I finally saw Star Wars! I wanted to see Saala Khadoos, but I couldn’t make the showtimes work, so I saw Star Wars instead. It was very Indian. Or maybe Indian films are very Star Warsian? Or maybe both kinds of films come from a deeper shared origin?
On one of my many many viewings of Dilwale, there was a couple sitting behind me talking before the movie started. The guy was clearly describing the plot of something to the girl, in a mixture of Hindi and English. Naturally, I listened in, because I love listening to these conversations (best one I ever heard was some guy on a packed bus in San Francisco telling his friend the entire plot of Last of the Mohicans, including imitating the way Daniel Day-Lewis said “I will find you! No matter what occurs!” We rode two extra stops just to hear the ending). But this time, for the life of me I could not figure out what movie he was describing! There was a farm boy hero, like one of those village movies from the 50s, and there was a wise mentor, which sounds a little more 60s-70s, and then he finds out he has a secret sister, which definitely sounds 70s. But then he said there was a prophecy that a great warrior would arrive? So now I am thinking, maybe it is one of those southern movies with the awesome fight scenes? Or one of those slightly more mythological ones, like Jai Santoshi Maa (which opened the same year as Sholay and made almost as much money). I just couldn’t figure it out, so thank goodness he ended his description by saying “It’s called Star Wars? Have you heard of it?”
(Jai Santoshi Maa! Don’t worry, his wife fasts and then all his leftover problems are solved)
Star Wars, the original trilogy, is very Indian in plot. It is focused on family relationships, there is the rise of a destined hero, there is a wise elder, and there is a mystical/magical connection. But in a larger sense, it’s just very human. Family connections, learning from elders, leaving your home and becoming an adult, even a grasp at a larger meaning and purpose to life, that’s all just basic human wants.
So, like I said, I saw the new Star Wars today! I’m not really a Star Wars person. I’m not a not-Star Wars person, I’ve seen all the previous 6 films, a couple of them twice. They were enjoyable, Harrison Ford is undeniably hot, whatever. But I’m not really really into them. Which you probably guessed since it took me more than a month to see this one. But, out of all of the Star Warses (Star Warsi?), I think this one was my favorite, because it was the most Indian. With the original focus on basic human needs and stories, plus a couple of casting and character choices which felt more Indian than Hollywood.
First, plot-wise, it goes back to a focus on one family. In fact, it doubles down on that and has a whole sort of Skywalker dynasty with choices between light and dark along the way. Which makes you care a heck of a lot more about this new story, since it is all connected! On the other hand, our main heroes are back to being nobodies who achieve their destiny. There’s even an implication of a fabled mythic power they must achieve! Just like Krishna, or Harry Potter!
But second, for once, Hollywood cast with an eye to history and real life more than just acting. Harrison Ford brings crazy amounts of charisma and confidence and just sort of weight to his character Han Solo, because he is playing him basically like Harrison Ford as we have known and loved him for 30 years, not just in films but in interviews and public appearances. And the young nobody characters who are suddenly thrown into the wider world are played by young nobodies who were suddenly thrown into the wider world. And so on and so forth.
India loves doing stuff like this! Like, Dilwale, it only works because the audience has seen Shahrukh and Kajol in a million other movies, and a million interviews, and all of that comes together and supports their onscreen relationship. But Hollywood is somehow afraid of it? Like, it’s cheating somehow? Or it’s declasse to pretend that anyone knows any real life rumors? Or just an expectation that actors should be actors and not stars?
But you lose so much doing it like that! Especially the weight of years and connections that it is just impossible to convey in one film. The moment when Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are onscreen together carries with it almost 40 years. It’s remarkably powerful. But in India, it wouldn’t be worth remarking on, because almost every onscreen interaction comes with that weight. Everything from Shahrukh and Kajol, to Amitabh and Farhan, to Ranbir Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit. Onscreen and off, we know their connections, their history, their meaning and importance to each other, and that carries across to their films.
So, yeah, New Star Wars! Totally Indian in content and casting! But no songs. So it could still be improved.