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16 January 2014

Dead As A Dodo (Hopefully!)

Otherwise known as: Tropes in Hindi cinema that I have bid adieu to, without regrets, and ones that I hope will go the same way...   


I must confess that it is one of Dustedoff's more recent posts that triggered the inspiration for this one. She wrote about the 'lost and found' trope and its absence from cinema today, and in the comments, there was a discussion about other such tropes that have vanished without a by-your-leave. 'Don't people go on picnics anymore?' bemoaned one reader. True. Those were innocent archetypes that usually set the scene for a decent song. And yes, I mourn their absence as well. But that set me thinking - what about the many tropes that have vanished (or should vanish) without their being mourned? 

Long ago, I wrote a post on character archetypes in Hindi cinema that we do not see any more. In that post, I also wrote that I was just listing the characters who have vanished from our screens, not arguing that they should still be around. Here, though, I'm talking about  tropes I wish would vanish, tropes that have vanished, and should stay vanished, beginning with one of the most egregious. 

1. Sex as a cure for hypothermia
Can I just say Thank you to whichever god of cinema it is that decided that this particular cure should be retired? While the dialogues pay lip service to 'body warmth' being the last ditch resort to keep hypothermia patients warm until they can get medical help, no one (as far as I know) suggests that that means they need to have sex with an unconscious woman in order to save her life. Note that it is always the woman who is in need of being 'warmed up'.  
Examples are quite a few, from Shashi Kapoor regretfully (yeah!) 'doing the dastardly deed' with an unconscious Sharmila in Aa Gale Lag Jaa  to the horrible, horrible (Manmohan Desai, how could you?!) scene of Amitabh doing the same to Meenakshi Sheshadri in the travesty that was Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. My only question after coming out of the theatre was, God, why did Amitabh have to stoop to this? 
Unfortunately, GJS is unforgettable, though not for the same reasons for which one usually uses that description. 
 
2. The heroine getting pregnant after one night of illicit passion
This could also be a corollary to 1. But whether she is unconscious when the hero is having his way (what a lovely euphemism) with her (Aa Gale Lag Ja), or she consciously gives in to the raging hormones - if she is not married (and this is an important precondition) - she will become pregnant (Ek Phool Do Maali, Aakhri Khat, Andaz, Dhool ka Phool - take your pick). Someone mentioned Sharmila as the face of the unwed mother in the comments on my post on the various filmy Maa(s). I must agree. She was definitely unbelievably fecund on-screen: Daag, Aradhana, Mausam, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Satyakam, Sunny, Swati... all come to mind.
 
Corollary to the corollary: This natural calamity also occurs if the heroine is married, but her husband has to stay away from her due to circumstances beyond his control (Baarish, Aan Milo Sajna) - like being in jail, for instance (or hiding from the law).
 
But he will escape, and in the one night that he manages to elude the cops and meet his wife, they will give in to their lust (sorry, pavitra pyaar) and voila! Hero is back in jail, and heroine is pregnant, and being chastised most severely for being unchaste.  

3. Doctors diagnosing the heroine's pregnancy by checking their pulse (Thanks to Dustedoff for providing both the example and the screenshot.)
Perhaps this should also be a corollary to the above, since, usually a month or so after the afore-mentioned night of illicit passion, the heroine faints. Again, usually, at a party. Or just in public. And among the guests, or the standers-by, there will be a doctor, who is so talented that just by checking the lady's pulse, he will proclaim loudly, Ye maa ban-newaali hai. (See Humraaz, for instance.) Stray thought: haven't they heard of patient privacy at all?
The other sign of pregnancy does not need a doctor to spot that the heroine is indeed, pregnant. She will throw up. And there will be an old woman conveniently around (usually Leela Misra) who will mutter in tones of deep disgust: Arree, kulta, tum humein kisi ko munh dikhane ke laayak nahin chhodi! Tu paida hote hi mar kyun nahin gayi...
(Confession: This scene actually takes place 25 years after the occurrence, but Leela Misra is still excoriating Sulochana for having been pregnant out of wedlock two decades and a half ago. Sentiments similar to the examples I gave above were expressed with much contempt. I couldn't resist putting it here, because it so efficiently expresses my point - the 'shame' of a youthful mistake never ends.)
I haven't seen much of this around at this point, and I hope never to see it again.

4. The hero's sister, who is only there so she can be raped by the villain and then commit suicide (or be murdered, or become an unwed mother whereupon, see above...)
This was rather common from the late sixties all the way to the eighties. If the hero had a sister who was not a mainstream or second-tier heroine* (think Faryal, Madhu Malini, etc.), then you can bet she was there just so she could be raped by the likes of Prem Chopra, Ranjeet, and their ilk (Faraar, Adalat, Resham ki Dori). That would be the reason for the peace-loving, plough-toting (or file-carrying) hero to lay down the tools of his trade and pick up a rifle. But not before he knocks unsuccessfully at the doors of justice, and/or is framed for crimes he did not commit. Badlaaaa! Main tera khoon pee jaaoonga... Goodbye, sisters. I'm so glad you are not around to be raped any more. 
*If the sister is a mainstream heroine (Nanda, Shyama, Zeenat Aman), then she will be paired off with the second leading man or will be the focus of the plot (Chhoti Bahen, Bhabhi, Hare Rama Hare Krishna...) If she is a second-tier heroine (for e.g. Aruna Irani, Nazima, Naaz, Shubha Khote), she will be paired off with the comic interest (Junglee, Gharana, Sasural...). In both cases, she will not be raped, or if they try, she will be saved in the nick of time. After all, heroes, even second leads, and comedians cannot be paired with 'damaged' (ugh!) goods. 
 
