As happy as I am about the Mumbai Film Festival resurrecting itself through the love of its fans and with the support of the film industry, this piece (http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/imran-khan-gets-booed-film-snobs-dont-want-bollywood-part-mff-1759369.html) really irked me. Imran Khan, who was called to present one of the films at the fest, was booed by ‘film buffs’ on stage, and I’ll be honest here: this hypocrisy prevalent in some of us is terrible, shameful and also a little bit sad.
Let’s talk about the hypocrisy relating to Bollywood first. I’ll be the first to say that I have a disdain for most Salman Khan films, all Anees Basmee films and pretty much everything Sajid Khan touches and turns to shit. But that angst doesn’t come from a place of looking down upon Bollywood, it comes from being a huge fan of all that’s glorious about Bollywood and from realising that mainstream Indian films today have become a shoddy derivative of what they used to be in the time of Manmohan Desai and Amar Akbar Anthony or even in SRK’s ’90s with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I care about Bollywood and that’s why you find me, many a times, speaking out against the films of today.
But that’s also why you find me promoting the Bollywood films I like as much as I do the little indie films of today. If I liked and plugged Filmistaan, Ankhon Dekhi or for that matter, Queen and Haider; I also enjoyed Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, Daawat-E-Ishq, 2 States and Khoobsurat, and have never shied away from letting that be known, because Bollywood has, is and will always be a part of our cinematic culture and of what makes us unique globally. So even if we may not like it at all or stand for it, we should still respect it, because there’s space for all kinds of cinema to coexist. Sometimes, it ultimately boils down to a film being a good film or a bad one, and it’s perfectly alright to have an opinion on that, as long as we are equally accepting of a counter opinion, or are just tolerant, for that matter.
Which brings me to the Imran Khan incident: It’s besides the point whether or not he holds up as an actor or whether or not he’s done good films (I’ve personally *loved* many of his films) or the fact that he’s stood up for causes on many occasions or even the fact that the Mumbai Film Festival may not even have happened this year if ‘Bollywood’ may not have rallied to support it. He is an actor belonging to the film industry we hold in such high esteem, that we love and are die hard fans of (whether the Bollywood or the alternative part), and for that and that alone, he, and every young or old actor, deserves our respect. We cannot and should not look down upon him or any actor for that matter because their choice of our movies don’t match up to our standards.
It also reminds me of an incident during the year before last’s Mumbai Film Festival, when Silver Linings Playbook was the opening film, and post the film, Anupam Kher, who had a supporting role in it, was called upon stage for a QnA. More than half the audience exited the auditorium when he came on stage, and none of the others cheered or clapped or bothered to ask any questions. Kher gracefully thanked everyone and exited almost immediately, and understandably. If that’s how we treat a man of Kher’s stature, it’s not a surprise that Khan was booed too.
Now to all those people who look down upon Bollywood because they like ‘world cinema’: I have interviewed over 30-40 international filmmakers including the likes of Richard Linklater, Nicolas Winding Refn, David Cronenberg, and you know what everyone says about our industry? As much as they are inspired by Satyajit Ray or are interested in Anurag Kashyap’s filmography, they are *fascinated* by Bollywood. They love the song and dance – many have spoken about how much they loved a Lagaan or 3 Idiots or any SRK film. I actually had a month long email exchange with Oscar-nominated director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin, who had seen ‘My name is Sheela’ somewhere, and wanted suggestions on similar songs because he was so hooked. I sent him a bunch of Vishal-Shekhar and Pritam songs and he loved ALL of them!
The reason these guys like Bollywood as much as they like our indie stuff is because they love how Bollywood makes us distinct and they celebrate that as much as they respect our alternative cinema. So the fact that we ourselves have little respect for an aspect of our pop culture that is celebrated across the world, just as much as a Ravi Shankar or Zakir Hussain or AR Rahman are, is shameful. Especially since we enjoy a ‘Sheela ki jawaani’ or ‘Chhamak chhalo’ just as much as the average Bollywood fan, and continue buying tickets for a blockbuster Khan film in a multiplex far more than we do a smaller, niche film. PVR Rare releases a bunch of independent or world cinema films every month – NONE of them last over a week, because no one’s going to the cinema to watch them. How many of us know of Avinash Arun’s Killa that won a Golden Bear at Berlin or Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court that won at the Venice Film Festival? So why this hypocrisy?
On a side note, it disturbs me how we are moving towards being a culture of mean-spirited bullies. And I’m not just talking about Bollywood or India, but globally. The internet has empowered many a troll to take down someone’s opinion or point of view or artistic endeavors, that too, anonymously. People who haven’t had the courage to step out and do things on their own are today sitting behind a computer screen and laughing at people who do, however good or bad they might be is besides the point. Who are we to judge someone’s talent? Who are we to say someone’s way of living life or someone’s right to an opinion or someone’s way of expressing themselves is any better or any worse than someone else? It’s not about ‘trying’ or enjoying yourself today; unless you are the very best at what you do, people are going to be assholes to you.
How has ‘not giving a shit’ become a cool thing? Why is mean, snide and snarky trolling ‘liked’ or enjoyed? How did we because such a people? Why is being sympathetic or nice or kind looked down upon today as a sign of weakness? Social media and instant messaging and the shift towards being a ‘right now’ generation has turned us into a people of knee jerk reactions. We are now a culture that is quick to pull others down because they don’t meet *our* expectations of how *they* should lead their lives. No matter how anyone justifies it, this is, sadly, nothing to be ‘liked’.
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