As payback for Dolce's latest post that Namak had to sit helplessly through, with her reactions changing from amused to embarrassed, to outraged and finally to: “She did NOT just put up pictures for all that too!!”, Namak has now locked Dolce in the bathroom for the duration of this post and has the podium all to herself and her random thoughts on Indian audiences.
I've always been puzzled about the complex equations that lead a good movie to flop and a bad movie to smash all records in the Indian Film Industry more so than in other film industries, so this question is always at the back of my head when I talk to someone about Indian films. This story is about one such conversation that left me even more puzzled.
Coming back from seeing “Darling” in a suburban Toronto theatre a few weeks ago, a very shy Andhra boy started talking to us. I suppose the two white chicks at a Telugu movie with no subtitles would prompt people to go “wtf”, and it prompted not one, but two guys at different moments to come and express their surprise. This young lad accompanied us for a long part of the journey home. After talking a little bit about the movie we had just seen, we start chatting about other movies and discover that we are both Allu Arjun fans - judging by how his face lit up when I mentioned I was excited about Vedam coming out soon, I really don't think he was just saying it to make me happy. (By the way, I can hear Dolce banging on the bathroom door wanting to get out, but I did say no fangirling in this post, so nope, no gushing about Arjun allowed.)
As we're talking about films in general, I ask him the question that had been on my mind since I started watching a certain kind of Southie films: what's up with this stalking business and why is it considered acceptable by the Indian audiences? He tells me that “Arya” was actually a “trend-setter” and after learning that I didn't like it, he proceeds to explain that yes, he does feel sorry for the girl a bit when she is being pursued, obsessed over, and essentially emotionally blackmailed into accepting the hero, but he, the audience, knows she should end up with the hero because, well... because he's the hero and we know he's a great guy!
At this point I start thinking: really? So are you telling me this whole time the joke was on me because I was getting into the movie and identifying with the characters and, you know... doing what one does with every movie, which is judging it from inside the world it creates? Because there I was thinking I was an educated audience, meanwhile I'm being schooled by this young man who clearly can separate the movie from his principles in real life... I must have been wrong all along then!
As the conversation progresses however, we get to another point where we disagree, and this one is even more thought provoking. We're talking about “Varudu” and he asks me if I liked it.
“Well,” I go, “barring the dialogue which I didn't understand a word of, so if it was badly written I wouldn't know, I thought it was a pretty good movie”.
“Really?” he rebuffs. “I didn't like it.”
I go back in my mind to scenes from the film and think: wow, the dialogue must have been really bad then, because I can't think of any other reason to truly dislike Varudu, especially if you're a fan of... that guy whose name I will not mention lest Dolce knock down the door and come at me with a machete.
I try to test the water a little bit more:
“Oh come on, how could you not like it? The last fight was all colours of awesome! (teaser for it at the end of this trailer)”
“That's just it, I didn't like that part at all. It was so... artificial”.
HUH??? If I had a penny for every millimeter that my eyes grew bigger by after hearing this... well, let's just say I'd never have to go to work again and I'd watch Tollywood movies all day...
So let's get this straight: he thinks Prabhas outrunning a car and ripping off its door while being chased by an angry mob of machete-wielding goondas in “Darling” is just fine, but the fight in Varudu was... and I quote: “artificial”???
“Well, that's different”, he explains, “that felt more real.”
Oh sweet gods, so now the story should feel real where before it was isolated from reality with surgical precision? And you're telling me that while I was enjoying a very sleek, gorgeously choreographed fight sequence against some (decently done) colour coordinated CGI backgrounds and thinking it's the best thing I've seen since House of the Flying Daggers (granted, mostly because HOTFD didn't have any good looking guys), the intended audience for this movie was thinking: “Bah, this is too artificial, I don't like it.”? Sure it was over the top, duh!, but where is that fine line between “believable” over the top and “artificial” over the top? I have no idea! To me they're all pretty unbelievable and at the same time they're all pure badassness!
My search for understanding the Indian audiences goes on, it seems every conversation guides me further away from my destination.
Time to let Dolce come out, I suppose, we'll need to pacify her before the next post.
3 days ago