I’m not (entirely) stats obsessed but when a single post begins to attract upwards of 400 hits a day for a solid week, I have to pay attention. There’s probably a rule about it somewhere in the International Blogger’s Handbook and if there isn’t one, there should be: Thou Shalt Pay Attention to Sudden Spikes in Readership.
[Yes, I know there’s no such Handbook, but let’s pretend for a minute here, shall we? I’m discussing stats here, I have to jazz this up somehow.]
To recap, I wrote a review of the Laaga Chunari Mein Daag soundtrack a couple of weeks ago. On the 1st, to be precise. Relatively few people checked it out; the Om Shanti Om review got a lot more attention. Then, all of a sudden, one week ago, LCMD took off like a bottle rocket and is only just re-entering the stratosphere.
It’s not like I tried to fudge things a bit and pass it off as a movie review: the darn thing is titled “Laaga Chunari Mein Daag: A Music Review”. The only way you can even pretend that you thought it was a movie review, is if you tell me you thought it was a review set to music. You know, like a movie review set to show tunes or something. Which by the way is an absolutely boffo idea and I wish someone would do it. Someone who can write a decent lyric, posers who write English lyrics for Hindi songs need not apply.
Okay, I’m going off track.
Point is, I don’t get it. Who are these people (hundreds of them!) and why are they all checking out the music review when the movie is out already? If you like a movie enough to look up its music online, wouldn’t you have already bought the CD (or downloaded it from the internet, whatever tickles your pocket)? Anytime anybody wants to tell me what’s going on, I’d be happy to hear it. I’m not complaining or anything – feel free to come back anytime! – but things like this fascinate me.
The other thing that’s been troubling me about LCMD is the overall reaction to it. There used to be a time when the Yash Raj banner meant major respect. I guess it still does in certain circles but in the public at large, the people who (arguably) really matter to a filmmaker who’s in it for the long haul, it’s begun to generate a kind of knowing glint in the eye that doesn’t bode well for its continued health. It’s the kind of glint that David Dhawan began to labor under in the 90s even though the quality of the two glints is vastly different. It’s the sort of glint that’s slowly begun dragging Ram Gopal Verma down.
They say nothing breeds success like success but they also say too much of a good thing can kill you. It’s always been fashionable to bash candy floss cinema – not just in India but all over the world. And from where I sit, I see it as primarily a backlash against the business aspect of cinema rather than the movies themselves. At the end of the day, a candy floss movie that has been cynically engineered to generate the maximum possible profit makes excellent business sense. On the other hand, it leaves the movie goer feeling like a patsy.
Anytime someone walks out of the cinema feeling cheated, it’s not a good sign. It’s one thing to like or dislike a movie, to be completely indifferent to it, to sleep through one or do the seated jig; it’s another to walk out of a theater feeling like some guy you never met was just groping around in your wallet. But a well made, well crafted candy floss movie is a thing of joy forever. My favorite example (and this is going to get a ton of panties in a bunch) is Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Mili.
It’s my number one comfort movie – weird, because it ends with Mili flying off to die in a faraway land even if the possibility of a happy ending is tantalizingly dangled in front of the viewer. But the point is, it’s pretty much a standard movie story: bubbly girl with incurable disease falls in love and ‘rehabilitates’ wounded hero. Put like that, it’s enough to make you roll your eyes and refuse to watch it. It practically puts on a pink dress and prances around screaming, “Chick flick! Chick flick!” But I don’t know a single human being who’s ever seen that movie and not liked it. Maybe it’s not their favorite as it is mine, but how can you dislike it?
So the real debate, as I see it, has never been about run of the mill vs. “different” storylines. It’s not about “real” cinema vs. pablum. Or even “us” vs. “them” as it can sometimes seem. It’s about sincerity and respect.
I’m not going to address the issue of whether or not LCMD was a sincere effort or whether the people involved in it were respectful of their audience – I don’t know them personally and haven’t seen the movie, so there’s nothing meaningful I can say about that particular issue.
What I can do, is talk in the general sense of things: Chak De India (I can never figure out where to put the exclamation mark in that title so I’m gonna leave it out, if you don’t mind) might have reclaimed some space for YR but from the moment the promos were out, LCMD was being looked at with suspicion. And justifiably so, it seems from the reviews (I haven’t seen it yet, might just wait for the DVD), this one naysayer to the contrary.
I have no advice for YashRaj (or, indeed, any filmmaker) but as a viewer, a member of the audience that really loves its Bollywood just as much as it loves other kinds of cinema, I’d say the time has come to make up your mind. You need to figure out who you’re making the movies for and learn to deal.
Nobody’s going to love you 100% of the time. It’s sad but it’s true and you should have learned this lesson by the time you were thirteen. No matter, you can learn this now. Back in the good old days, I guess people would go see the movies that they didn’t care for because it was the only game in town. They’d even go watch movies that they didn’t understand just because it was a movie and it had pretty pictures: that’s how my grandma went to see Gone With the Wind.
But things are different now and nobody watches stuff they don’t want to. Recognize this and run for the goal post. If you’re gonna make a movie about a woman who takes to prostitution to feed her family and don’t want it to turn into some kind of arty-farty festival movie (no offense to the gassy creatives out there), then that’s your prerogative.
Just don’t stop halfway. Especially to grope our wallets.