Millennium Post

How Bollywood made crass cool

There was once a time in a land called Bollywood the cooler pastures beyond the sea beckoned. That was also the time when 'glocal' wasn't a cool sounding word. Travelling abroad was beyond the means of most Indians and the offices they worked in. So who better than filmwallahs to take them on a no-expense tour around the world? That was the time when Switzerland, New York, London was the badge of cool. Then as locales got boring and foreigners mouthing bad Hindi became passé, the producers tried Greece, Johannesburg and Thailand (with ample help from their Tourism departments).

But even that was not-so-happening anymore. So it was back to the
Marine Drives and Janpaths. And then as the gloss became boring, it was time to get raw, and how! Along came the hinterland, magnified and airbrushed to almost dainty but yet retain the rawness of it all. And Abhinav Kashyap did the unimaginable. He brought Bollywood home – literally- and made a Chulbul Pandey. While the aviators stayed on as tight as the sacred thread and the ganji stayed on – the audience seemed to have no problem. So on one hand Wake Up Sid was the metro way of doing it and then there was Dabangg, and now there is Ishaqzaade and Shanghai and soon the much-awaited Gangs of Wasseypur
. And Dev D is the movie that treads the fine line between metro and desi. Therefore, while the youth were picking out clothes like Ranbir and Deepika Padukone – to get down and dirty on the dance floor with Munni Badnaam, Chikni Chameli was perfectly 'cool' too and to threaten people in crass Hindi was cooler.

With the parameters explained, the question now is – what allows this mutually coexisting facets of the metro and and desi cool and extending that – how is desi cool again since the Hindi heartland is back with a bang 'Teri keh ke lunga' – if we put it nicely?

What can explain this is perhaps multifold. One could be the growing comfort with the vernacular, that had sadly deserted the youth for a good while in the middle, and a romantic return to the roots. Like the poets had predicted it – when the world gets tired of the chaos of change, the idyllic heart of the home beckons (nothing to do with mushy stuff - sorry). As the metros change at a crazy pace, it is but natural to want to go back to some sort of permanence that nurtures. Ironically however, the Indian heartland is no longer about the happy villages of swings and cows – it is about filthy politics, force, power and a little bit of love. Little bit. India is okay with that it seems – maybe THAT seems more permanent than a Chandni Chowk.

Things get raw, abuses become louder and death ordinary – things the classy politicians are doing it sitting in their imported cars in the cities are being done by the rouge thugs in the villages and guess what – they just stole all the hearts. The real, the gritty and the unpolished is what sells. Well, we have always been strangely fascinated by 'local artifacts'.

In another trajectory – the desire to tame is historic. Women want to tame their men – they always have wanted to – and they will continue to do so – it is tragic. But true. And now the chauvinistic soul will say – 'Real men cannot be tamed'. Thus. Bollywood is bringing these 'real men'. If the lady still likes her suave polished gentleman – fair enough – the Almora, Laalgunj and Wasseypur boys are not for her. So what works? The stubble, the garish colours, the loud declarations of love - '
Thaam le kalayi jo ussi ko jawan maanu main / Din dahare tujhko tujhi se a chura loon main
' – get the drift?  

Anurag Kashyap kicked things up a notch when he made Gulaal. While the action moved from the Delhi University politics to the fictional Rajpur in Rajasthan – the flashing bar sign, the Bob Marley fascination and the John Lennon inspired Piyush Mishra took the cool factor and shook it up. Who could have possibly imagined the rebel in Rajasthan idolising Lenon? The men were cool – the women cooler. All the while keeping it real but strictly desi in the soul.  

Back in the metros the Delhi University bylanes and Paharganj became cool – the drugs regular and the references real – if the youth were doing it – it made sense to show it on the screen. And speaking of audiences and the box office logic – the
cool movies scored better than the suave metro flicks. The everyday glossy metro had become drab and to see the villages shake matters up is much cooler. Intrinsically perhaps we are all a little raw.

In a grounded trajectory – perhaps the primary thing that made the heartland cool was politics. The attention of national politics has been shifting away from the centre and the focus on the heartland grows where the real game and the real violence resides. The small scale politicos give us the real picture it seems.

So in the changing scenario of movies and the associated cool factor – the Parma who wants to run away to Mumbai with his loud yellow bike is cooler than the Sid who struggles to find his niche as a photographer. Tougher, more gritty, real, exotic in fact – yet just the perfect backyard.  

Jhinuk Sen is Senior Copy Editor at Millennium Post.
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