Indian Film Myth Versus Truth

What a fun game/way to express our irritation! I am sure as Indian film fans (desi or non-desi) we have all dealt with the scornful outsider who thinks they know everything but really knows nothing.

Indian film is a particular kind of artwork, I don’t just mean Hindi film here, I mean all Indian film. It grew up almost in isolation from the rest of world cinema thanks to India’s import-export laws and developed it’s own film language, industry standards, even ways of delegating authority on a film set. As the decades rolled by, more and more Indian film specific traditions were layered on top of each other, and then the language industries broke off and started having their own traditions building up and up, until there is this whole massive complex world in place.

And outsiders, those who have only seen a few popular Indian films (of any language) or even just those easy internet memes of films, make gross assumptions and try to reduce everything to myths instead of the slightly more complex truths.

I can’t even unpack all the myths, partly because I find them so irritating I have started closing my ears when I hear them, but I can make a start and maybe you can help in the comments.

Myth: All Indian films have family plots

Truth: All Indian films have large casts of characters as part of the Indian film style and, in romance films, it is natural for those characters to be family members since romance is considered a family affair. On the other hand, in a police drama or heist film or so on, those family members would not be involved and instead other characters would fill out the large cast.

Zero New Poster: Not Katrina Kaif Or Anushka Sharma, Shahrukh ...
Zero had a large cast, including the chimpanzee, but they were friends and love interests while the family characters were onscreen for less time than they might have been in a western film

Myth: All Indian films are romances

Truth: In the 90s and early 2000s when Indian film first became available on the world stage thanks to DVDs, shifting laws in India, and the internet, the romance genre was enjoying a temporary period of popularity. Because of this international “first impression”, the idea that romance has always been and will always be popular stuck around.

Sholay, Deewar to re-release in Delhi & Mumbai - DearCinema.com ...
Not a romance

Myth: Rajinikanth is ridiculously famous and beloved and makes over the top ridiculous films

Truth: Rajinikanth is one of several beloved film stars in the Tamil film industry, not the most beloved of all time, simply the one whose fans are most vocal at the moment. And while half his films are ridiculous and over the top, his career was founded on complex roles in deep serious films and he continues to make such films to this day.

First look posters of Rajinikanth's 'Kabali' unveiled | Deccan Herald
Definitely not cheesy and ridiculous

Myth: Everyone in India loves Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan

Truth: While everyone in India is probably aware of those two people, they are particularly popular among the Hindi cinema audience. Even within that audience, there are subgroups who prefer other stars. They may be the most famous and popular stars in India, but that does not mean everyone in Indian loves them by a long shot.

SHAHRUKH KHAN BIRTHDAY 2017 CELEBRATION WITH FANS AT MANNAT 9 ...
This is a lot of people, but there are way more than that in India

Myth: All Indian films have songs

Truth: All Indian films have moments of visual spectacle reflecting character emotions. Often those are in songs, sometimes they are in fight scenes, or beautiful scenery, or watching elephants.

Movie Review: Junglee - Reuters

Myth: Indian film actresses are refreshingly “normal” looking

Truth: Indian film actresses still fit a particular beauty ideal and always have. It is just an ideal that seems more attainable to a western viewer. In India (especially India of the past) where malnutrition ran rampant, the “normal” looking actresses reflected a comfortable well-fed upbringing that was not available to the majority of the population, and western style imported clothes that were similarly unavailable. Today, as that nutritional goal becomes more and more available in India and so do western consumer goods, the Indian film actresses now look more like Western actresses, impossibly thin and flawless in sexy high fashion.

In Pics: Rare And Unseen Pics Of Deepika Padukone During Her M ...

Myth: Indian films don’t have kissing

Truth: They do. Kissing scenes have been in Indian films since the start. Because of different modesty standards in India, they are treated more seriously than in American films, but they still exist. And in the past 15 years or so, as the films increasingly aimed at a western audience, those modesty standards on film have shifted (not so much in real life) and kissing is increasingly considered no big deal.

