I was very angry last night after watching half of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, and when I woke up this morning, I knew why. HKA was meant to reaffirm my faith in Indian creativity and so it’s failure was not just one bad film for me, but the loss of my hope that someone, somewhere in this country will do something worthwhile.
Two nights ago in Bombay someone aptly described the Indian media/entertainment/art scene as a “baccha party” - the little league - and I am beginning to despair of ever seeing anything deeper than a baby-pool ever being made locally.
I used to have this debate with friends about whether local talent should be given some leeway, some encouragement initially to nurture their growth, no matter how shit they are. Their side of the argument usually is that in an increasingly globalised world, everyone competes at a global level. Why should I watch Black when I can watch Wild Strawberries instead? Why buy an Indian band’s album when I can download all the Grateful Dead I could possibly want. Just because it’s Indian shouldn’t affect your judgement of it. My argument was that yes, all that is true, but how about supporting them so that one day when (if) they come good, you’ll have a worldclass filmmaker/band who lives and works in your city. You have local access to their work. Now I feel that they’re right and I was wrong. These people will never grow out of their feeble-mindedness as long as everyone keeps telling them how great they are. It’s one massive Mutual Appreciation Society.
Look at what’s on TV (or rather, don’t!). Look at the films that are coming out. I watched Lagaan in London and felt ashamed, even more so when it got an Oscar nomination. Black? Please! HKA? An atrocity. This whole baccha party is being sponsored by big media and their connections and being lapped up wholesale by an upwardly-mobile MBA class that has no time to form any opinion other than what they read in the newspapers. It’s a really happy situation for them when they can make money from “Chandu ke Chacha”. Really desperate times for the rest of us.
Of course there are notable exceptions. Indian Ocean is one band that continues to generate meaningful music. They don’t insult the intelligence of their audiences like most everyone else does. “Dil Chahta Hai”, “Monsoon Wedding” and “Mr. And Mrs. Iyer” were some great recent films made locally. There, I’ve run out of names. It’s almost as if the rest of the artists think that we’ve never seen a movie or heard a song before in our lives. I’m sure there are plenty of films/bands/authors out there that I’ve never heard of that are doing amazing work. It’s just not possible that there are none (one lives in hope), but the fact remains that whatever gets to the mainstream is just a joke.
I truly believe that some of the stuff that reaches us started out well, and got messed up by the suits along the way. Suits hate radical thought. They like bubblegum, and as long as the tyranny of their business model persists, bubblegum is all we’ll get. I don’t see their business model lasting very long, what with the Internet and all, but are our indie artists worth it?
Some might say that it’s a question of money, but that’s just making excuses. An average human being today has more equipment well within his reach than Bunuel could even have dreamed of. The constraints are gone, so where is the art? Show us the art! In the end, it’s a question of attitude. Nobody does things for love anymore. Bands all over the country don’t have the imagination to rise above the ritualistic aping of their succesful western counterparts. Filmmakers are lazy. Authors don’t spend enough time on their sentences. How can someone from IIT/IIM now working a cushy job in Hong Kong write a novel worth reading? It takes time to craft the perfect sentence. It takes empathy to write a mood. It takes effort. These lazy bastards, I’ve had enough of them.
Not one original voice to be seen for miles. The future looks bleak.