An important corollary to this is if the heroine (or one of the heroines) is saved from rape by the hero (one of the heroes) she will promptly fall in love with him. It often leaves me scratching my head. If someone saved me from rape or molestation, I would be grateful to him/her/it until the end of my life and beyond, but I did not know it was mandatory for me to fall in love with them. How do you fall in love with a person just because he saved your life and/or your honour? Or do these women not know the difference between gratitude and love? (If one of my readers can explain this to me, I would be eternally grateful. No, not in love with you, but grateful...)

5. Widows given a second chance at love (and life), but only if they are 'untouched' (I love euphemisms.)
 In the ways of the patriarchy, women have to be 'pure'. So with few exceptions, a hero can only marry a widow if she is a) Not really a widow (Kati Patang) b) It was a child marriage and she hasn't even been to her sasural (Bhabhi) and, c) If her first marriage was not consummated for reasons later explained (Ek Phool Do Mali)
Basically, if the woman is a virgin even though she is married and widowed, she has every right to fall in love and expect the man to marry her. Otherwise, she will step aside for the 'pure' heroine, or will die to save the hero/her child/any stray passer-by, but she will not let her apavitr saaya tarnish the hero's life.

6. If you are a girl and you smoke and drink and wear short skirts even after you fall in love with the hero*, you have to die
Really. Don't you know it is against Bharatiya sanskar?** Only those loose, western women smoke and drink, and we all know they sleep around. Chee chee.  So if you are an Indian woman and smoke, drink, and (gulp) have premarital sex, you have no hope in hell of having a halfway decent life. Die! The 'bad' girls in Hindi films always do. Of course, they sometimes salvage their eternal soul by taking a bullet meant for the spineless hero so they can die in his arms, begging for another life so they can learn to be worthy of him. (Helen in Teesri Manzil, Sharmila in An Evening in Paris, etc. Aaaaaargh!)
*That is because heroines who wear short skirts and 'westernised' clothes change into salwar-kameezes and saris the minute they fall in love - with a hero, who ostensibly fell in love with their mini-skirted avatars. (An Evening in Paris, Purab aur Paschim, Ziddi, any number of films.) Oh, and their hair grows surprisingly long overnight as well, and good Indian girls always know their Sanskrit prayers and will keep Karva Chauth.
If she continues to wear western outfits and/or talk to a paraya mard, be assured she will come to a bad end (Nargis in Andaz).

** Some day, I would like to lay my hands on this Bharatiya Sanskar  manuscript (and tear it up). I will bet my last penny that if there is one, it has been penned by a neanderthal male. (Most men I know are, thankfully, sensible creatures.) 

7. "Betiyaan paraya dhan hoti hai."  "Betiyon ke ghar ka paani tak peena hamare dharm ke khilaaf hain"
I should hope that the idea of 'paraya dhan' is banished not just from our films, but also our society. a) I'm not my husband's property and, b) I still 'belong' as much to my parents and siblings (and they, to me) as I do to my husband. 

Two, this concept of the girls' parents being somehow inferior to those of the boys'? It sticks in my craw, and I write this as the mother of two boys. 

Of course nothing beats the dialogues by the women themselves, the ones who touch their husband's feet and cry, "Tumhare charanon mein hi apna swarg hai", or (removing his sandals), "Ye toh mera janm-janmantar adhikaar hai." (And this gem was, quite unforgivably, from Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Pyar ka Sapna.) Barf. 

8.  The hero stalking the heroine, teasing her, refusing to take 'No' for an answer because, of course, she is in love with him - or will be
Yes, I'm aware that quite a few movies I have liked in the past, and still like for that matter, had that trope well and truly ingrained in their DNA. (Yes, Shammi Kapoor movies, especially.) But those were more innocent times, and the interactions were also quite respectful once the romance was established. However, I would be the first one to agree that that particular element needs to be well and truly buried today. 

So, yes, men need to learn that 'No' means 'No!' (Not 'Now!') It does not mean 'Yes' or 'Maybe'. And no, we are not going to fall in love with you because you follow us around, call us a billion times, and basically act like you have no life of your own.
Nor are we in love with you because we smile at you and talk to you. If we liked you (yes, in 'that' way), we would tell you so. You don't need to 'pursue' us. We are not game. 