File:Devika Rani Himanshu Rai Kiss.jpg - Wikipedia
1929 Hindi movie, look at all that kissing

Myth: All Telugu films are ridiculous over the top action spectacles

Truth: Telugu cinema has excellent fight technicians who do spectacular work. And it is common for the “spectacle” part of a film to come from the over the top fight scenes. However, along side those movies with fight scenes, there have always been a large number of smaller character based relationship stories that are popular and successful. Just less likely to be turned into memes.

Showing media for hashtag #thokkale , showing images & videos for ...
Not saying it is impossible to turn into Memes!

Okay, that’s all I can think of for now! What do you disagree with? Or what myths/truths can you think of?

Or what myths have you heard and feel aren’t true but can’t fully figure out what the matching “truth” would be?

54 thoughts on “Indian Film Myth Versus Truth

  1. I have found myself doing just this when introducing or showing Indian films to my friends and since we see each other sparingly (because of life) I have in the last years showed them the big movies and given some explanation to it all and answered questions simply just because we are in the middle of watching the movie.

    I wish I could go on to more detail, but
    A. We are watching a movie
    B. They don’t have time for the lectures I could give on the subject or the books I have on it to be loaned and
    C. Because they are casual watchers, not deep drenched in it like I am.

    And that is why, in a way, I am grateful for this place to talk about it with people who know almost all the references and all that. It feels wonderful! But I do feel bad every time I have to give a somewhat simple explanation (“some are romances, but it is not all that they are” “This is an exception of a movie” “This is a reference to a famous movie which I don’t own” and so on), but since the interest is not so large it is hard to give anything else than the layman’s terms one to them and no one has asked for websites (like this), lyric translation sites or any film recommendations to borrow from libraries or where to watch the movies or if I could loan them a movie…it’s just hard being the only one deep in this in a friend group…

    But yeah, I feel your irritation with this, but sometimes it is hard to NOT give the needed lecture it deserves since there is only so much time before they must go back home and the movie is almost 3 hours long!

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    • Yes! And it’s so hard! You don’t want to let the myth go, but you don’t have time for a long explanation. So sometimes you have to let it go, just say “Yeah! Kind of! Sure!” and move on. And sometimes you have to say “yeah, that’s true, but also —–“. And sometimes it deserves a “well, not really, but some people think so”.

      On Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 6:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • And there are so many movies you want to show but know there are so many references to certain films you have to not show them before you’ve shown at least most or one of the film’s referenced in the movie.

        Like ADHM, which I know they would love, but it has a KKHH reference and Yash Chopra references and I have to show them those before showing that to them! And then there are the new movies, which flow much better, but you feel like you have to give an explanation and backstory and all that almost every fifteen minutes or so for a word or a reference!

        It feels like you really have to give your Luck By Chance movie footnotes on speed even if it’s just a simple romantic comedy or something because of Meta and references and allusions shown even in one image or a poster on a character’s bedroom wall.

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        • YES! Or else you have to just let things go. There’s no easy answer. Usually I show the same “first” movies (Don, Chak De India, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, K3G) over and over again, just because I have boiled down every possible question-answer to the simplest version. I can answer your questions in two sentences before you even ask them! But it also means I never get to show people new movies.

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          • I’ve shown them the Baahubali’s (twice since one person didn’t see them and he wanted to), K3G, the beginnings of Kapoor and Sons, DDLJ and Bajrangi Bhaijaan (only one person showed up to them), and was planning to show them KKHH for the next film night, except this reality kinda happened. So it really is a struggle not to have a consistent group throughout the years to see the movies. But oh well, if I can get a somewhat regular group to watch, it’s fine. Even one person is enough right now. That is why I love our Friday movie nights (for me) so much!

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          • So happy you love our Friday movies! Once life is back to normal I am really going to miss them too. But it’s hard to get a group of people available even online in Normal Times, so I’m in the same boat as you 🙂

            On Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 7:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I would even dispute that “everyone in India” is aware of Amitabh or SRK. I say this based on personal experience as I traveled through India about ten years ago (when SRK was still very much in the race for #1, or rather, the defending champion against challenger Aamir). In Tamil Nadu, my driver literally did not recognize the names of any of the Khans, though he was majorly into movies — but Tamil movies. In Amritsar, my driver was far more excited about the fact that Sunny Deol shot some scenes there for Gadar (released 2001) than that SRK was there several months previously for Veer Zaara. “Regional” stars triumph over so-called “pan Indian” figures. Part of that is due to linguistic chauvinism on the part of Hindi speakers, due to a lot of political issues over many decades.

