Malavika’s Mumbaistan: A welcome course correction for Bollywood
Why the new lot in Bolly land even though they could get away with their egregious behaviour, in your face conspicuous consumption and appalling entitlement, remains a mystery. Has anyone noticed
Ever since the magnificent box office successes of Jawan and Pathan proved that Indian filmgoers were not pissed off with all of Bollywood - just a few of its more obnoxious denizens (you know who they are) have you noticed how there’s been a certain correction that’s taken place in the behaviour of our stars?
From dressing down, (glory be, even Ranveer Singh has begun wearing shirts trousers and kurtas that wouldn’t pass muster on the 7.45 Virar Fast) to their demeanour, (high-handedness and strutting is almost a thing of the past) to their utterances, (none of that wide-eyed entitled prattle that made your skin crawl) everyone appears to be making an effort to be … well … decent and normal and simple.
But don’t sing hosannas just yet, it’s not as if everyone’s turned over a new leaf and become Mr/Ms Nice. Like in all things Bollywood, nothing succeeds like success and SRK’s runaway blockbusters have planted the idea that perhaps his innate decency and dignity have had something to do with their success: so lo and behold, now everyone’s turning decent and dignified.
Why not give it a shot yaar, that appears to be the general consensus
So, you have actresses showing up in public bereft of their OTT Met Gala ensembles-in shudder- dressed down cotton salwar kameezes, their faces wiped clean of the usual 10 kgs of war paint; directors who could not open their mouths without planting both their Jimmy Choo-clad feet inside, now talking about ‘feeling vulnerable’ and ‘dealing with emotional issues’; and the once high and mighty biggies making a big show of being the new humble boys and girls next door.
Why the new lot in Bolly Land even thought that they could get away with their egregious behaviour, in-your-face conspicuous consumption and appalling entitlement, remains a mystery. After all, if they had only stuck their heads out of their Vanity Vans and their circles of chamchas and enablers, they would have seen how the industry’s reigning superstars, in every generation, from Dilip Kumar to Amitabh Bachchan to SRK, have been celebrated not only for their acting chops and charisma but for their qualities of decency dignity and humility.
Perhaps the monstrous fawning the newbies received from their fans had made them so out of touch with ground realities. I have been witness to pipsqueak upstart ‘stars’ and legends in their own lunchtimes, strutting, breaking rules, jumping queues, demanding attention, throwing their weight around, when others far more talented and worthy have been ignored or overlooked or waited in dignity on the sidelines.
The advent of social media and the hunger to provide 24X7 content hasn’t helped either. Now, even the no-film vagaries and chotta-mota wonders, who earlier inhabited the margins and lowest recesses of the ecosystem can be seen blithely cutting ribbons, delivering speeches, endorsing products and holding forth on all manner of subjects as ‘influenzas’.
But if the outbreak of omnipotent social media has been one of the causes of their unbridled odious behaviour, then it’s also been the petard for their hoisting.
Think about it, before the arrival of social media, the only criticism that the stars really faced was from the handful of journalists who worked for the small clutch of journals that made up ‘the film press’. A hateful article or two, most likely the result of flagging circulation figures or a plant from a rival star or camp was the closest our stars had gotten to trolling.
Now, of course, it’s a free-for-all all: any hater with access to a keyboard and Wi-Fi can diss anybody –and they do. This is where images are made and trashed and trashed again. Now it’s not enough to manipulate one’s public image through a battery of publicists and spin doctors. Now, the stars are under 24X7 scrutiny and gone are the days of fake smiles and faux middle-class values. In the harsh glare of social media no one’s pulling any punches and every wart, unpleasant act or execrable utterance is out there for everyone to see and judge -and they do.
This backlash against Bollywood was a long time in the making and it’s just as well for their good and ours that SRK and his recent box office bonanzas have taught our film folk a lesson.
The role that South Indian film stars have played in Bollywood‘s recent course correction cannot be overlooked either. For years, megastars from the South, far more worthy and successful than many of their contemporaries in Bollywood, have not allowed their fame and fortune to go to their heads.
They have not strutted neither have they swaggered. Exercising a workman-like attitude and genuine humility they have proven through example, how basic decency and dignity can sit very comfortably and easily with mega success and stardom. And how it doesn’t matter how big a film’s budget, how substantial its star cast is or how prodigious its publicity is. In the end, what matters is how the public perceives you. Do they like you beyond what the publicity and PROs project? Does your reputation, built over a lifetime of small acts and everyday gestures appeal to them on a human level? Are you the kind of person they would invite to their homes for tea or turn to for a comforting word? In short, are you the kind of person they would call a good human being and not just a megastar?
Mercifully, SRK’s success has made many denizens correct and rethink their approach to success.
It couldn’t have come sooner and long may it last.