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The Hindi Movie Snob

Surviving the five kinds of Bollywood haters

brunch Updated: Jun 03, 2018 14:59 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
(Photo Illustration Parth Garg)

I recently watched Deadpool 2. It wasn’t bad, though I preferred the first. But there was one moment that I really enjoyed. The one in which Yun hi chala chal from Swades (2004) plays on the stereo of Dopinder, the Indian cabbie stereotype.

Hindi films predictably occupy the lowest rung of this very highbrow ladder

As is obvious, I like Hindi films. And I’m a bit tired of the condescending attitude of Hindi Movie Snobs. Of course it’s fine if people are unfamiliar with the format. Or even have their reservations about a lot of what goes on in the name of entertainment. The flaws are unmissable. And yet, to so many of us who’ve grown up on a Hindi film diet, the rewards are still immense and the connect is visceral. So I’ve decided to divide the snobs into five loose categories. Because it’s fun.

The Hollywoodphile

This is the type that will rattle off the names of the character actors in every B-grade Hollywood movie of the ’80s, but feign ignorance when it comes to Madhubala or Madhuri. Kubrick and Lucas stare menacingly from their walls, but they’ve never heard of Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Guru Dutt. They lap up the sentimentality of ET while deploring it in DDLJ. And heaven forbid that you play a beloved Mithun or Govinda dance song at a party. They will quickly take control and switch to EDM or lounge or house or – aren’t they all the same thing?

The regionalist

The one who will kill the deliberately lowbrow vibe of an evening with an earnest rendition of Ami chini go chini from Charulata (1964). Or enumerate the ways in which the southern film industry trumps Bollywood. Before you can say Baahubali, they’ve opened the Wikipedia page that lists its box office collections. If you feebly say, “But Hindi films are changing …” they will cite the example of a silent relic from the 1920s that has said more than all the Hindi films put together. You offer Court and Sairat as examples of regional cinema you like, but that’s not regional enough. Because you’ve seen them.

The rebel

Down with evil capitalism and its vile minion – Bollywood! Our rebel will not rest till you’ve watched a nine-part documentary on the Jewish Holocaust, just to prove your viewing mettle. To her, every Hindi filmmaker is a sellout. Everyone who buys a ticket is complicit in corporate slavery. Nothing good comes off these dancing dolls and jumping jacks, she decrees. She’s a supporter of offbeat films made on shoestring budgets, but has no time for a film with a production budget and ideological merit. A big budget, for these revolutionaries, forestalls any good the film might be capable of doing. As for the fun it might provide – who watches movies for fun, comrade?

The intellectual

The Auteur Theory and cinéma vérité, dogma and formalism, if you can’t spew the tenets of all the film schools ever invented, you stand no chance with this one. Hindi films predictably occupy the lowest rung of this very highbrow ladder. “Why do these films feature songs?” “The production design is lower middle class but the characters are lower-lower middle class.” “The actor’s shadow fell on the table – it should have fallen on the vase instead.” From Marxism to physics, every weapon is used to diminish a film that you thought was “quite nice”, and even capable of gently changing mindsets. The conversation ends with them resignedly sipping from their glass of single malt. You slurp your neemboo paani as uncouthly as possible to disturb their familiar smugness.

The enlightened one

No Hindi movies, or any movies, for this one. They’re a waste of time. They come in the way of mindfulness. Of yoga weekends in picturesque towns. Of gluten-free baking. Of hunting down elusive vinyls in dusty flea markets. Of enrolling in classes that get you in touch with your soul. For our sage-aesthete, Hindi movies aren’t edifying enough. Creative enough. They just aren’t enough. When you say, “But I liked the film, for all its flaws” they look at you as if you are an evolutionary abhorrence that will never attain peak human consciousness. To add insipidity to injury, they lay out a kale-quinoa-chia snack for you. You mindfully chew the seeds of your wrath, plotting a cinematic comeback.

From HT Brunch, June 3, 2018

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