Friday, July 25, 2008

Indian Cinema’s RAIN DRAIN

Chasing the monsoon, B’wood style.

June 11, 2008

It is pouring outside. And the Piscean is excited! The wait is finally over, and the vanguard clouds of the southwest monsoon have started firing grapeshots. Every Indian is bound to fall in love with the invader. The proverbial "Saawan ka mahina" of Bollywood!
The time of the year when Nargis and Raj Kapoor unfold their umbrella and look into each other's eyes with platonic intent! When Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore run into an abandoned house, make a fire and sing ‘Roop tera Mastana’! When Mithun Chakraborthy runs out and ploughs the earth with his weird dance steps, while Shilpa Shirodkar shakes her hips in torrential frenzy! When Mandakini lies supine with languorous expectancy even as her B-grade hero runs in, 48 frames per second! When the belly buttons of Ramya Krishnan and Simran act as rain water reservoirs! When RGV's goons run through the dingy galis of Andheri in pursuit of their prey! Monsoon means different things to different people.
Far from the waterless pipes of Chennai, in the barren expanses of northern Tamil Nadu stands a beauty queen drenched in what the crew calls “artificial rain”. Twelve hoses, originating from three mobile tankers, are trained on her. The director screams for silence, the audio spool is switched on, the song hops out, and the cam trolley moves in to capture the gyrations. The hose-men synchronize the sequence. The “rain” is even. And a good 28,000 litres of water are showered over the screen siren. The guys who handle the “propeller” are not idling either. They simulate a nice 10-knot crosswind that enables the skirt to rise to the occasion. The hero blows a kiss to his girl; it braves the crosswind and lands on her cheek. The shot is Okayed; the female and male leads take a warm shower, facilitated by the spot boys, before reclining on their respective easy chairs. The male resorts to dryers. The siren is carpet-bombed with antiseptics and anti-allergy sprays. She finally gets into a head-to-toe bath robe, and the smile on the onlookers’ face vanishes. Four such days, and the rain song is canned.
A mile away from this waterworld is a village where the Bhuvans and Gauris (invoke ‘Lagaan’) of India reside, perpetually in need of H2O. In their world, a bucketful of water is a luxury and the monsoon cloud, a devilish mirage. The world where a half-formed drizzle is enough to inspire a “Ghanan Ghanan”.
In Hollywood and elsewhere, filmmakers do not need the rain to tickle Lady Box-office. They use it to a specific cinematic purpose. In ‘Rashomon’, rain is a superhuman presence. It provides a stoic backdrop to guile and intrigue in “The road to Perdition”. In ‘Hotel Rwanda’ it adds to the terror indoors. And in ‘Shawshank Redemption’, it is the shower of freedom we see! Only a few mainstream Indian filmmakers, such as Ram Gopal Varma, have got the 'rain syntax’ right. That too, very rarely.
It is not that Indian cinema has totally gone the Caligula way. There still are people who believe in doing things with a definite sense of purpose. The “artificial rain” of a Goutham Ghosh or an Adoor Gopalakrishnan would be different from that of You-name-them. Incidentally, most of our classic filmmakers tend to treat famine and drought instead of the rains. Climactic rains are, however, spotted in such films-- sequences wherein the hose-men are asked to fire their water guns at emaciated bodies!
As of now, Indian mainstream runs the risk of walking into the environmentalist’s jaws. He might hold the industry responsible for wasting water over “ungodly” purposes. The slogan will always be “Save water”. Here, again, it would be the Bhuvans and the Gauris who would be talked to. By none other than our Hero Blowkisswala! He would intrude the TV screen, close a water tap and shrug his shoulders. “Save water, save electricity”, he would preach. The very next day, he would walk out and give 25 retakes of the shot in which the character he plays is expected to react to his mom’s death! (A one-minute shot, it is said, eats 120KW) Some “Save water, save electricity” for you!
Having said this, I must say it is not safe to write this in these times, when Ramadosses lurk in the dark, waiting to pounce on inanities. He might call up a meeting, raise a hammer and ban rain in movies. And the Indian hero will have to look for other options to consummate hidden love. The ban would, however, put an end to unwanted on-screen pregnancies, since rains are looked upon by our scenarists as a great alibi for the hero and his girlfriend to indulge in carnal adventures. And the thundershowers have been vocal witnesses to hundreds of rapes, sometimes assisting voyeuristic audiences by flashing lightning at the appropriate moments. If rain is gentle, then the director is obviously hinting at consensual sex—an adept filmgoer can always tell!!
The World Watch Institute, Washington DC, warns that India would become a “water-strained” nation by 2020. In the darkness of their village cinema, the real Bhuvan and Gauri would clap at the song sequence shot near their village, not realising that they might be driven into an exodus in search of water, 20 years later.
It is not that Bollywood is a Mogambo planning to drain India of its water and going HA HA HA. But it certainly is a Bhikku Mahtre, wasting precious shooting hours on a “Goli Maar Bheje Mein”.

What would be the future coinage for Bollywood’s “Sawan ka Mahina”?
“Brain Drain’? No.
“Rain Drain”, it would be!
Source: India Syndicate
About the author: Murali Gopy is Entertainment Editor for MSN India.


Blogger Renjan said...

You missed Padmarajan's Thoovanathumbikal.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Mini said...

lovely read...

7:51 PM  
Blogger manjul said...

filmmakers do not need the rain to tickle Lady Box-office. They use it to a specific cinematic purpose. In ‘Rashomon’, rain is a superhuman presence thats true

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Reshma said...

Well said sir.

10:26 PM  

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