But to be fair to the men, a note to women out there who think it is cute to play games because 'men like to pursue women', and 'women have to play hard-to-get, or the man won't respect you'. Please do not say 'No' when you want to say 'Yes'. Conversely, please do not feel pressurised to say 'Yes' when you want to say 'No'. And once you do say 'Yes', please own that you did, in fact, say 'Yes'. There is a fine line between flirting and being a tease. 

(You are surprised that both men and women fall prey to this stereotypical behaviour? It's quite prevalent, I can assure you, on the part of both sexes. Isn't it time we banished this not only from films but from our lives as well?)

p.s. to men: Saying 'Yes' does not make a woman 'desperate' or 'loose' or unworthy of marriage.
p.s. to women: And you don't want to marry (or have a relationship with) the men who think that of you, anyway.

Now that we have got most of the horrible tropes out of the way (if you have any more to add to the list, feel free), here are some of the amusing ones that have also disappeared (one hopes!) and should stay that way.

9. The hero and heroine singing a song of eternal love and vowing to be together not just in this life, but saat janam tak...
I do not know about the hero and heroine, but the audience definitely knows by now that tragedy will immediately follow the lovey-dovey happy song. The hero and heroine will be separated - by circumstances, death (real or supposed), or betrayal (real or supposed). Retire this one already, please. Though I must confess that we got a lot of lovely songs from this plot device (Sangam, Rajkumar, Andaz, Mere Mehboob...).

10. Older heroes acting as college students
This was the bane of a certain period in our films. It was quite a stretch of imagination to watch people like Rajendra Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Biswajeet and their ilk pretend to still be in college when they looked old enough to have kids in high school at least. They also had cringe-worthy dialogues to go with that role -"Maa, main college mein first aaya hoon."
 
Unfortunately, while the heroes may not be in college today, the trend continues: heroines of a certain age soon become their erstwhile heroes' elder sister or bhabhi, while the heroes continue to romance other heroines who are almost twenty years their junior.
 

11. The hero and heroine breaking into a song-and-dance routine in public, accompanied by dozens of people impeccably attired in costumes (mostly), all knowing how to match steps to an intricately choreographed number
 
And it doesn't matter if the setting is in India or abroad, in a club or on the street. It is a given. I suppose one should be glad that they don't come bearing pots and pans these days.  Sai Paranjpye spoofed this trope beautifully in Chashme Buddoor.
 
This trope actually reminds me of a funny story that a friend of ours who resided in the Gulf told us. He was watching a Madhuri Dixit film on TV one day, when, in the middle of a song sequence, there were a few dozen camels walking across the screen. He didn't think much of it, since he is used to horses, elephants, pots, duppattas, flowers, etc., being used as props in song sequences. Until he came to India and happened to watch that song sequence again - there was the suggestion of a kiss where he had seen the camels before, and the authorities in the Gulf had done their own (intelligent) moral censorship, knowing the average Hindi film-goer of those times would not be any the wiser.

Corollary to the above trope: Can we stop having the heroine jump into the middle of a group dance (usually folk, usually in the village), and immediately know all the steps so she can dance it perfectly without missing a beat?

12. The 'climax' song in the villain's den
Stop making our heroes (and heroines) look like idiots. (Some of them don't need any help.) Why, when you are attempting to breach the villain's den for a rescue attempt, or to bring him to justice, would you go in dressed in the flimsiest of disguises? The cops in our movies may be bumbling idiots, but the villains aren't. Usually. Besides, isn't the whole purpose of the exercise to get the villain? Not waste time singing songs? Or until the pest of a mother shows up to tell the hero, 'Tum kanoon ko apne haath mein mat lo, beta' thus giving the villain a chance to use her as a shield. (At which point, a sensible man should say, 'Oops, sorry, ma' and shoot the villain anyway. The greater good, and all that...) 
Besides, everyone is able to see through your 'gypsy' disguise. Note to all scriptwriters and heroes: You are still recognisable as 'you' under that thin mouche. And just in case you didn't know, a sheer veil doesn't a disguise make. But of course, if you can fool your wife just by shaving off your mouche, then villain kya cheez hai?
It is interesting, as a sociological thought-process, to see just how many of these plot contrivances that I would like to see disappear are those that reference women.  I do agree that films (and film stars) are soft targets and that someone, somewhere, is going to be offended at something. 

I believe films are a reflection of society in some ways. But it is true that society reflects what films show as well. I also believe strongly that films do not necessarily have to be 'moral'. I do believe, though, equally strongly, that they have to be careful about the message they are sending out. What I ask is that film-makers take stock of whether what they are showing is true to the spirit of their story, to the character who is behaving in a certain way, to the ethos to which that character belongs. Most often, they are not. They are just contrivances that can easily be done without. 

I love my Hindi cinema, both the realistic ones, and the impossibly masala ones; I'm perfectly happy watching a total entertainer that doesn't take itself seriously, and is very clear about that aspect of it. I will overlook the huge leaps of logic that are needed to follow the plot (what plot?), ogle the eye candy on screen, listen to the songs, laugh at the comedy, clap at the punchlines, enjoy my samosa and chai, and come back happy to have spent three hours on that experience. 

