Subtlety a thing of the past in Bollywood



Gone are the days when Bollywood was about clichés. Bollywood has come of age, it has shifted from pleasing the classes to pleasing the masses. Pop culture has diffused into our daily lives and made us conform to its dictates.  Within the ongoing globalization of entertainment, it’s a natural process that automatically leads to cultural Westernization and uniformization, Bollywood has become both a symbol of Indian cinema’s circulation all over the world and the embodiment of economies coming together for the benefit of all. Thus a hybrid of a culture is created by this mixing that is switching from informal to formal. These changes are then reflected in cinema. Question is, are we ok with it? Because they are garnering numbers.

Two of these changes are:

Firstly, its depiction of sex. There is the popular misconception that Bollywood films don’t show scenes of a sexual nature: they do. However, when comparing the screen time or manner in which kissing (or more "intimate" activity) is portrayed in Bollywood versus Hollywood, Bollywood is a blushing bride, whereas Hollywood is as brazen as a pole-dancing stripper. Until the 70s, a simple caress would create quite a stir in Bollywood. Today, films are actively marketed on the numbers of kisses they contain. Last year’s, “Shubh Desi Romance” traded on its 27 kisses to lure in the audience. Also, what were subtle metaphors of sex previously (flowers touching, leaves shaking, women dancing in wet sarees) have today become actual acts of lovemaking. This is because the last decade or so has been a social revolution in urban India. More men and women are working together. There are more coeducational institutions, the inclusion of women has increased in all professions than ever before. Social media have allowed people to find people with similar interests and points of view, eliminating traditional social walls that prevent interaction and a subsequent union or marriage. Thus, running into a room or closet just to kiss your loved one or hold hands isn’t considered practical today. You just do it in a whiff!

Secondly, the gaalis. The cuss words! The once elegant multiplex audience is in splits as Manoj Bajpayee, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and gang turn Wasseypur into a verbally vibrant place with generous mother, sister, gaa.. and fu… words used as punctuation marks. These gang-based movies have all made money, with neither the censor board nor the Indian audience turning a hair at the flurry of obscenities that has hit the Hindi film screen. Even dignified actors that may once have been squeamish about flirting with image-busting dialogues, have no qualms about delivering them with a flourish.  Emerging economies, globalization and informal culture at workplace has insinuated us to be sensitized to cuss words, teasing and casual behaviours such as wearing casual attires. We hear abuses all the time around us in our daily life. If you spew abuse in English, people accept it as style, while if we hear it in a local language we frown on it. So actors that in real life won’t abuse, are compelled to do in films because they are made to believe that that’s the state of society. Films with cuss words have, today, been included in the ‘family’ bracket’. Again, the numbers are proof of it.

Despite this transformation from subtlety to brazen, trips to the cinema in India remain to be a family experience. If it can appeal to Mum, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, teens and the little munchkins then its logical to assume the box office will benefit from it. Because of this, filmmakers have begun to experiment with varied themes and subjects such as unrequited love, comedy, tragedy and adventure. Many times incorporating all within one story. If the framework of the Indian family (then leading to the Indian society) has changed – as in become informal, unhierarchical and communicative then the films are justified. This advancement in society and the break-down of barriers have resulted in Bollywood’s staple masala films that provide wholesome entertainment.