in Bollywood, India


Sitting in a dark cinema hall, all alone, I had a thought. Maybe this movie, called Dabangg 2, isn’t all non-sense. Maybe it’s not about leaving your brains out of the hall when you come to see this funny and interesting movie. Maybe it’s about knowing what you’re looking at. We Indians are pretty judgmental people. We look at Indian cinema and TV and laugh at its stupidity yet spend hours talking about the latest Bond or Iron Man flick (don’t tell me you don’t think RDJ doesn’t make it awesome). What is so awesome about Superman and Batman that makes us Gaga (and not in the Lady sense) about them? The fact that we know them to be fiction. These are the Superheroes that we believe in despite knowing their fictional origins.

Growing up in the 90s in India meant that I grew up with a surprising lack of popular native superheroes. I had Tintin, Asterisk and Obelix, Superman, Batman and Scooby Doo and the gang but no true Indian heroes. By the time Shaktiman came around, we had outgrown Chacha Chowdry and Naagraj and had moved on to DC comics in such a way that we knew every move Shaktiman made. I remember watching one of the most important episodes of the series and knowing immediately that the scene, moves and eventual outcome were all copied from Superman. By the time we finished with our teens, the K-serials of Saas Bahu fame had taken over most of TV prime time and MTV and Cartoon Network had died. Thus, a generation of cynics was born who only looked westward for entertainment and to believe in something. Therefore, the current crop of action films in Bollywood are only looked at as entertainment, or as one time watches.

But when I was staring at the screen, watching Chulbul Pandey be the fury that Indian gangsters are afraid of, I had a thought. Why can’t I believe in this? Why can’t I believe with the same conviction and fan following that I give to the Jedi, that the Sub-inspector from Laalganj is just as awesome? After all, he is just as heroic and his stunts are just as larger than life. So, why not? Is it that he doesn’t wear a mask? Or maybe the numerous song and dance sequences that litter the movie? No. I think that we cannot believe in him because he is an Indian creation. But if we go beyond the glam and the lack of high-tech gadgets, we’ll see a story we like. A Hero we’d want to emulate, a fearless leader we’d like to see succeed.

Looking at the character bust skulls on the big screen, I realized we may have a series on our hands. Whether the Khan brothers choose to convert it into a third movie, let alone comics/a TV show/books, is yet to be seen. But the people of India will certainly enjoy watching the peculiar law guardian enter seedy workshops to beat criminals to pulp and then put their money into his pocket. The people of India are ready for Robin Hood Pandey.

What do you think?


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  • Any good personal blog is like an episode of Seinfeld – there’s a lot of navel-gazing, an excess of philosophizing, and not a lot of public good comes out of it. That’s fine, because the personal gains are humongous, if metered like the seasons of self-love and loathing.
    Whenever I think of non-text forms of blogging – podcasts, and photostreams – I realize that neither of those are truly enough. You can express a lot in a photo, but it feels static, whereas the written word has largely proven that it should always be taken with a grain of salt based on the time from which the writing belongs. You can’t express a lot in podcasts because speech is such a thing that it derails the most cohesive of thought. I’ve rarely ever come across a podcast that was more than one person, off-script, and intelligible after about five minutes of listening.
    But blogging, well, that’s something. Don’t take my word for it. Here are my favorite quotes about this art form –

    A blog is sort of like an exhale.

    – Nora Ephron, 2006, via Daniel Gray

    For bloggers, the deadline is always now.

    – Andrew Sullivan, 2008, via tedium, via The Atlantic
    I used to think that if I critique something on my blog – a book, or an idea, or a movie – it should be well researched and well structured. The frivolous thoughts are for microblogging. I still think that about the other forms of blogging. But there’s vgr, holding a mirror, saying, “No, blogging is for everyone and everything. Dump your worst ideas and your stupidest thoughts on your webspace. Are you that curated in your offscreen life too?”
    I’ve written a few book reviews and notes and movie reviews here on my blog. The only time I’ve received any form of feedback is when I criticized a highly timely and visible piece of tech, which was immediately picked up by the lead developer and I’m glad I was wrong and completely out of line and learnt that over time.
    I love the concept of blogging, but, and I believe this to be true for a lot of bloggers out there, am held back by this wanton need for perfection. Screw the perfection. Just hit publish. The deadline for your thoughts is always now.
    p.s. I’ve linked to a lot of posts from my own blog. Because once a blogger is done navel-gazing, it’s time to make others do the same!
    Update. Perfect timing – after I wrote this post, I updated my Jetpack plugin and they’ve added a new Gutenberg feature to find and add GIFs to posts. What could be more frivolous than GIFs? So here’s one –

    GIFs in WordPress? Banana!

    Update. More timely validation, this time from a more professional environment that uses blogging –

    Perfection is the enemy of the good
    Have No Fear – Learning to love your blog

    Update. Austin Kleon on the importance of revisiting diaries (and his blog) –

    […] the live reading and revision, that’s what this blog is for. It’s the place where I take private thoughts and turn them public, see what the reaction is, if any, and then weave what I’ve learned back into the work.
    The importance of revisiting notebooks