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WHY INDIAN CINEMA LAGS BEHIND HOLLYWOOD?
By Arun Gopinath
How often have we heard the word ‘unrealistic’ or ‘impossible’ being used to describe the feats of a hero in an Indian movie? Very often, perhaps for almost every movie that we see! But, have you ever heard the same things being said about a Hollywood hero? Very rarely or never would be the two answers. This, in spite of the fact that the average Hollywood hero accomplishes far more jaw dropping and potentially life threatening acts than the Indian hero. But, Hollywood has a way of doing things that doesn’t allow much questioning of the proceedings on screen.

  Aaranya Kaandam
Come to think of it, the average commercial Hollywood movie is only as good as any Indian movie. Same old good versus bad stuff, with the bad guy wanting to kill everyone else except his gang of baddies, the hero wanting to save the society and his girlfriend (who always has a knack of getting into trouble) etc. A lot of fights and a climax which inevitably has the hero triumphing. That is about it in a nutshell.

The way of making and the scale of the entire affair is an altogether different thing. Here, the hero wants to save the people in his street, his hamlet or his village at best. But, in mainstream Hollywood movies it is more often an entire city that the hero has to save (probably New York) and in some cases it is the entire world. Here, the villain deals in petty drugs, kidnapping, guns etc… In Hollywood, it is more of nuclear weapons, bombs in skyscrapers submarines, time travel and hi-fi things like that. And, if Indian cinema has fights in shipyards, construction sites, godowns, markets and deserts, Hollywood takes it to the next level by going for locations like the wing of a moving aeroplane, the top of Empire state building, the deck of an oil tanker etc….

Really, is there anything different? Yes, there are no songs in English movies. That apart, Indian and Hollywood commercial cinema is more or less the same, only the packaging is different. Yet, Indian cinema always gets branded as the one that takes ‘cinematic’ liberties, makes superheroes out of men and fools out of audiences. Hollywood cinema is the more intelligent, believable kind of stuff!

Is it really so? Or does Hollywood have a perfectly foolproof knack of making us overlook everything that is unbelievable in their movies, allowing them to pack in all kinds of over the top stuff without being labeled as cinematic. The answer is yes. You have to give it to Hollywood. They know how to present the most illogical, dumbfounding and impossible things on earth and get away with it looking extremely intelligent and of course a lot richer.

Watching X Men over the weekend confirmed this thought. You had everything that 100 commercial Tamil movies put together could not offer – flying submarines (made possible by the sheer will of a man – one of the heroes), missiles hanging in mid air without knowing which way to go, people who can change shape and form as and when they like (this was not a Harry Potter film), flame throwers etc. And, the audience was clapping, I too enjoyed it, no one talked about logic. Not just X Men, almost every Hollywood action movie has these typical stunts. Every Spiderman sequel, Batman etc... you can keep counting. Of course, there are other very well made movies too; we are not talking about them.

When Rajnikanth swiveled his right foot to cause a mini cyclone underneath in Chandramukhi it evoked sniggers and many subsequent movies made comedy scenes based on this. Cut to The Last Airbender, a bald 13 year old boy was creating storms from his palm, aided by stylishly choreographed Kung Fu moves – audience clapped – no one demanded logic – because it was fantasy.

So, what is it about Hollywood movies? They have a fairly simple agenda, to entertain, to present a spectacle on screen that will make you forget everything else. That is pretty similar to what Indian movies want to do. But, Hollywood does its homework better. Yes, they create the better excuses for presenting all the impossible things on earth – mutated men, extraterrestrials, superheroes bitten by spiders, creatures from the portal of hell, second world war radiation victim turned zombies etc…. And hey, they no longer have to worry about any kind of logic – the hero can fly, walk upside down, blast through walls, cut down swords, stop aeroplanes with his fist and anything that the director wants and CGU finds possible.

It is in this department that Indian cinema falls short. Indian filmmakers just don’t know how to find excuses that will lead them around the necessity to think about logic. Why can’t we have good enough excuses? We have a rich enough history, lots of myths, the Himalayas which are known to have all kinds of powerful herbs, poisonous snakes etc.. Get a hero to eat one of these herbs, or a snake to bite him, or invoke some hidden power locked up by some magician in the 15th century (can be shown in an animated flashback) and the director will no longer have to break his head over the lack of logic in his scripts.

Yes, the Indian film makers are waking up to the necessity of finding good excuses to make great action films. That is why we had Enthiran where Shankar used the Robot excuse to make Rajnikanth do all things impossible, but that was not good enough, people still demanded logic. Now, there is Ra One which again will try offering us an excuse to make Shah Rukh Khan fly and make cars fly, we’ll see how good that one is.

With money and technology no longer a barrier, it is just a question of finding good enough excuses for Indian cinema to make action flicks that are as good as Hollywood. We have started, we will get there, till then we will have to make do with the Hollywood excuses!
Tags : X Men, Rajinikanth, Ra One, Shah Rukh Khan, Endhiran
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