    The other myth that I would like to bring out, though it is more of an internal Indian phenomenon rather than an international one (of course outsiders can pick up this myth from Indian sources without being aware of all the implications behind it) is that the Hindi industry is the “largest” or “more influential” one, or even that it is a “national” one. True, big Hindi films (not every single one) were/are released in major cities of the non-Hindi regions (again the reason is due to politics), and till recently, none of the South Indian films were released outside of their language areas. But now they are, with English subtitles, and are enjoying success from non-native speakers all over the country. The political actions that propped up the Hindi industry at the expense of the other industries have largely subsided, and that’s why they rely so much on the overseas market, especially on the Middle East markets, or on nationals from those and other “neighboring countries” who live abroad. Just like the divide between the multi-plex and single screen films, there is a distinct and important divide between the Indian and “overseas” audiences, mainly because the “overseas” audience is composed of many nationalities, not only Indians.

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    • Oh that’s another myth! That there is a “global Indian hit”. Based on the box office tracking I do, even a film like Bahubali wasn’t a perfect global hit. It varied country to country overseas, and region to region within India.

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    • Could not have said better. When I started my college education, back in 2005, it was the first time I met a lot of people who were not from the South India. For quiet a few of them South Indian films were Rajnikanth’s outlandish way of wearing his goggles, lighting a cigarette etc. I almost stopped Hindi movies at that time- which at that felt right- if people do not want to respect distinct film industries in the south, I am not going to watch Hindi movies. But over the five years in college we ended up watching any movie we could find and that was learning experience for everyone involved. But till date I do not watch Hindi movies with the same interest I watch other language movies.

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    • This is very interesting, I’d be interested in learning more about how the rules have changed, if it doesn’t break Margaret’s no politics rule. Guessing it might have more to do with changes in the film business and distribution?

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      • The censor board is very wacky, but also very easy to understand because it is very wacky.

        The Bombay censor board gives a certificate to movies before they can be played anywhere in India. There is an appointed head of the board who sets the tone, and then a few dozen members who watch and certify the movies. And there are NO RULES!!!! I mean, there are guidelines, but they are super open to interpretation so really it’s whatever you want. The head of the censor board decides whatever the heck he wants any time he wants and the rest of the folks go along with it. Sometimes the head is very big on “not offending religious sentiment”, so that means no religion stuff anywhere. Sometimes they are big on sex, so no sex anywhere.

        The current head, Prasoon Joshi, seems like a remarkably reasonable guy for a censor board head. Still conservative and in with the government and all that, but not super crazy in his decisions in general. At least, I like him. The guy before him was just infamously bad, maybe the worst ever. The whole censor board system looked like it might go away thanks to him, a couple filmmakers took their case to the courts and got his decisions over turned, and there was a government committee set up to look at revising the system so there were, you know, RULES. He was just shockingly crazily bad. In comparison, Prasoon Joshi has been a breath of fresh air (probably related, the government got scared they would lose censorship altogether so they brought in someone to reform it instead).

        But the whole system is still messed up, it’s treated like a bargaining table. The censor board says “I want you to do this”, the filmmakers say “No, but how about if we do this instead?” and back and forth and then finally the film is certified and released. It just makes no sense.

