My Experiences with Indian Movies

Right now, as I decided to write this, I am very happy that Indian cinmea is and has been so averse to any kind of intimacy.

The reason is that I watched the final part of what is known as Apu trilogy, The World of Apu. The problem: There’s a wedding, or there’s supposed to be, but it turns out that the father of the groom was not very forthcoming about his son and his mental problems. So, the mother of the bride decides that the wedding can’t go ahead, while the father of the bride wants the wedding to happen, because otherwise the daughter would be cursed. So, they recruit Apu to be the new groom to a girl he has barely met. And you know what else? The girl is 14, while the man is 23. And this isn’t only in the movie. The actors are of these ages as well. So, yeah, I’m very glad they weren’t able to show any kind of intimacy between the two. And there had been, since the girl dies during childbirth. Yeah, that was a spoiler.

You see a lot of weird cultural norms in movies from various different countries, but I don’t remember being this uncomfortable with an Indian movie before and I don’t remember being this uncomfortable with a movie from any country that wasn’t specifically trying to make me uncomfortable ever before either. And don’t put this on Hindus alone. There are various Christian sects that keep doing this shit as well.

But this is about Indian movies, so let’s go all the way back to around 30 years ago, when I stumbled upon one for the first time.

I really don’t remember the name of the movie and because around 2000 movies are produced in India each year, due to the varied, localized industries all over the country. I actually don’t remember much more than that either. What I do remember is that it was well over three hours long and it had several dance sequences. There was a wedding and someone was trying to sabotage it by claiming that the bride had cheated on the groom, there was a sword fight because of this and finally the culprit confessed and the wedding could go forward. But this wasn’t the plot of the movie. This was one scene that lasted only a few minutes. The movie was very packed, colorful and flamboyant. It was made for mass audiences, so what else did it need to be?

For the longest time, this was what I thought Indian movies where. It didn’t help that the Bollywood, which is only one of the many Indian industries, movies I was able to see for the longest time followed pretty similar templates. They were long, they were kind of a rollercoaster of emotions, there was always a love story and there was always at least a few dance sequences.

But over the years I have learned that Indian movies are actually quite varied. For example, there’s a movie called Hera Pheri, which is about these three men, who are accidentally contacted by a kidnapper, so they decide to put themselves in between the kidnapper and the father of the kidnapped girl to make some money. Yes, these are the heroes of the story. There’s also this weird love story, as these movies tend to have, where this guy tries to get his dead father’s job (as if he was able to inherit it), but it turns out that there’s a woman who has been able to fill the job first. So, obviously, this is the beginning of a love story. It just so happens that the woman is then pretty made a servant for the three men. She cooks for them and washes their clothes, on top of being the only one of the four who actually has a job. And on top of that, one of the men even threatens her with violence. You know, because the film thinks it’s funny.

So, you would assume these movies are quite sexist, and they often are, but at the same time, there’s also this mystery movie, Kahaani, which subverts this nicely. The main character is a pregnant woman, but she is not helpless. Actually, she is able to use the sexism of the men around her to her advantage. And unlike Hera Pheri, this is actually a good movie, but it does go against the norms of the Indian movies I had seen: No dance numbers, the love story is hinted at, but never goes anywhere and structurally the story is quite close to Hollywood movies.

Actually I was perhaps a little disappointed that the movie was so Hollywood-y, because I do look for different experiences when I watch movies from around the world. Still, Kahaani was kind of a fresh take, because it actually had a woman as a star, which was a first for me in an Indian movie.

Of course, if I try to say anything meaningful about Indian movies, I have to remember that while I’ve seen more of them then most westerners, I’ve still only seen maybe thirty or so of them and becuase only very few of them receive any kind of meaningful distribution in Europe. So, there’s a lot of preselection in the movies I am able to or even want to get my hands on. This does actually apply to quite a few countries, but for somewhat different reasons (only a select few movies outside of Hollywood receive enough publicity to be well-known enough for me to take note).

Still, I am only able to see the cream of the crop and, yet, some of them just don’t work. The situation isn’t very dissimilar to other countries, such as Japan, China, and various European countries, from which I only see a very limited number of films, which must have been selected for European distribution for someone assuming they would have commercial potential, but I don’t remember such variance in quality from movies from any other country (except the US of course). So, while I like some movies from India very much, like the aforementioned Kahaani and my personal favorite 3 Idiots, there’s quite a few that just aren’t fun or interesting, but are still available. Is this just different taste?

I really don’t know, but I must do something else right now just to forget the arranged marriage of a minor I subjected myself to just a little over an hour ago.

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