In the past 100 years of our glorious cinematic journey, we have encountered the best and the worst. As a certified movie buff, there was one thing which was always nagging me. I'm not talking about the plot or the story. It's about the good old family, the ensemble of various character artistes who lend credibility to the roles of mother, father, sister, brother, mama, mami, nana, nani, dada, dadi…
From the early days of Hindi cinema to the present times, you will be hard-pressed to find movies which have the hero's entire clan making its presence felt. In fact, I'm ready to lay a wager (for lunch, of course, betting being illegal in this overtly moralistic country) that if forced, you will not be able to name offhand even 10 movies which feature dada-dadi, mummy-daddy and all sorts of assorted cousins from the hero's side (Rajshri movies notwithstanding).
While our demure, delicate heroine is blessed with too many relatives to… ahem… protect her modesty, our hero has only to take care of his blind, poor mother and sister in some movies. The latter's only job is to bless the girl in their son's or brother's life and serve as a bait during the climax, with the villain capturing them in his lair and forcing the hero to come and set them free. And our unsuspecting heroine's entire clan deserts her exactly the moment when the villain carries her away, a la Ravana abducting Sita.
I agree that this is not the case with all movies. In some of them, the hero has to defy his super-rich autocratic father sans mother or a tyrannical business tycoon dada minus dadi to get his lady. Maybe it's the fate of the tinsel town hero to be raised by a single mother/father or dadi/nani. The joys of the family celebrating festivals together are, alas, not for our poor, solitary hero, who has to make do with watching the fireworks wistfully at someone else's house.
Or if, by some stroke of luck, his birthday or Diwali is being celebrated at his own house full of merry guests, you should be sure of some natural calamity striking in the next scene, be it an earthquake, a flash flood or a fire. Some tragedy happens and our hero is destined to spend the rest of his life mourning the loss of his loved ones.
All this while, our leading lady is safely ensconced in the bosom of her large, loving family, growing up as a princess ought to be. She grows up to be an heiress, haughty and proud, dismissing our poor hero as a worthless, penniless scum with a toss of her head, until she falls, tumbling and stumbling into the arms of that same penniless, worthless scum!
Our hero will endure the wrath of his lady's father and suffer the blows of her innumerable brothers, just to get the love of his life. And all this while, our damsel is sitting pretty in the knowledge that when the fighting ends and her lover emerges victorious, she will be the undisputed queen of his household.
We are not counting those "old is gold" movies where Lalita Pawar used to rule her house with an iron fist and it took a feisty daughter-in-law to set things straight before everyone could live happily ever after. We are talking about the movies where the hero gets a fair share of the in-laws, but the heroine gets almost none.
Our film-makers have realised that it's not possible to show our feisty (in today's times, much bolder) heroine shelling peas with her dear mother-in-law, making 'halwa' for her affectionate father-in-law or fluffing the pillows for her naughty 'dewar'. They know that it's far more credible and easier to show her as a hotshot businesswoman or a model, or if everything fails, a seductress. That's why filmmakers do not even try to fit her into the role of a traditional Indian 'bahu'.
It also may be the reason why movies end when the hero and the heroine finally meet after overcoming all obstacles. It's best to give the impression that everyone will live happily ever after. After all, movies should make you feel good. Don't they?
The writer can be contacted @firstname.lastname@example.org