I love to watch a film intelligently made, that has a certain message that is a part of that arc of the narrative, and seeks to disseminate its message in a way that is palatable to the average viewer. 

I'm perfectly fine with a film that espouses the film-maker's point of view, be it ever so serious, as long as he does not patronise me. If he has made me think, if he can cause me to reflect on a long-held bias or attitude and accept there might be a different point of view even if I still do not agree with it? Bliss. Icing on the cake. Cherry on top. (Masculine pronoun used for convenience.)

Where I personally take offence, is the film that treats its audience as idiots, objectifies its female characters, stereotypes the male ones, espouses regressive beliefs under the umbrella of 'sanskar' and takes itself and its 'message' so seriously that the filmmaker hits us on the head with what is 'good' and 'bad' (in his opinion).

I respect the huge time, effort and money that goes into making a film, any film. All I ask is that filmdom respect the viewer as well.

These are my wish list of plot devices that should either stay buried or be given a quick and respectful burial. What tropes would you like to see banished from the lexicon of Indian cinema?

34 comments:

  1. Very well written, Anu. Hilarious, of course (anyone told you you have a great sense of humour, my girl? ;-)), but also thought-provoking. I agree with you so much; there was a lot in those films - some of it stuff I often blithely forgave, some which really got on my nerves - that should never have been there. Especially as society tends to model itself so much on what it sees onscreen. :-(

    As to some of the tropes I find silly, I may as well do a plug here:

    http://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/ten-great-bollywood-mysteries/

    (Several of which - the unwed mother, the bad girl, the silly disguise - are common to your post's. No surprises, there!)

    By the way, Sharmila Tagore's Suzie in An Evening in Paris doesn't exactly take a bullet for the hero. Though the villain's intention was to kill Shammi's character, Suzie yells out, to warn Shyam (Shammi) off, and to tell him where to find Deepa... then Pran shoots her to shut her up. Also, last seen in the film, she's merely unconscious, not dead. So (I discussed this with Banno in a little conversation on the post), we don't really know what happens eventually to Suzie.

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  2. Wonderfully funny analysis! I need to take this apart, line by line, and come back with my thoughts! Seriously, though, I can think of many people who would love to ask Ques. 10. As for Ques 8, after such stalker type behavior, why does the heroine fall in love with the guy? I have also wondered, but of course, the few guys who whistled at me did NOT look like Shammi or Dev! Maybe that explains it.

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  3. Thanks for the appreciation, Madhu. :) You have me grinning ear to ear.

    With Suzie, yes, technically, I know it was not really her jumping to take a bullet meant for Sam, but in effect, it was the same trope disguised - Suzie should not live. She is bad, Sam has mere contempt for her, her own father is disgusted (she was kidnapped as a baby, for heavens' sake!), and the man she loves (even that was silly- she is shown to be pretty happy as Jack's girlfriend) is her sister's lover. Finally, Shekhar has a gun and Suzy has to think on her feet to save Sam from fighting him to save her-disguised-as-Deepa. It is the ultimate tyag that (often male) scriptwriters shove down our throats.

    It was usually Helen who died in the hero's arms with a bullet through her, no? I can't offhand remember the films, but there were so many of them where she was in love with the hero herself, and died to make way for the heroine.

    Your Bollywood mysteries post! How could I have forgotten that! I think that was the first post of yours that I had read - there was a mention of it on Bollyviewer's blog, and I came to your blog from there. Yes, I remember grinning my way through that. Will read it again just to educate myself *grin*

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  4. Thank you, Lalitha. Yes, please do come back to share what you think.

    but of course, the few guys who whistled at me did NOT look like Shammi or Dev!


    See, as I get older, that bothers me - that we thought that if the men looked like Shammi or Dev, we wouldn't mind. But it is the behaviour that is egregious, not who is doing it. I mean, in real life, if a handsome guy were to stalk us, would we be flattered? Would we fall in love with him just because he was handsome and was paying us attention? But it wouldn't be okay if the chap was not-so-goodlooking?



    Just random thoughts when I read about the atrocities committed on women in the name of love. What are we forgiving here? And what attitude are we perpetrating? I agree that women are the victims of the stalking, but what I'm trying to say, more seriously, is that we also have agency. If we welcome this behaviour because the chap is goodlooking, then we are telling the others that it is okay to behave that way with us because we will give in, in the end. And since 'goodlooks' are subjective, what is to prevent an average guy from believing his attentions will be welcome?



    Not that you are saying any of the above, Lalitha, these are just thoughts that were spartked off by your comment. :( I think, what I'm trying to say, in my usual bumbling manner is that, yes, women are victims, and men do not get a pass on behaving as if they are god's gift to women, but we women need to own our own part, our own responsibility in this. I'm *not* blaming the victim; I'm trying to open a dialogue on how we view these things, and how often we 'blithely forgive' as Dustedoff puts it, behaviour in some men that we would not forgive in others. How is a man watching us supposed to make out the difference?