        The guy before Prasoon was just a straight up bigot and extremist, and also maybe a little bit crazy, so he censored all kinds of things for religious reasons, and then would randomly approve other stuff. Was also very big on censoring American films before they could play in India. And strangely obsessed with sex, had the word “intercourse” removed from Jab Harry Met Sejal because it offended Indian culture and stuff. He was only chair for 2 years, and I heard more about him than ANY other censorship chair ever! He was really just a nightmare. And then Prasoon, like I said, is pretty logical and reasonable. The biggest scandal of his regime was Padmavat, and that wasn’t his fault (I think) because Bhansali submitted it for censorship crazy late when there had already been protests. His ultimate censorship decisions were in direct response to the protests, and he brought on historians and cultural people to consult (which the censor board doesn’t usually do) and really took his time and tried to be fair. His biggest thing is trying to get films submitted to him ahead of time, which filmmakers don’t like doing. They used to submit at the absolute last minute figuring the censor board would rush and pass it because who has time to watch all these movies, but Prasoon wants to get out of that mindset and to bring people up to the mark, he had a whole string of movies that he actually delayed release because they weren’t submitted the required time in advance and he wasn’t ready with a decision. I haven’t heard about that lately though, so I think folks got the message.

        The longest sitting censorship chair was Sharmila Tagore. It’s kind of a thankless job, they always appoint someone from the film industry, and then all your friends and former co-workers end up hating you, and you have to deal with impossible deadlines, and there is guaranteed to be a controversial film that you pass or don’t pass and there are protests either way, and BLECH. Usually folks resign within a few years. But Sharmila somehow managed to keep everyone liking her, and survived a whole 7 years.

        On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 10:15 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • But is Prasoon also making it easier for non-Hindi films to be shown across India? And were there any other changes that made it less of a given that Hindi movies would be shown in states where other languages are dominant?

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          • That’s not really a censorship board thing, they just take the movies and slap certificates on them. It’s the import/export laws that used to cause hassles for the non-Hindi industries, and the old restrictions on who got the literal film, which used to be rationed. That stuff hasn’t been an issue since the liberalization of the economy in the 90s. Now it’s up to the industry folks to take the new economic freedom they have and start spreading those films around. Which we are beginning to see more and more, distributors buying up rights and dubbing or subtitling and giving the non-Hindi stuff a decent national release.

            On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 2:43 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, those shifts are so interesting. I find it exciting any time a cultural industry suddenly gets the chance to reach audiences it couldn’t reach before. It’s one nice way the world can change.

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      • Emily, if your question was addressed to what I said above about the Hindi industry being propped up at the expense of other industries, then it has nothing to do with the censor board (though it is a small part of it), and Margaret’s comments on the Censor board reflect her personal opinion over the immediate past. For instance, while the head of the board immediately prior to Prasoon Joshi was trying to please government policy as he saw it (don’t forget he was sacked by the same government he was trying to please), the head and members of the board before him were total Congress sycophants and were completely committed Marxists who pushed that agenda.

        What I was referring to was about 90 years of political development, predating Indian Independence. There was a push to make Hindi the “national” language, and Gandhi decided to push “learn Hindi” in a big way as part of his Independence movement. At that time about 30% of the population were native Hindi speakers, so you couldn’t really argue that a majority of Indians were Hindi speakers. Anyway, as a result of people following everything Gandhi said, a lot of other language speakers did learn Hindi, and after independence, were counted as Hindi speakers. The total was still only 40% of the population who spoke HIndi, so still not a majority. But making Hindi the “national” language was still the Congress party’s policy (both the original Congress party which fought for independence, and Indira Gandhi’s mutated version which ruled after she became Prime Minister). However, a lot of states, especially Tamil Nadu, objected to this, and there were huge and prolonged political battles, extending to riots and people getting killed. The “language question” didn’t get settled until into the 1970’s, with an uneasy formula whereby everybody required to learn Hindi in school, with the Hindi speakers required to learn a non-HIndi or South Indian language, so as to keep things on an even level. Needless to say, that did not happen. But due to the enforced Hindi learning, larger pockets of the country could now somewhat understand Hindi films if they released. BTW, Hindi is still not the “national” language, merely the “working language” of the central government, along with English. All 23 languages of the various states are “official” languages of India.

