‘Masala’ V/s ‘Non- Masala’

by Shaheen Muhammed

In India how do we differentiate films? Or how do we put them into different categories? One is that we bifurcate them according to their genres (horror, comedy, action, drama, romantic, fiction) etc. and the other very easy way to do is to tab them as ‘Bollywood masala’ or ‘parallel/art film’. So a ‘Dabangg’ will be your masala flick while your ‘Dhobi Ghat’ will automatically fall into the category of art cinema.
‘And why does Dhobi Ghat fall into the art films category? To begin with it had Amir Khan…’ I asked one of my friends and this is what he had to say- “ Bada vague tha.. no gana-dance, mujhe to samajh hi nahin aaya… What was the story about? Meri type ki film nahin hai…”
So as the stereotypical notion in India goes, a meaningful well made film is parallel cinema/art film. Art film/parallel cinema is boring or need a higher level of understanding or is not mass entertainer. So they are meant for intelligent intellect audience. They necessarily will pass some social message. It will typically be an independently made serious film, mostly low budget and will target a very niche audience.
Even worse is a situation where we need to have big names attached to a film. If it is a Shah rukh khan, then a ‘Tees Maar Khan’ would also have worked wonders (if Farah khan would have convinced him to act in the film, Thank God she couldn’t!). The very reason why ‘Udaan’ couldn’t garner much interest among a wider audience before its release was the lack of any big star in it. The amazingly refreshing music of Amit trivedi wasn’t played on radio because FM channels did not find any star value attached to it. Even the crore rupees spent by UTV on Udaan’s promotion couldn’t do much because the lead was a new teen face and the other lead was only a television star. The film yet worked because it had Anurag Kashyap producing it and that it later went to Cannes.
My problem is not with a Dabanng or Tees Maar Khan like films. Neither am I a fan of ‘36 chowringhee lane’ or ‘Dhobi Ghat’. My only problem is that why do we as Indian audience restrict our taste of cinema to biases like art film (boring), bollywood masala( time paas, entertaining)? Why can’t a film be commercial and at the same time provoke the senses of the masses? Why can’t Salman Khan act in a ‘Dharavi?’ Why doesn’t a film without a huge star cast be a box-office collector? Why should Karan johar only make a ‘My name is Khan’ which plays on a serious issue but gradually over plays…dramatically plays…painfully over and over plays on the issue till you are drained. And there is Shah rukh khan to make you believe in it even more. Yes, and this is because it is a Dharma production. One of the biggest production houses in India. So money also plays a significant role in these prejudices.
I Wish if we could stop creating this huge humongous difference between commercial and art films in India… treat them with some uniformity under the banner of ‘meaningful cinema’… if only we could stop believing in this hegemony that the mass audience in India want to just see Rajnikanth and Salman Khan. If only we could start breaking those stereotypes and myths. Then perhaps we would have much better credits to our name than an industry that produces the most no. of films in the world.
As quoted by one of my filmy friend:
There are only two types of films:
Good films
and Bad films…..

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One Response to ‘Masala’ V/s ‘Non- Masala’

  1. Suezelle D'Costa says:

    Nice piece Shaheen 🙂
    After I watched Dhobi Ghat, I told my sister to also watch the film as I thought it was a beautifully made film. After a couple of days, my sister tells me that her friends thought the film was crap and boring. So, she decided not to waste her time and money on a boring film. At that point, I did find it difficult to convince my sister, but I said one thing to her, “You studied BBA and you are allowed to be ignorant about such beautiful cinema.” 😛

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