Sunday, June 6, 2010

2 Degrees of Separation – from Anime to Indian movies

Everyone who is not desi gets to Indian movies through a complex, sometimes incredible, chain of seemingly unrelated events. What with these movies not being that popular outside the diaspora, at least not in this part of the world, one always wonders how do we stumble upon this world and what predisposes us to get sucked into it? I look back at my history of hobbies and preferences and realize that many of them have a lot in common with Bollywood/Indian movies. The series 2 Degrees of Separation sets out to explore (over an indefinite number of episodes) each of these likes and dislikes that contributed to my finding Bollywood.

Today's episode: anime!

Not sure how many other kids grew up on Japanese (or not always Japanese) animated shows, but I sure did. Candy Candy, Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya and Macron 1 are just some of the names that come to mind, and now that I think about it it's impressive how many bad anime shows I watched (but I suppose that's just another similarity because it's also quite impressive how many bad Bollywood films I have watched too). So it's no surprise I rekindled that love affair later on in life with more mature shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Berserk, etc.

Even though the styles have changed drastically over the years in both anime and Indian movies, certain elements have endured and it's interesting to note it's the elements (big or small) that the two industries have in common.

Disney's cartoons and Hollywood actors don't know to act with their eyes. Sure, their body language is excellent and the scripts are certainly superior, so maybe the eyes don't really matter as much. But I can't begin to imagine how hollow Indian movies as well as anime shows would be were it not for the million expressions that the characters can summon in one glance. Whether it's the over-sized, excessively glittery anime orbs, or the endlessly expressive glances of Indian actors, they sure know how to tell a tale without uttering a single word.

Proof? Let's see how easy it is to understand what is happening in this video with no sound.

Not convinced? Come now, don't make me dig for videos of characters getting their hearts broken and reacting to it in exquisite mute despair because I have a ton of Aamir Khan scenes up my sleeve for that.

Need I explain this one? From the big melodrama, to the exaggerated reactions in front of the smallest, silliest things, to the bulging eyes literally taking up the whole screen, no Indian movie or anime show would ever be complete without a little, as Johnny Depp would say in Alice in Wonderland, “muchness”.

And to continue the point above, did you notice how the elements always conspire to express the hero or the heroine's feelings at a certain time in Indian movies? It's always raining when there's sadness and romance, it's always windy when there's loss, it's always dark when there's drama, the leaves are falling when someone is dying. Heh... sadly the American productions have lost that communion between man and nature. But they're definitely there in anime. Check out this scene from Sailor Moon complete with instant rain!

When I was little my sister and I used to make fun of how people in anime shows would put their hand behind their head when embarrassed. We used to wonder: where did that come from, I can't imagine anyone in real life doing that, it's too uncomfortable. Imagine my delight when I found out they do that in Tollywood too! 


Even today so many Indian films have some love story or other at the base of all conflict. And there are more girlie anime shows about the tribulations of teenage romance than we can count, so on that point I am sure we don't need further proof. The best part is that we can even identify a shared preference for the love triangles! Nothing like a good old love triangle to keep things spicy, right? Well from the classic Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (link to trailer) to the fifth season of Sailor Moon (link to trailer) there seems to be a long way, but unrequited love is the Scotty that will beam us up from one to the other in no time at all. And just so we're not mistaken in assuming that it happened only in the olden days, the romantic triangle was also alive and well in a very unromantic series like Berserk (link to trailer), or a very pragmatic political thriller like Raajneeti (link to trailer). Sure it may not be the focal point, but how many Hollywood movies these days play that card? Not very many...

Really! Special sound effects, funny faces, quick reactions, speed talking and bulging eyes, even the camera work that makes it look like the world fell on top of the character as a result of some shocking news. All there, baby, all there under various guises! We may not see them very often in Hindi films anymore, but they are alive and well in the South.

Of course last but not least on today's short list, how lovely that neither anime shows nor Indian movies are very fond of being true to life. There is a certain disdain for realism, a concept that is not perceived as a sine qua non requirement (though that is changing lately in both) and that certainly adds to the appeal. Who needs reality when one can be transported into a world of colour, fun and endless drama?

Truly, writing all this I wonder why did I ever stop watching anime? Oh right, I know: I discovered Bollywood and Tollywood dishoom movies and hey the music is so much better in Indian films. And did I mention they dance?... Eh... I guess I'll still give Ghost in the Shell a rerun every once in a while for old times sake...


Nicki said...

lol!! cute. I don't watch much anime but I think it's cute how you compared them. Good observation :D

Just wish Indian cinema, in general, gives more kickass roles for females, hehe

Dolce and Namak said...

I hear you, actually, that's another thing they have in common, there are very few anime shows that have strong females, most women in anime even when they appear to be the heroine, still end up needing the man to rescue them. The only show I can think of that had a great female character was Ghost in the Shell. I definitely recommend it.

Remini said...

Hah, been there, done that. I too went over from anime to bollywood, because a fellow anime fangirl gave me a KKKG dvd :)
As for a strong female in anime, how about Juuni Kokki? It's one of my favourites. And I intend to watch the second season of Saiunkoku too, the first one was quite good.. though too many bishies :p I just don't know when to squeeze such a long series into my tolly/bolly viewings :D

Dolce and Namak said...

That's my problem too, Remini! When I have 30-40 DVDs sitting unwatched, how to find time for a whole 26 episodes of something else, no matter how entertaining it is!?! But I haven't seen the two you mentioned, so if ever the opportunity arises, I'll keep them in mind. Thanks for the recommendation!

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

I've never watched any anime, but interesting to read your comparison. I should try it out sometime except I'm so behind on my SI/BW fare these days that I must tend to that first. Perhaps later though.

Dolce and Namak said...

LOL That's why I stopped watching anime: too many SI/BW movies to attend to. So don't worry, we're in the same boat!
Maybe when I retire... :D

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

"Maybe when I retire... :D"

Fast-forward till we're in our seventies, and I can just imagine you and me, both retired and sitting on a porch with lemonade as we try to catch up on anime because we both said we would on your blog decades ago.

And we won't last more then a few minutes! One of us will turn to the other and say "Let's watch that Prabhas movie again, the one where he's causing mass mayhem in a wheelchair at a senior citizen home."

And we'll put that in and watch it instead while we complain about our geriatric boyfriends who will be named Harold and Alfred.

Hahahaha :D

Dolce and Namak said...

Ahahaahaaaa!!! That was a really good mental picture! Love it! I'm sort of thinking by then I will have moved on to yet other addictions, but you may be right, this just might be the future for us :D And not a bad one at all, if I may say so myself (except my boyfriend can't be named neither Harold nor Alfred ;))!

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

"(except my boyfriend can't be named neither Harold nor Alfred ;))!"

Yea maybe guys named Harold and Alfred need to date ladies named Gertrude and Myrtle. And stay away from cool girls named Dolce and Gauri.


[Crossing my fingers here that you don't have avid readers and fans of your blog with any of those names! I'll totally understand if you don't publish this facetious and flippant comment :D]

Dolce and Namak said...

ROFL! I wouldn't worry about that Gauri. Any Myrtle and Gertrude watching Southie dishoom movies and reading here would be cool enough to not get upset about this joke :D And they'd probably prefer to be called Meera and Jyoti anyway. :P

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