    Sorry for the long response (and the soapbox) - I'm hoping that this post will bring in more discussions on what we see and overlook in our cinema and how it affects us a society...

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  5. Wonderfully humorous post Anu. I got nostalgic enough to lose myself; and had to say ‘main kahaan hoon’ to bring myself back to the present.

    The most nostalgic part was no. 10 – brought back pleasant memories of the times when the hero packed a paunch. Today’s heroes, even if they are 40 something, look obscenely fit. South is a lot better – long live Mohanlal.

    ‘Manzil’ featuring Nutan and Dev Anand was another example of no. 5. The husband does a double favour to the lovers – first by being called to the battlefront on the wedding night and second by falling to his death at the appropriate moment. A thought: would the heroine being ‘ganga ki tarah pavitra’ make sense today, given the state of pollution in the Ganges?

    No. 8: Stalking is very much alive and taken to gruesome extremes in Ranjhanaa.

    No. 12: ‘Kanoon ko haath mein mat lo’ is not going out anytime soon. Even Hollywood hasn’t outgrown it. Tom Cruise in one of the Mission Impossible series gets the better of the villain in the end, but walks away instead of finishing the job. It is left to the heroine to alert him that the villain is not quite ‘dodo’ – at which
    he swings around and finishes the business. Liam Neeson does the same in ‘Taken 2’.

    We are getting some good stories now even in films that have no arthouse pretensions. ‘Kahaani’ and ‘Karthik Calling Karthik’ are two examples that come to mind. Films are also getting bolder. The earliest I remember a couple spending quality time in bed without bothering to get married was Rakhi and Dev Anand in ‘Heera Panna (1973)’. Anybody recalls an earlier mainstream film?

    One trope we haven’t seen for some time is the hero/heroine pretending to be a fallen man/woman so that the significant other can live happily ever after with a more deserving partner. Unfortunately Chetan Bhagat has used it in his book ‘Revolution 2020’ and I understand it is being made into a film :(.

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  6. "It was usually Helen who died in the hero's arms with a bullet through her, no?"

    In Teesri Manzil, for one! :-D

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  7. Thank you so much, Subodh!

    and had to say ‘main kahaan hoon’ to bring myself back to the present.



    Unwittingly (or deliberately?), you just mentioned another long-gone (one can hope?) trope. *grin*


    Re:Manzil - yes, it is very convenient, isn't it, how, if the heroine is married, the marriage will never be consummated for some strange reason? I mean, she can't be adulterous (Rosie in Guide must have given quite a few men [and women] palpitations!), but she has to remain a virgin or how the heck will the hero accept her? What is funny (to me) is that it happens this happens in a Dev Anand film - he wasn't known for caring too hoots about society's morality.



    God in heaven, when will that man stop writing novels? And why do people insist on filming his stories anyway? I suppose the good part is that even when they do buy the rights to his novels, the only ones that succeed are those where the director or scriptwriter has rewritten the entire script so there is but a scarce resemblance to the original novel anyway. I mean, he complained about Hirani changing 3 Idiots (or Hirani claimed he did, I'm not sure) but Kai Poche was a completely new story by the time the director finished scripting it. Now his Two States is being made, and you are telling me Revolution 2020 is also going to be filmed? Meh!

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  8. Yeah, I mentioned that, but I seem to remember other films in which she would promptly die at the end. It is also amazing that after being shot, they have all the time to make self-sacrificing speeches, and everyone stands around to listen instead of taking them to the nearest doctor. *grin*

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  9. Hi, love this blog post, just like I've most of the others. One trope if one might suggest that, is an end to the grieving long suffering mother (usually widowed) who is waiting for her sons to rescue her from all injustice.. The worst example of this is Rakhee waiting for Karan-Arjun in the eponymous movie. It'd nice for a chance to have some agency attributed to them.

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  10. Here are two that I thought were particularly funny -the one where the 40 plus hero is still in college and somehow manages to come "first class pass" or " university mein first", even without ever shown touching his books. The trend continues, with Shah Rukh Khan Hrithik Roshan and others. In fact I remember one movie where one of the characters was supposed to have failed in that class for at least two years, making it sound more like school rather than college. And which college has students breaking out in songs and dances at the drop of a hat? Or maybe I just attended the wrong colleges!
    I also like it when the hero and heroine start singing and are joined by all these other characters, who already know the right lyrics and steps for the song and dance which the lead pair are going to sing. That is because I myself would need at least a year of practice (and I am optimistic here).
    But, on the other hand, a neighbor mentioned the other day about this doctor who felt her pulse and correctly proclaimed that she was pregnant! So maybe those doctors did know what they were talking about!
    More random thoughts to follow!

