The man driving the cab could have been any age between 40 and 55. Since I chose to sit up front for the 40 minute drive, he decided to pass the time talking to me rather than his friends on radio. He was from Pakistan, he said, and a Bollywood fan.
“Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar,” he said enthusiastically. “Those are actors!”
“You don’t like any of the younger lot?”
“Shahrukh Khan,” he shrugged. “Aamir Khan. But nothing like the old ones.”
I agreed dutifully. Perhaps there are Bollywood fans out there who believe otherwise; all I know is that if I even dared think along those lines, lightning would immediately strike me dead. I believe it’s Rule Number One in the Bollywood Handbook – Thou Shalt Revere Those Who Came Before.
“Besides, these days it is all different,” he mused as we drove through a steady drizzle, wipers lazily swooshing back and forth. “You can’t watch those movies with the ladies.”
He looked at me to check whether I understood, being a lady, what kind of stuff he was talking about. I nodded and he sat back, relieved. He really didn’t want to go into the vulgar specifics of what was going on in the movies these days.
“Things have changed,” I intoned solemnly as one does at times like these.
“Not for the better,” he replied sadly as they always do.
It is not an uncommon sentiment. You’ll hear it from just about every person who watches Hindi cinema. And to a certain extent, I suppose they are right. The hip hop dance routines, on-screen kissing, short skirts and brief tops – it’s all very different from the days when Meena Kumari’s ankles, coyly exposed to the flirting waves of the Arabian Sea, were driving men into a frenzy of lust.
But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that mainstream Bollywood cinema remains as staid as it ever was. They might dress differently and their Hindi accents are frequently trash, but I’d take my hypothetical kids to watch a modern Hindi romance – from Hum Aapke Hain Kaun to Jab We Met, the old fashioned Bollywood romance is as saccharine sweet and family-friendly as it ever was.
Conversely, you know what’s not kid-friendly? The movies aimed at children.
For example, I wouldn’t take any child of mine to watch stuff like Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic – and not just because I’m averse to the idea of little children in theatres or because I’m sure my kids far too much to subject them to that kind of torture. I wouldn’t take them to see Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic because I wouldn’t want them brained in the face with Ameesha melons.
It’s some sort of overcompensation tactic on the part of the producers – “Oh no, we made a movie for the tykes but they don’t have any money! Idea! Let’s slut it up a little and then the Mummies and Daddies will have something to watch too! The kids get to watch cartoons, the parents get to jerk off and I get to make money! Everybody wins!”
I was watching promos for the new YashRaj / Disney animated movie Roadside Romeo, the love story of two rather unattractive doggies voiced by Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan (a million jokes here that I will just let slide) and I was pretty damn sure 30 seconds in, that I wouldn’t take my kid to watch this. I’d much rather pop in a DVD of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and let them watch that. It’d be cheaper, more appropriate and keep them occupied for a much longer time.
PS – Who the hell gets Saif Ali Khan to voice a toon? Haven’t they ever heard him speak?
PPS – Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang? Why have I never heard of this awesome movie before? Y’all have been holding out on me! For shame!