Not So Jawan Anymore

How Mass Market Is Rendering The Refined & Sophisticated Irrelevant Both Socially And Economically.


She refused to buy tickets for the movie ‘Jawan’ for the 7th time today.

‘Jawan’ was released on the 7th of this month and by Sunday, the global collection is set to cross Rs 750 crore. Each time its collection crossed 100-crore mark, I would get curious to see what was attracting people in hordes and would goad her to buy tickets. “My friends in Hyderabad have seen the movie and I know you and your taste… you will fret and fume, and leave the hall halfway dragging all of us out with you. I don’t want to spoil my evening,” was her reply.

She was clear and firm on her stand this time too.

With my sole online booking agent refusing to comply, I am left with the only option of counting the box office collection without contributing a rupee to it. Both my taste, opinion, and not buying a ticket are irrelevant to the movie.

Our exposure to the world of cinema started in the early 80s when we had an array of movies to choose from. If the kitschy deluge of southern productions led by Sridevi and Jayaprada made us whistle and hoot, the best of parallel cinema by Ray, Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghose and Shyam Benegal made us think and Sai Paranjpe, Kundan Shah brand of humour made us smile and yearn for more. We always identified ourselves with what Ray would have termed as sophisticated movie viewers who had the class and intellect to understand certain types of movies his ilk made.

To the current industry, neither his review nor his contribution matters. He is as irrelevant as the Khan Market intellectuals in the glitzy and noisy market of joy and celebration of India.

A few months back, Nattu Nattu from the movie ‘RRR’ won not only the Golden Globe under the best original song category but stunned all of us by winning in the 95th Oscar.

At the award ceremony, Deepika Padukone stunned the audience with her looks, presence and electrifying smile, and spoke in her Indian accent. Social media was abuzz with heaps of appreciation for her. Her speech to introduce the story of ‘RRR’ was interrupted by intermittent cheers when she introduced the song Nattu Nattu as a Banger. The audience had not seen anything like this earlier. A team enacted the song on the stage and so riotous and energy-filled was the performance that the presenter Jimmy Kimmel was almost driven away by the dancers, who performed on stage.

“This year we are not gonna play you off stage, instead we have a group of performers from the movie RRR who are going to dance you offstage,” Jimmy said.

Remember a few years back, the same western movie world looked quizzically at the song-and-dance sequence of our typical movie. The characters breaking into a sudden song or a dance at every situation, be it comic or tragic, was something the Westerners couldn’t understand. But undaunted, we kept producing such content because we loved it.

The best of our directors and parallel cinema never got the attention of the Western movie industry barring a copy of Ray by Spielberg and a fan note by Scorsese. Now many like Priyanka Chopra have established themselves as mainstream actors doing a variety of roles and not playing the typical Asian immigrant anymore.

The Bollywood songs and steps and Bhangra Punjabi beats are now an international culture to reckon with and the inspiration behind millions of views of reels, and shorts in the social media. The ones who have joined the bandwagon are just not Indians but people from the world over.

A person with a rational mind and sophisticated taste can never sit through the antics and actions of a Rajinikanth movie, but the fact that he has more than 50,000 registered fan clubs and millions of fans in India and across the world is a tide big enough to throw these sophistication and sensible minds to the roadside.

Today no movie is running in parallel for that sophisticated viewer and no political party is ready to accommodate the Khan Market liberal narrative of the current situation. Those viewers with fine taste and sensibility are seen secretly wishing to see SRK and Nayanthara dishing out outrageous acts from the widescreen along with the masses and those ivory tower liberals are making rounds of the temples aligning themselves with the majoritarian.

The kitsch and subaltern have arrived.

The message of India is clear — love us, hate us, ridicule us, or ignore us but we are what we are. We don’t need your approval. We are mast in our world and your fine taste be damned.

We are a world!

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