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  11. Wonderful post Anu, this is something we used to often discuss at home. That bit you mentioned about the the heroine or any female character vomiting and the the others immediately guessing she is pregnant reminded me of a funny incident. Many, many years ago my neighbour's son who was then around 3 or 4 years old used to spend most of his time in our home. As his mother used to watch T.V. he had more or less begun to understand what Hindi films were all about. Once we were watching some film in his presence and some female character (I do not remember the film nor the character) started vomiting, this little fellow very knowledgeably informed ususne ulti kya ab usko bachcha hoga we burst out laughing.
    As for some of the other typical scenes in the past, the hero or or heroine's rich father invariably wore a suit no matter where he went, even if he was at home, and if he was relaxing then he had to be in an expensive dressing gown. I saw my father doing this in film after film. Then when the hero sang a sad song he would sit at the piano which was usually placed near his mansion's staircase and since he was sad, he was always seen draped in a shawl. Then there were the fight scenes, usually the fights took place in a godown of sorts with boxes piled up, why the boxes were kept was never explained.
    Once cinematographer Kamal Bose (his note worthy films include Sujata, Khamoshi, Safar, Dharmatma and so on) laughingly remarked that when the hero and heroine meet in the presence of either the hero or heroine's father, the father invariably says tumlog dono baat karo mera kuch zaroori kaam haiwhat zaroori kaamhe has I have never understood. Oh I could go on, like my father used to get tired of constantly giving some standard expressions because that is what the director and the cinematographers wanted.

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  12. By the way, there was this one guy in our class who was around 30 (he had been working for a few years and may have been younger for all I know, but I was only 19 and he looked OLD to me) and he was known as "uncle".

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  13. Anu,
    Probably we are rejoicing the demise of the regressive female characters too soon. They have come back on the more pervasive medium, the small screen, with a vengeance. They all have some common characteristics - they are young!, educated!, they are ideal bahus with high ideals. They suffer and accept the indignities, insults, violence and worse, inflicted upon them by their husbands or sundry in-laws. They pretend before their parents that they are happy, because they don't want to trouble them. To be sure, there are some in the family who are sympathetic to them, who ask them to protest and speak the truth. But, that would be selfish, and they maintain their noble and exalted standards.


    Who are the audience for this trash? Women, of course, and I dare say that are not all illiterate and village types. Who is offering this to the women? A young lady called Ekata Kapoor. Being a daughter of Jeetendra, I believe she has grown up in liberal surroundings. So, from where has she got her aesthetics?


    A refreshing change was Saraswatichandra by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Though from a Gujarati traditional household, Kumud is bold, she makes her choices. But, lo and behold, after a few episodes, for some reason, Saraswatichandra sends a message that he can't come for the wedding. Instead of trying to find out the reason, she agrees to marry anyone her father chooses, on the same wedding day, because her Bapu's honour is paramount. So far so good, but the husband turns out to be a monster, alcoholic and debauch. Kumud now accepts the beatings and everything, because of her Bapu's honor, and because she would win the heart of her husband by her love. You feel like shooting the girl and SL Bhansali.


    In the films, the other extreme of the young girls now taking the initiative to bed the hero - I am not sure, if this is the change we should commend.


    I have no problems with other comic tropes, they in many ways define Bollywood.

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  14. Hi Anu, welcome to my blog. Thank you for the appreciation. Need I say it is that which makes me keep the blog going? :)

    Hopefully (hopefully!), the trope you suggest has disappeared. I don't see mothers being that important in films any more, not to the extent that Mere paas maa hairesonated with a generation of cinegoers. I would say that mothers such as Raakhee had agency, insofar as it was allowed her (within the parameters of that role) - the desire for revenge. It is her need that fuels the sons' vengeance, no?

    Thanks for visiting, and commenting. It's always a pleasure to hear from my readers.

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  15. Lalitha, my darling woman, didn't I mention those tropes, hmm? Considering the colleges that Karan Johar (especially!) thinks to show on screen, I would venture to say that no one in India (or anywhere else, for that matter) would have attended a college like that!

    About the 'checking pulse and diagnosing pregnancy' - I stand corrected by many people. Apparently, it is well-known practice in many cultures - there are people (not necessarily medical doctors) trained in the use of herbs and traditional medicines who are aces at diagnosing ailments just by the movement of the pulse. Who knew?

    Waiting for your 'more random thoughts'. Ask J. I'm sure he'll come up with many more. :)

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  16. Thank you, Shilpi. Loved your anecdote - out of the mouths of babes, huh? In much the same vein, I remember my nephew, when he was about 4 years old, watching a death scene and informing his grandfather very seriously - Now his photo will come on the wall, and they will put a garland around it.


    About the suit and dressing gown - how true! I suppose it was to show how wealthy they were, and what class of society they moved in. If you were upwardly mobile, you were usually rather westernised, and I suppose this was one way of showing the difference between the wealthy hero or heroine and the poor (read 'bharatiya sanskar-wala/wali ) heroine/hero, who will be dressed traditionally.


    That last dialogue - I wonder which parent actually said that in real life~ They were more likely to make sure the daughter was well and truly chaperoned. :)

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  17. Ha ha ha! It is a lowering thought, though. I was about 16 when we had new tenants and she had a daughter who was around 9. I used to call her 'aunty'. Now that I think about it, she must have been in her mid-to-late twenties! My biggest shock came when I had just got married, and the children in the building where my husband lived called me 'maami' I was 23! I was stunned!

