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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - I recollect hearing many moons ago, how the day Sachin Tendulkar scores a century, is probably the one day that the poverty-stricken Indian pavement dweller, goes to bed happy, oblivious of the gnawing hunger in his tummy.
The same can be said for the Bollywood obsessed, daily-wage earner in Mumbai, or for that matter, any part of India, who willingly forgoes his daily bread to stand in a queue to get his hands on the much coveted first day, first show ticket of his favourite matinee idol's latest blockbuster.
The recent commentary by National Award winning actor Irrfan Khan's son Babil dissing 'Bollywood' and blaming his talented father's box-office failure on the prevalence of "hunks with six-pack abs delivering theatrical one-liners and defying the laws of physics and reality" got me thinking.
About how quick we are to pass judgment and look down upon the seemingly superficial world of Bollywood, glossing over the sweat and tears of innumerable technicians, artists and filmmakers.
Khan Jr. places the onus of the current sad state of Bollywood on the fact that "we, as the Indian audience, refused to evolve." He talks of the potential of cinema and its implications on humanity and existentialism.
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A post shared by Babil Khan (@babil.i.k) on Jul 8, 2020 at 12:42am PDT
Try talking existentialism to the hungry chawl dweller who goes to bed with stars in his eyes, and an empty stomach because he has spent his last rupee cheering on Salman Khan as he single-handedly beat up a gang of villains, with nary a tear on his spotless vest, or SRK as he serenaded the love of his life atop an exotic mountain.
Not for him the soul-enriching, life-altering type of movie that will open his eyes to 'great cinema'; his needs are simple just like the harsh reality he is trying to escape. I'm by no means, implying, that it is all he should aspire for, but let's not belittle him for the simple pleasures he derives from these entertainers.
Much like J.K Rowling's recent tirade against 'cancel culture' and the denouncement of the current social media tendency to embrace "a blinding moral certainty" we need to open ourselves to the fact that 'Bollywood' need not be defined by its 'song and dance numbers' alone, those 'mindless entertainers' meant to serve as an escape from one's humdrum existence if only for two-and-a-half hours.
Irrfan Khan will be as much remembered for The Lunchbox and The Namesake as he will be for his goofy act in Angrezi Medium and other 'Bollywood' movies. That does not diminish his value as an actor.
If his extensive repertoire has shown us anything it is that there is space for all kinds of cinema within the broad frame of Bollywood. Cinema need not all be moralistic with a view to elevate one's thoughts and make the West think better of us, by association.
Granted cinema can be cathartic and open up our world view to narratives contrary to the ones we hold dear. But let's also not be dismissive of those who walk into the theatre seeking some chest-thumping, laughter-inducing larger-than-life spectacle to forget their woes and walk out of the theatre with a swing in their step and a song on their lips.
It's time we embraced Bollywood for its all encompassing quality, and not be ashamed of its escapist brand of cinema, which, needless to say, is a much sought after currency in the current world.
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