Monday, February 29, 2016

My turn at being outraged

All these years, I read or saw with a silent smirk different groups claiming that their religious sentiments were hurt and demanding a ban on something. I looked at such people and thought, "Gosh, where do they find the time and energy to worry about something so irrelevant? Something that is not affecting their immediate future or connected to them in any possible way?"

But today, it's my turn. I was watching the trailer of 'Fan', a new SRK movie. Now, the premise is that SRK plays himself, a huge Bollywood star, and he also plays his own biggest fan, who, courtesy of prosthetic make-up (not very good), looks like a younger version of himself. This is what got my goat. Shah Rukh Khan is not Shah Rukh Khan in the movie. He is Aryan Khanna.

This has got to be a joke right? There are people in JNU getting beat up and kicked for demanding the rights of Dalits and Muslims and here we have a huge Bollywood star who is playing himself in the movie but called Aryan Khanna. ARYAN! Get it? I mean, the makers couldn't have given him a worse name to stamp out diversity if they wanted to.

Maybe I am over-reacting, like those very people I was smirking at some moments ago. Maybe, this was just a coincidence. But just like the recent Oscars were in the news for #Whiteout, I want to make a bold statement here. Bollywood is completely saffronized. And it has nothing to do with the current BJP government.

What reason did Salman Khan have to not just be Prem, but also a devout Hanuman bhakt who doesn't eat chicken in Bajrangi Bhaijan? What was the reason for Mathuny Matthews to be turned into Ranjit Katyal for Airlift? What's worse is that this is a recent trend. I think movies in the 60s and 80s had far more diverse characters, though they were no doubt stereotyped. Amar Akbar Anthony being a case in point.

Frankly speaking, I'm fed up of seeing the problems of Punjabi munde and how they get the kudi in the end. The kudi, who, almost never has a professional life. Unless the plot is an office romance, like Kartik calling Kartik. Or actually revolves around the heroine's life, like 'Piku' and 'Mary Kom'. Apart from the Hindu upper caste male, every other character, whether it is the Hindu upper caste female, or a caricatured sidekick, all work towards helping the hero achieve his aims. It's like the other people don't matter, or their stories aren't interesting enough.

Why is it important for us to see other stories? For one, it broadens our horizons and gives us a peek into how different people live their lives. It inculcates empathy and a tolerance for differences, something really needed in our country right now. Stereotyping does the opposite though. Showing diversity will also make films more relatable. All of us have friends from different castes, religions, even nationalities. Why can't this be reflected in films? Too much burden on the actors or the script writers? The sad part is, stories which have diversity are called 'arthouse cinema' or 'women-centric' films. Like 'Being Cyrus' or 'Kahani'.

It's not all bad though. We have the occasional 'Chak de India' and now Kareena and Arjun playing the gender bending couple in 'Ki & Ka'. Hopefully, change is around the corner.