        But during all this time of political fighting and negotiation, which comprised about two and half decades after independence, official government policy at the Center (and remember all during that time and for a few decades after, India was a Centrally planned system) favored the Hindi industry. For instance, until the 1970’s, raw film stock was rationed. If you were a film producer, you got so much stock per film, and that was that. So directors had to be extremely careful with the way they filmed, and actors who needed many retakes were frowned upon. The quota of stock for Hindi films was higher, however. Similarly when color film stock became available, again it was given primarily to HIndi films, and very little to other industries. Even when it became the norm for all Hindi films to be entirely in color, other industries were still forced to limit their use of color film to certain song sequences only (like the song Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya in Mughal-E-Azam). Even the film censoring was different. There is not one Censor Board, but several, with one serving each region. However, the Bombay board was notoriously more “liberal” when it came to on screen sexiness, while the other regional boards, citing “local sentiments”, were much stricter. I mean, for instance, while Sharmila Tagore was wearing bikinis in HIndi films, other language films had difficulty if the heroine even wore a single piece swimsuit. So the audience that wanted titillation could find it more easily in HIndi films, and flocked to those even if they did not understand the language, just like they did for English films. For a long time in India, “English film” was practically synonymous with “porn films”, because of the kissing that was allowed (since it was “part of their culture.”) While it was true that the earliest Indian films did have kissing, that was before the Censor Board was set up in independent Indai, which banned it (along with various other things), till the rules were revised around 1972. Once a film gets certified by any censor board anywhere in India, it can play in all regions, without needing to be recertified to meet those pesky “local sentiments.”

        But more than the censor board, the government only allowed Hindi films to be sent abroad for film festivals or even for release (like all those Raj Kapoor films in the Soviet Union). At a time when Satyajit Ray was making waves abroad on his sheer talent and hard work, the government was providing no support to him to distribute his films abroad, because his filme were not in Hindi. Even well into the 2000’s, this policy continued, with sending people like Yash Chopra and other big Hindi producers to Cannes to show their commercial films in the non-competitive section, while small independent film makers from places like Kerala were actually winning awards at Cannes, but had to struggle to raise money on their own to even attend the festival.

        These are just some of the examples I was referring to. Even the term “Bollywood” was coined and pushed abroad as the face of Indian cinema by official central government policy, as a way to exert India’s “soft power” in other countries.

        I tried to condense this as much as I could, but still it became so long! I’m sorry. I guess it’s sort of like the length of Indian movies. 🙂

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        • Thanks, Moimeme! That is what I was curious about. I have a special fascination for how state power and language intersects. This is all very interesting. So what has changed now to make it easier for non-Hindi films?

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  3. I would add “they’re all musicals, aren’t they?”, distinct from “they all have songs.” Because a “musical”, used in the Hollywood sense, is a very different animal from the way songs were used in Indian films. I say “were”, because nowadays, more and more, very few directors understand how songs are supposed to be used in films, as part of the story, and more and more (especially in Hindi films) are opting for the montage type of songs rather than have the characters actually “sing” them as active participants. Even worse, they are seen as merely MTV type of song videos dropped in to be remixed later in clubs; hence the rise of the “end credits” songs.

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    • I would say that Hindi films come somewhere between song videos and story songs. Hollywood classic musicals and stage shows were all about songs almost as part of the dialogue, diagetic, and in character. And some modern Hindi films use songs just dropped in at random over the end credits. But to me the true Hindi film song is one that expresses an internal journey or conflict, it isn’t happening for “real” and the images and lyrics are all poetic rather than directly about the situation, but at the same time you need to see the song in order to understand the character’s journey.

      Which brings up another myth, the “Hindi films are just like Hollywood musicals of the 1950s”. They aren’t! They never were! They were their own thing!

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      • On the songs topic – in 80s and early 90s, what I had seen in reality with my eyes, there would be some force fitting songs in Telugu films (cannot talk for other Indian languages) because the movie length is almost 3 hours –
        to allow male audience to take cigarette breaks
        to allow female audience to take washroom breaks as it’d be crowded during the short interval
        to give a break and reduce some tension before the long climax fights

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      • Yes, this is the one I run into most, that they’re all cheesy and over the top with lots of big song and dance numbers.

