Defying Logic

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Defying Logic

Having to leave your BRAINS behind is nothing new to bollywood moviegoers but, lately, the irrealism has soared to new, unbelievable heights

By Khalid Mohamed

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Published: Fri 30 Jan 2015, 1:53 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 12:26 AM

Robot had elements of the ridiculous

 Absurdities abound. A top-notch throat surgeon was telling me, the other day, that she couldn’t quite believe the strange question put forth to her by a research assistant of director R Balki’s latest film Shamitabh. Asked the researcher, “Is it possible to implant a chip into a throat, so that a mute person can speak in another man’s voice?”

The surgeon said, “No” politely. Then the surgeon was asked if it would be possible for her to enact a voice specialist’s role, besides hiring out her intricate medical equipment. Again that was declined politely, since the surgeon didn’t want to be part of such dramatic licence. I don’t know to what extent the surgeon’s advice was followed, since the matter ended there.

The point I’m making is that realism (read: authenticity) is no big deal in Bollywood, or even Hollywood. Balki’s earlier film, Paa, portrayed Amitabh Bachchan as a 12-year-old boy ageing physically into a senior citizen, because he suffers from the rare medical condition progeria. A similar theme of age reversal was covered in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, wasn’t it?

In cinematic patois, this condition is called ‘the suspension of a sense of disbelief.’ The rational-minded may not indulge in believing in the impossible, but most viewers are willing to accept the fantastical in the name of entertainment. Since time immemorial, then, a single hero can devastate a thousand baddies at one go, airplanes can land quite easily in sylvan forests and of course, a thousand chorus girls can pop up in the Arctic Circle or deserts to shake a leg for a song-and-dance sequence. Such elements are mandatory to make the audience feel that they are in a fantasy world, designed to add up to escapist entertainment.

Indeed, some filmmakers have been able to carry off the miraculous and the hyper-imaginary, with panache. To date, no one has succeeded in equalling the madcap entertainers of Manmohan Desai, whose Amar Akbar Anthony continues to be an ideal example of irrational entertainment. Desai was lambasted by the medical community for showing its three eponymous heroes, donating blood simultaneously to dear old Nirupa Roy on her death-bed.

To the flak, Desai had retorted, “Ask me if I care.” In the course of an interview he had asserted, “Critics can go hammer and tongs at me. The fact is that the audience loves my kind of cinema. And remember I told you this, when I’m dead and gone, I’ll be described as the Steven Spielberg of India.” No one has called compared him to Spielberg yet, but today he is justly saluted as the magician of Hindi cinema, who, with a sleight of the camera, could convince the audience that Amitabh Bachchan could survive a thousand bullets -— the pièce de résistance of his blockbusters such as Coolie and Mard.

Desai’s cinema was patently unpretentious. It’s when the real is bended way beyond belief, by the director with gross artificiality and distortion, which yields plain bad, gross cinema. And you can catch ceaseless specimens of this. For instance, the Rajinikanth movie Robot featured a sequence which was absolutely weird. I have yet to recover from the five minutes of footage in which the robot flies into a housing community engulfed by fire, to rescue a woman in a bathtub. He saves her life alright, but is roundly berated for saving a woman without a stitch of clothing. The robot’s creator is aghast, and sets about fixing the robot’s powers so that he never rescues a woman in the midst of a bath ever again! Believe me, this entire sequence is a classic in unintended comedy.

Lately, with a pinch of salt, I could be engrossed in the adventures of Rajkumar Hirani’s PK, partly because of its underlying theme of railing against religious bigotry. However, the super-heroic antics of Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are becoming exceedingly tough to digest. Their vehicles are driven more by their star value than their plot lines.

Similarly, most movies of Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan showcase the actors displaying their muscles than any semblance of dramatic intensity.

Excessive dramatic licence, like it or not, leads to pedestrian or, at best, mediocre entertainment. The throat surgeon tells me that she has stopped watching movies, unless they have a semblance of logic and sensibility. If I wasn’t hopelessly addicted to cinema — good, bad or outstanding — I’d follow her example. 

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