The Unreal Times

I am gloating. Gleefully gloating.

If I had a double chin (no offence towards those who already have one), toady eyes (most people don’t, although Arshad Warsi was the ‘woh tera mendhak jaise ankho wala dost’ to Akshay Khanna in Hulchul) and unnaturally bee-stung lips (every offence to the morons who purposely do it), I would definitely have epitomized the ‘ugly gloaty froggy look’ at the moment!

Ask me why? Because I am not the only ‘urban and not so artsy-fartsy’ drifter on the block who mostly find the supposedly cool, hip, real and relatable films that Bollywood churns out by the score to be abominably PHONY and UNREAL.

Latest casualty: Shaadi Ke Side Effects. And a rather unexpected and disappointing one at that. Huh!

I am not quite sure when the trend started. I could say 2001 with Dil Chahta Hai. But then, no. I am not a huge fan of that movie either but it had class and it honestly told the story of a certain section of ‘developed and modern’ India. That class still exists.

Yet, it was probably the film that made the then young (and now not-so-young) crowd to aspire for a certain kind of lifestyle.

In a strange tale of life imitating art, DCH started a trend. A trend that could be emulated by and large owing to the ever invading corporate culture and lifestyle shifts that has become the face of ‘modern India’. Read IT boom, call centers, media frenzy, pubs, malls, discos and the latest addition(s)? So called ambiguous relationships and exotic holidays to foreign locales. Voila! Can you possibly ask for more ‘reality’?

It’s been more than a decade since DCH’s release and I cannot possibly enumerate all the films I find idiotic and supremely well packaged to feed the insatiable appetite of the fun-loving, beer-guzzling, guitar-strumming, indecisive college goer, young professional and even the overgrown children nearing 40 (you could see Big starring Tom Hanks for reference).

I usually avoid watching such films unless I find them extremely engaging. And I am rather Scroogish given the plex-rates anyway.

The one film that is on my mind is Pyar ke Side Effects (anybody’s guess why it is the first one that I can remember). Rahul Bose, the DJ (one arty folk who never fails to drive home how ‘versatile’ he is; although I am mostly reminded of Tintin whenever I see him act) and Mallika Sherawat, the oomph-girl (who btw gave an impetus to ‘retail therapy’ with the film) made for a very ‘real urban story’. For I refuse to be obscene and uncouth, I must take help from Dr. Sheldon Cooper. My reaction to the film: ‘DRAT’!

Others I can think of – keeping in mind they are popular enough – are:

 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: Oh please, it was DCH after 10 years and there was nothing in it worth all the hype and praise. I watched it with my girlfriends who were mesmerized and I think one of them also started planning a Goa trip immediately after we left the Connaught Place plex. We had just joined a media house and vacationing in Spain was absolutely out of the question, you see. Besides, when we entered office that afternoon, we suddenly remembered: You don’t get ‘vacations’ in the Media.

I Hate Love Story/ Break Ke Baad/ Love Aajkal/etc.: Only solace, I think these were at least ‘critical failures’. I never spent money on them and mostly I skipped certain parts when they became too bogus. Very much meant for the urban crowd.

Go Goa Gone: Very smart packaging! ‘India’s first Zombie film’. Duh! Cut the crap. Look at the characters, the set-up, the lifestyle portrayed. You know, who the film is directed towards particularly when you are humming ‘Bloody Khooni Monday’ and imagining the video. Who are you fooling dude!

Sixteen: The trailers! You don’t need to watch the feature length film. You know what it is about. Spoiled, rich kids in a posh school and their precocious activities passed off as ‘reality of modern times’. Talk about shallow western lifestyle and its SIDE EFFECTS!

Shuddh Desi Romace: One would argue this isn’t exactly ‘urban’. I find this even more disturbing! It’s like a chain reaction gone bad and heading towards worse.

I could club a few more in here, such as Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani or even the few-weeks-old Hasee to Phasee. I have not seen either but they give off that kind of vibe to me. I suppose they are at least engaging…also the ones that take place out of the country such as Cocktail (this I have endured). Mummi, spare me the horror!

Now I come back to thrashing Shaadi Ke Side Effects….this is what a friend thinks:

“Ok, so Mr. Sidharth Roy aka Farhan Akhtar is a struggling creative artist, yet he owns a Volkswagen Polo, a Posh apartment in downtown Mumbai n his wifey gets a designer wardrobe, a nanny worth 15k n the best- a marriage proposal in Australia! How realistic this could get in Shaadi ke Side Effects.”

Used to hearing praises and how ‘cool and relatable urban flicks’ are from most in my circle…this is quite a surprise. Oh the joy of gloating in company.

Nonetheless…I have words of praise to drop as well.

Wake Up Sid, Delhi Belly, Vicky Donor: Three very different films but very much in the category I have been bashing up. Each, in my humble opinion, is ‘real’ to the extent a film can afford to be in a milieu like ours.

One might question the inclusion of Delhi Belly. Honestly, I too am surprised that I have included it. But then, I am reminded of the living conditions of Imran and his mates; somewhere in the dirty and dilapidated gullies of Old Delhi. Reality of rookie journos (and other media professionals) and call- center employees in the big cities aren’t too far from it. Seldom do they stay in airy, well-furnished and spotlessly clean flats (or PGs) as Bollywood would like us to believe (among other things).

I wish to end this by saying ‘Wake up People’….but I like to keep my opinions to myself. So I won’t say that. I am just glad I have company at last (although I come from the land where ‘Ekla cholo re’ i.e. ‘Walk Alone’ is a popular refrain; particularly post Kahaani).

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