of-the-world coincidences. It is refreshing because any movie which surprises it’s audience, in a pleasant way of course, is what we all want. Don’t we like it when we subconsciously guess the story and it turns out to be something else? Usual Suspects?
Another important improvement has been in screenplay development. We see voice-overs being used in a good way and one of the best examples is Being Cyrus. If you haven’t seen it, give it watch and also listen to it carefully. Even Last Lear had very good voice over effects. We also have non-linear screenplays, the ones flipping back and forth, the ones in which the audience is assumed to understand how the story is going without being told too much, like Johnny Gaddar.
Last and probably most important is the increase in the number of women behind the camera and this brings me to Ala Modaliandi. At the intermission of the film, my friend casually mentioned, don’t movies with women directors have more mature stories? This movie had many ups and a few downs but on the whole was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The humor was witty and the characters had more off-beat jobs, like reality TV directors, veterinarians, social activists amongst others.
Another movie in the same style is Dhobi Ghat, which was relaxedly paced as if the director was in no hurry to tell the story, sub plots into which she did not dwell too much and the best of all, usage of songs only as a background music. A trend which Rang De Basanti had set, where the song is either a part of the story or is just something in the background. I would love to see more of that, where I cannot fast forward the songs and not miss anything, irrespective of the nature of the songs. Telugu films of the 60s used songs as the only mode of expressing romance. There rarely were any dialogs/proposals etc as a part of the dialogs and this made the songs more meaningful and also more enjoyable.
So, I believe that the day is not far when we can stop bothering about the star cast and look at the makers of the film to decide whether to watch it or skip it. And one of these days, we might also not have any hype around a movie and have to see its cast on every reality show a week before its release. Hopefully.
P.S. By no means am I criticizing the movies of the old, but am appreciating the improvement in the quality of Indian cinema. Also, technical details like cinematography and art direction are not relevant in this discussion since they would not make a difference in the quality of cinema.
Image Courtesy: Random “Watch Movies Online” sites, found via google, which promote piracy and do not deserve to be linked.