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  18. SoY,

    Don't get me started on the saas-bahu serials on television! God, they are a blight on mankind! As for Ekta Kapoor, there is only one thing that drives her - commerce. This has nothing to do with the way she was brought up, or her attitudes towards women, and everything to do with what will give her the highest TRPs.

    I don't know about the TV serial - but Saraswatichandra was a novel that was set in 19th century Gujarat, and reflects the mores of the time. If, in transposing it to a more modern era, the makers have not reflected the changing times, then that is on the makers. Why adapt a novel about feudal practices and set in modern times?

    I have no issue with young women seeking to bed the hero, if it is a part of the narrative. But then, I have never seen female sexuality as any less than that of a man's, and it makes sense to display it as not something to be ashamed of, or to think of a woman as 'cheap' because she actually dares to say (as Vidya Balan put is so pithily) that she 'likes it, wants it, and needs it'. My problem with any film exploring female sexuality arises only when they use it for titillation, or to show it as a negative - the women who espouse that must be 'baaaad'.

    It is an interesting point you raise, though. How do you empower women to stand up for their own rights - emotional, mental, physical, sexual, and still not make it the new fad-of-the-moment'? How do you present it in a way that teaches them to take charge of their own choices, and not encourage promiscuity?

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  19. Enjoyed reading this post. Thanks!
    The first few points reminded me of an acclaimed film called 'KYA KEHNA' (2000) starring Preity Zinta. It seems many of these tropes were present in that 'progressive' film alone, even Saif Ali Khan as a college student.
    I have never enjoyed Aamir Khan's college roles in the last decade, and it is amazing how the heroines in his 'great' films seem to have forgettable minor roles and he gets away with it.
    While all these tropes should go away, I quite enjoyed 'songs in the villain's den' a lot.

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  20. tch, tch, tch, these young revolutionaries, wanting to change 'apna' Hindi films, our rich traditions.
    Arre if all these good plot cornerstones disappear, hamare Hindi films ka kya hoga?
    Well-written piece this!
    Was ROTFL!
    Agree with all the points except for climax song in villain's den! That has been my fav since my childhood and in my younger years was my ambition to do this in real life too. I hope it celebrates its come-back soon.
    Bidding adieu to all the others.

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  21. Kya Kehna was one of the most regressive films I had seen, and I couldn't understand how the heck it was made out to be this film that empowered women. :(



    I think the point is that Aamir doesn't claim anything of any sort - and I don't think (in my opinion) that his heroines have forgettable roles - for instance, Kareena may not have had much screen time in 3 Idiots but she was certainly not forgettable (and I say this as someone who does not like Kareena most of the time), neither did Rani or Kareena have forgettable roles in Talaash. The rest of the time, his movies are about male protagonists without much scope for female characters, and I have no complaints about that. People should be there only if they are needed in the film, instead of appearing for the requisite songs and dances. (All, in my opinion...)

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  22. Harvey! Welcome back! :) And thank you for your very kind words. :) 'tis good to make people laugh, no?

    "Young revolutionaries"
    *gurgle!*

    Hamara Hindi films ka kya hoga


    Jo hoga achcha hi hoga - at least, where the most egregious of these tropes are concerned. I agree with you about the villains' den songs, however. I got a lot of entertainment out of that trope. :)

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  23. Nalini Ikkandath20 January 2014 at 04:24

    Rather a delayed thanks, Anu, for reviewing Chasme Baddoor. It came at a time when I life was specially hectic, but I really enjoyed it today. CB was one of my all-time favourites, the boys, Deepti Naval, the 'kaali ghodi' which responds only to Farooque Shaikh, the corner paan shop and last but not the least, Delhi. Thanks again.

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  24. I have yet to see a rich man moving around in a suit at home or even outside on a casual visit, for instance in Aan Milo Sajna you see my father going to meet his prospective son-in-law Rajesh Khanna's mother all togged up in a suit. Even when he meets Rajesh Khanna for the first time he is in a suit. I used to find it hilarous, and guess what after constantly wearing suits in films, my father used to avoid wearing them as far as possible while attending film land functions. Sometimes for weddings, he would go all traditional in a typical Bengali dhoti and kurta. I still remember my father attired in a casual shirt for the silver jubilee function of Anupama.

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  25. Oh, the fast-forward girl still doesn't get the guy; they keep her alive though, thank god. Watch Cocktail to see how that line pans out today.

    The post is very good. Kudos

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  26. You are welcome, Nalini. :) I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as you did the film. I will get around to reviewing one of his other films soon.

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  27. Oh, neither have I. It is just that films, in general, have to exaggerate everything, make it larger than life, so to speak. That is why I said 'aspirational'. This is how the wealthy are, we are told, this is what you can also be if only you -----.

    I can empathise with your father. :)

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  28. Of course she doesn't! What would happen to Bharatiya sanksar if it did? Women are not supposed to like sex, you see; they are only supposed to lie back and think of England. And besides, women who are so forward are not the ones you take home to mother.

    Ugh! I get the creeps just typing that out!