        On the other hand, having just watched The Sound of Music with my kids, one of the most classic Hollywood musicals, the filming of the songs was so boring! With a couple of exceptions. Any Indian movie we watch has more interesting and creative visuals and choreography, and the kids are happier and more entertained watching them. Don’t even get me started on the modern Hollywood musicals. Incorporating musical numbers is an atrophied skill in the west.

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        • YES! THANK YOU! The newer musicals seem like they get so much credit for just any kind of musical inclusion, while in India it is routine. And there is so much variety and originality in even the most unoriginal Indian musical versus the new western ones.

          It’s no mystery, if India makes 95% musical films, that means there are that many more trained film choreographers and dancers, working film composers, actors who actually know how to dance, and so on and so forth. You just can’t build that deep of a bench with the 5% musical films the West makes.

          On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 10:21 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I still feel gypped when I watch Indian movies that don’t include singing and dancing. And this is hard, I really like Irrfan Khan, but his movies never have singing and dancing. So I’ll see a movie that he is in, and wonder, should I see it? I like him, but then there will be no dancing….

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  5. The one I have heard is “All Indian films feature a couple who can’t marry because their parents object because they are of different castes.” I have literally never seen this in a film. I know the movie Sujata deals with people in love from different castes but I don’t know if parental objection figures in. And, of course, caste could be part of other movies and I’m not aware because I’m reading subtitles and don’t know the implications of their last names. But it’s not every movie!

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    • Yes! Totally agree! Dabangg has that plot, sort of, except none of the people directly involved care about the caste issue. It’s more a general problem for the heroine.

      On Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 9:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Some of your myths seem already pretty sophisticated to me. My starting point with people new to Indian film seems to be: „Aren’t they all four hours of that Shir Khan guy dancing around?“ I’ve even met people who thought „Bollywood“ was a TV show with SRK as the main character.

    You’ve already addressed parts of that misconception. Anyways, it might be Germans in particular who get hung up on the supposed length of the movies. Which, yeah, the traditional Hindi film does tend to have a run time that at least merits an interval. That comes with the more characters mentioned above, and probably also with the songs. But they’re not all K3G.

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    • I would totally watch a TV show called “Bollywood” starring Shahrukh Khan!

      But yes, length is a great myth! It’s not 4 hours, it’s 2 to 3 hours, and more likely towards 2 nowadays.

      On Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 11:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I have the feeling kissing has been censored more since the Modi government. Or at least with the previous censor board, because since last year or so it’s loosened up again. With the last censor board they even censored out cleavage in old movies (hilarious but it also meant they always edited out the item songs). But even so I can’t remember seeing any in recent films, except streaming obviously. Are there any from the past 5 years or so?

    You know my pet peeve, it’s “old movies were so decent, not like modern movies which are full of nudity and sex!” when in fact (depending on the time period) older movies were often much more explicit about sex and nudity, see my previous point. As well as more violent and gorey.

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    • I think kissing is still pretty common. Kalank, Jab Harry Met Sejal, Jabarya Jodi, just off the top of my head. Oh, and Zero!

      But yes to your pet peeve! One myth I tried to say but couldn’t figure out how to say clearly was the companion to that, the progressive young folks who say today’s movies are so much better because they are feminist and groundbreaking and blah blah, and it’s like, did you never WATCH older films? Or are you just writing them off as regressive because your parents’ liked them?

      On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 1:19 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Haha yeah, I’ve seen that around too. The answer is always, no, they have never watched older films. And if they have, it’s like 2 films in the censored version.

        Those are all movies I haven’t watched, so I guess I just watch very prude ones.

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        • With kissing/sex, it also seems largely star based. Good on Hindi film so far as I am concerned! If an actor/actress isn’t comfortable with intimacy, you shouldn’t force it. But it means if you only watch Salman movies, you might thinking kissing is still forbidden across the board when really it’s just Salman. And then Alia kissed in her first movie, so if you only watch Alia films, seems like everyone is kissing all the time.

