A Tale of Two Boll-warts (derived from Bollywood Stalwarts)

Amar (1954 film)Image via Wikipedia
Dilip Kumar
Unlike Hollywood, which seems to be forever looking around for new genres, technology and actors who have what it takes to capture the imagination of the audience, Bollywood (whose name parodies Hollywood in a somewhat unflattering way) seems to revel in keeping it all orderly, within narrowly defined limits and within the extended family (or 'khandaan' as has been depicted in numerous Bollywood potboilers). This desire for conformity and homogeneity is amply evident in scripts, actors who enter the 'industry' regularly (usually they happen to be sons , daughters, nephews or nieces of yesteryear actors, directors and producers), the kind of films made in large numbers every year and even in the dramatic styles of the 'industry's' superstars.
Lets take the case of the 2 biggest superstars Bollywood has churned out in the last four dec-
ades. Both of them keep playing their popular screen persona time and time again and are actually encouraged to do this because their fans apparently love it all and can't have enough of it. So they just go through the same set of expressions, speech delivery styles and other mannerisms whatever the role may be. 
Amitabh Bachchan keeps playing 'A Bachchan' (or the Big B as sections of the Indian media love to call him) in every role that he does. He truly climaxed in a movie called 'Black' where he went into overdrive like a puppet on a string, and for the first 20 minutes I thought he was trying to play the angry blind man who has both a muscular disorder and something rather disagreeable tickling his windpipe, till I realized that he was trying to play a blind angry middle-aged man and be 'realistic'. Frankly if I ever come across a blind teacher thrashing about like that and speaking the way he does, I would be mighty worried.

Devdas (2002 film)
The 21st century version of Devdas in which Shah
Rukh Khan set the screen on fire

Uttam KumarImage via Wikipedia
Uttam Kumar
The other guy who plays Shah Rukh Khan in every movie is Shah Rukh himself, or SRK as he is often popularly referred to (when he is not being called King Khan by his legions of fans that is). Irrespective of the role, he will bleat, jerk spasmodically at times and then break into a dance which always reminds me of sharecroppers standing in the middle of their cultivable land spreading seeds all around and sowing them. He reached the zenith of his non-acting in the movie ' Devdas' which I happened to see some years ago (ever since I have regretted the crazy impulse which induced me to undergo  such self-inflicted torture). I had, many years back, watched Dilip Kumar playing Devdas in the Hindi version and then Uttam Kumar playing Chunilal, Devdas' friend, in the Bengali screen version of the same novel.Though Devdas is a highly theatrical and melodramatic novel (some folks may not quite like that observation), both Dilip Kumar and Uttam Kumar enacted their roles with a fair amount of flair and a reasonable degree of realism and restraint. SRK's was the ultimate 21st century Devdas though, frenetic, out-of-control and generally giving a clear message to flocks of sheep in any neighbourhood that 'mine is bigger than yours'. It was such a head-turning experience that I felt rather traumatized and bewildered when I stepped out of the cineplex and had to pull myself together afterwards to prevent possible recurrent nightmares of SRK warbling close to my ears while I am resting and then getting into his patented hop, skip and jump routine on his rather short and out-of-proportion pins.

Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan with family at pre...Image via Wikipedia
Shah Rukh Khan, SRK or King Khan - take your pick
Characteristics and occurrences of these kinds beg the question whether Bollywood will ever even remotely measure up to Hollywood at least in some aspects, in the foreseeable future.Given characteristics and attributes of the kinds mentioned earlier, do you feel there is even the ghost of a chance of anything like that happening any time in the foreseeable future? I leave it to you to arrive at your own conclusions.


  1. General standards of Bollywood are way below those of Hollywood's. While the big studios of Hollywood have grown into large corporations managed the way most corporations are, Bollywood remains chaotic, unorganized and rather sleazy on many occasions. Other than the large Indian diasapora all over North America, Europe and the Middle-East, who watches most of Bollywood's movies in any case.

  2. Bachan The GreatestNovember 2, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    This is mad. Amitabh Bachan is one of the greatest actors India has produced & loved by millions. King Khan has lakhs of fans all over the world. If he was such a bad actor can he be at the top for so long? You are either stupid or playing pranks by writing such crap.

  3. My comments, copied & pasted from Facebook, as part of a thread there:

    I have never quite figured out the prime causes for the age-old trait, specially in Tamil Nadu, of elevating film personalities to leading political figures and office-bearers. Whenever I have checked with any of my Tamil friends, whether in India or outside, they have expressed complete scorn & disgust with the political process in Tamil Nadu. My best guess is that large-sections of the urban and the educated middle-class have just decided that they are not even interested in voting, leaving the path clear for those who vote in large numbers to elevate their screen icons & idols to political luminaries, heading the state and initiating all kinds of populist measures to keep their primary electorate happy. (e.g. rice & idli giveaways etc.,). Had it not been for his continuing overwhelming popularity & the megabucks he still would be raking in every time a movie of his is released, Rajinikanth in all probability would have become the C.M. of the state by now, sweeping aside the Jayalalithas & the Karunanidhis at least initially.

    Barring the period with NTR, Andhraites seem to have steered clear of that path and the Kannadigas & Mallus have never quite fallen for it. In fact the Mallus are a real pragmatic lot and have alternated the Communists and the Congress over the years, keeping both parties on their toes to an extent. Meanwhile, the Mallus have spread out all over India and all over the world in fact in their pursuit of basic economic goals and the good life. The number of Mallus who have gone to the 'gelf' over the years is now widely talked about. In fact, though I don't have ready figures, the no. of Mallus in N. America & Europe will be significant and certainly among the top 3 ethnic Indian communities resident in any one country in these regions.

    Getting back to Bollywood, it closely rivals Indian politics in many ways. Sleazy money from dubious origins, lack of standards and organizations, family connections and links with certain powerful figures and financiers predominating over intrinsic merit or talent, deep-seated ethnic and communal divides (which everyone keeps denying in public) and the classic casting couch route to fame and stardom still rule the roost.

    What is doubly pathetic according to me is that after all this, almost everything that is churned out by Bollywood or by the numerous channels are shameless plagiarizations of movies from the N. American or European regions or of popular TV programmes, serials or reality shows. In most cases, even while attempting to do a straight lift (without giving credit in many cases), the concerned producers, directors, scriptwriters and actors manage to screw up the end product merrily.

    3 Idiots was refreshing and enjoyable indeed though I believe movies like that from the Bollywood (or Kollywood or Tollywood) stable are few and far between. What amazes me though is that a nation of 1.2 billion people, which loses no opportunity of boasting about its rich and distinctive cultural traditions, should be so bereft of ideas and creativity when it comes to churning out popular entertainment end-products for the masses so to speak.

  4. Somehow, I guess it's not right for me to talk about Amitabh Bachchan & SRK and not talk at all about Rajinikanth. To remedy that shortcoming, here's a little link you may want to browse.



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