Masala Mentallica

Reality is no barrier for India's silver screen heroes. How have film stars used over-the-top sequences to woo audiences?

Yeh Sala Hindustan Mein, Jab Tak Cinema Hai, Log Chuthiye Bante Rahenge – Ramadheer Singh, Gangs of Wasseypur

I couldn’t agree more. Watching some Indian films is like popping a capsule of silly. It might make you go maha-mental, but what you are about to experience is EPIC!

Can you light a cigarette with a look of fire in your eyes? No, seriously! Can you?

A South Indian super star can! By defying laws of gravity, he pops a cigarette into his mouth, pulls out a matchstick and gives out a look of fire – and voila! The matchstick catches fire, and his cigarette is lit.

South Indian super stars can do anything. By anything, we mean – ANYTHING!

Can you get a train to reverse by commanding it?

By slapping his thigh, twirling his moustache and screaming a cacophony of mind numbing dialogues, this super star commands a train to reverse with a flick of his hand, much to the annoyance of the baddies.

Can you command a rooster to chase and kill a six-foot tall baddie? Our stars can.

What is truly incredible about India is its cinema. Indian cinema, badly clubbed together as Bollywood, is where millions were minted, careers were built and an entire industry established – all by rolling out epic jabberwocky.

Even this, was not all original. Some of it, as some would say, is ‘inspired’. Blatantly copied and pasted from films across the world, several Indian films end up like badly botched mutants – with an added dash of masala to make them tacky, kitsch and jhakaas!

Don’t believe me? Search for two words – ‘Indian Thriller’ or ‘Goli Maar’ – and click play.

A tacky green star flashes into your face, transforms into a circle, and a title, written in Telugu appears. The song is from a film called ‘Donga’, which literally means thief!

The makers of the film couldn’t have come up with a more appropriate title. The entire music video is a rip off from Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, one that would make him turn in his grave.

In a botched attempt to imitate Michael Jackson, the star of the film, wearing red latex clothes, jerks his shoulder and crotch up and down – screeching ‘Goli Maar’ (shoot the bullet) with every thrust, running left to right in a makeshift graveyard. He promoted himself as the Indian Michael Jackson, and self-styled himself as the ‘Mega Star’ of Indian cinema. Poor Michael was not paid any royalty.

The film, though a kitsch imitation, was promoted as a blockbuster. The Mega Star of Indian cinema came to be known for such imitations – Indian Rambo, Indian Cowboy and the like, and went on to build a successful film career only to later jump into politics. He is now known to YouTubers across the world as the ‘Goli Maar Guy’, a must-watch when you smoke a lot of curry. Many do not know that later, he would go on to represent brand ‘Incredible India’, as India’s minister for tourism at the Cannes Film Festival.

Films typically have the good fight evil in a climactic scene. After an enduring struggle, the good guys must face off against the bad guys. In one film, a baddie hurls a bomb at the hero. But he catches it with two hands and hurls it back. The baddies jump up and die in the explosion. This process repeats, with more baddies, more bombs and ever more creative ways of catching them and throwing them back. The baddies are all blown up, and all ends well.

The most loved thing in Indian cinema is the maha-superlative. Audiences need that extra dose of masala – that concoction of drama, heroism, sadness and action – regardless of how illogical, incoherent and idiotic it may be. It needs to be a strong dose to suit the Indian palette. There is a subtle acknowledgement that it is after all, a film, mere entertainment, which helps you forget your troubles for three long hours.

Five songs with dances (each with an assortment of backup dancers mimicking the hero’s every move), slapstick comedy, fight sequences and a happy ending. That is the formula.

And, if you choose to mess with the formula, here’s a strong reminder not to:

Don’t trouble the trouble

If you trouble the trouble, the trouble troubles you.

I am not the trouble. I am the truth!

Wohh my Gaawd! I’d better shut up.

India is after all the largest producer of films in the world, and churning out epic jabberwockies is not an easy peasy joke! Mind it!

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