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  29. Great post, hopefully most of these are dead and gone (except for the disguised infiltration of the villain's den--that's ones just entertaining).

    I agree with with you that films are in a way a reflection of our society , but I also believe that society is heavily influenced by what is shown in films. Seeing as society's Ideals are malleable I would personally like to see some changes in film on that front; especially in regard to gender roles and stereotypes. I find it extremely tragic that even in the 21st century the Bollywood heroine is still basically a stereotype, a cardboard cutout. I am a firm believer that popular culture can help shape and change societal norms--come on Bollywood let's see you change for the better.

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  30. I don't know, re. This whole thing about society being influenced by films. I agree that it does happen - more so today, because the reach of films has extended. We are bombarded with images 24/7. Back then, you waited breathlessly for a film to be released, you watched it in the theatres, and perhaps if you were lucky, you caught it on a re-run. Today, just one click and you can watch the same messages over and over and over again.


    That said, I don't know if it is fair to dump everything bad that happens in society on films. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Or that there is a very firm dividing line between reality and fantasy? Or is it that 'children' (I use the word advisedly) are taking longer to grow up? This is not a waving of the 'in the good old days' flag, but we did seem to be mature earlier. I mean, look at our films - you never saw Raj/Dilip/Dev in 'college'. Or even Dharmendra/Amitabh/Vinod Khanna. They were men, out in a man's world. Today, our 40+ heroes are college students.



    So perhaps it *is* that our audiences are too immature to see that division. Or perhaps, the proliferation of social media has removed the division between fantasy and reality? Because 90% of the time, FB is where you portray a sanitised, photo-shopped, narcissistic view of yourself. And, no, I don't blame FB. Or Twitter. They are tools. Like any other tool, it depends on what you use it for.

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  31. I didn't mean to say that films are responsible for everything bad that happens in society; and you’re right it isn't fair to dump the blame on films—after all film is a medium of expression. What I meant was that popular culture is popular because it is able to reach a mass audience, it captures all of the contradictions that exist in society and speaks to all of us in some way—perhaps that could be used as a tool to help usher in new models and more progressive archetypes as opposed to holding on to and repeating the regressive standards of a bygone era. (if that makes sense...t made sense in my head but it doesn't always translate well onto paper--or in this case the screen)

    And I certainly don’t mean to say that there is no personal responsibility on the part of the viewer. Of course we are ultimately responsible for the decisions we make, and I think that with a medium like film (and television) we need to keep in mind that the image is what reigns supreme; people need to engage more with the images, perhaps they should take a critical eye to the images they are presented with and understand how to read the text of the image. Because the world as it is reflected on TV and film screens often only bears a passing resemblance to the world that most of us live in (like the 45 year old male college student romancing a 20 year old female. That would never fly in real life, I'm 25 and if a 45 year old came up to me and made a pass at me I would not find it romantic or endearing--more than anything I would find it creepy and unsettling. But it's totally acceptable on screen.)

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  32. Thundercat, I'm sorry. Sometimes, I am thinking out aloud, not exactly disagreeing with what you say. :) And yes, things make so much sense to me when I'm thinking it out in my head that I am often flabbergasted that the people I talk to don't immediately get my point. *grin*

    I do think that films can be used to influence people, but it's a tight line to walk. FOr instance, I don't think stopping people smoking or drinking on screen is going to help people stop smoking or drinking in real life. Where does artistic license begin? And where does gratuitous inclusions end?

    Again, thoughts that spring into mind when I read your comment; it's not necessarily a disagreement with what you are saying. It's the same way when I talk in real life to like-minded people. Discussions can get very heated because someone's opinion just sets off a train of thought, and we parse every word and nuance. *grin* Thanks for the general discussion. That is exactly what I hope posts like these do - get people thinking.

    I'm 25 and if a 45 year old came up to me and made a pass at me I would not find it romantic or endearing

    Depends on the 45 year old. :) The fact also is that these 45 year old men are not playing 45 year old men on screen, are they?

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  33. No need to be sorry!


    I actually enjoyed reading your thoughts. And you do make some interesting points that I hadn't thought of. And your right sometimes all it takes is one comment to set us down a certain train of thought--that we will vehemently try to defend as we analyze and take a part someone else's opinion (but aren't those discussions always the most fun lol). It's all in good faith though.


    Thanks for the post though, it's nice to engage in discussion over these types of topics (I'm relegated to the internet for said discussions since nobody I know has any interest in Hindi films lol)---you'll see me around spamming your posts with my thoughts :D

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  34. you'll see me around spamming your posts with my thoughts :D
    Please. Feel free. :) It is good to have a community of like-minded people, who have definite opinions, even if we do not agree with each other all the time. (Especially when we do not agree with each other.)

    Yes, it is all in good faith and at some point, we may even have to agree to disagree. And that is fine too. The world doesn't run like McDonald hamburgers, all clones of each other. To me, that is what makes it interesting. And when someone disagrees with a long-held opinion of mine, then it does make me look at it from another perspective. It is all to the good. :)

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