          On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 12:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • One thing I’ve learned from watching older films is that they’re a lot more diverse than I previously imagined and not every female character is some weeping woman completely deprived of agency. Yes those movies exist but it’s not *all* that exists

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  8. I one time read a comment online complaining about how Aamir is in every hindi film which I found absolutely hilarious because it takes him years to put out a film these days. That commentator most likely got suggested 3 Idiots, PK and all of that stuff when he was trying to find an entry point. In real life the only people I talked to Indian film about were diaspora desis (most of them don’t really follow Indian film that much but they absolutely love k3g which is pretty much something I found to be unanimous) and my other family members who love film so I haven’t really experienced introducing Indian film to non-South Asians. I do get really annoyed with all the “world cinema” film watchers and academics that think that only a few directors in the country have merit and completely sidestep commercial film of any kind. I don’t think the more artistic non-commercial projects should be ignored but try to give some more commercial films their due sometimes!

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    • Don’t be silly, if they had to appreciate or even think about movies that display a different set of aesthetic conventions and values they might have to admit their own standards are governed by their own arbitrary cultural conventions and values instead of being a reflection of their inherent superiority.

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      • Or, at the very least, stop doing the little Bhangra hand move and chuckling every time someone says “Bollywood” or “Indian film”.

        On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 6:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • This! Most people don’t bother trying to understand the different conventions or bother looking up context at all! Even when people analyze the more non-stream stuff they always have to bring in some other western film! The eurocentrism is exhausting!

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        • Even the non analyst casual fans fall into this! “Bahubali is great, it’s just like Lord of the Rings”. NOOO! It’s like the vast history of Telugu fantasy films, nothing to do with Lord of the Rings!!! “It’s a real Romeo and Juliet story”. NOOOO! It’s a Laila-Majnu or Heer-Ranjha or any number of other tragic romances specific to South Asia. Shahrukh isn’t Tom Cruise, Amitabh isn’t Harrison Ford, and on and on and on.

          On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 11:06 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • How about Western millennial feminism theories applied to 90s Hindi films? BLURG!

            On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 12:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I mean, I think that’s fair enough, because it’s an angle of criticism, it’s not a bunch of Great Men picking Great Films. The canon criteria are always what gets me.

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          • I should say feminism, not feminist analysis. There’s the political movement moments, right? This is the fight that is important right now? But that fight is a moving target based on where you are looking and you can’t just focus on the things that are important to you and your life when looking at other cultures. Like, is dressing western and sexualized a gesture of oppression or a gesture of rebellion? It’s all context.

            On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 12:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • YES! This is where the title of my blog came from! I spent 6 years doing film studies and everyone dismissed mainstream Indian cinema and only talked about Ray and Fire and blah blah. That’s not such a small part of it, don’t call that “Indian film” and dismiss literally everything else as “Bollywood”.

      On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 2:00 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • During the 1990’s in the U.S., (maybe elsewhere, too), the big thing was “South Asian literature.” It was really THE in thing for a while. Universities used to hold forums on SA literature. Small problem: the authors they invited to be on their panels were almost all South Asian people who lived in the U.S., not anyone actually living and writing in any of the South Asian countries. Sometimes they were children of South Asians, i.e., they were born and lived their whole lives in the U.S. or U.K., and had no direct experience of life in the SA countries at all. Nevertheless, they were held up to showcase how well the university was “broadening” their program. An early form of virtue signaling, if you will. I once asked one of these panel moderators (I can’t remember where it was, now), why they don’t even acknowledge the fact that South Asian writers write in a whole variety of languages, of which English happens to be a very miniscule fraction. And why they didn’t even bother to bring any of the authors in those countries who actually did write in English. I didn’t get any answer, as you might imagine.

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        • Yes, the English language book industry has big translation blinders compared to other languages. Even books that are eventually translated into English tend to come through other, more open industries where they were translated first, like French or German. It comes from being the hegemonic export language for so long. I think there are some signs it’s getting a little better at some US publishers, but it’s tiny still and could go up or down from here. Academia could play a role in lifting up interesting authors, but I haven’t seen that happen much with the exception of a few classic works.

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          • I am excited to see how the book industry has also expanded just in the past 25 years, the authors Moimeme was describing are still around but now I see them labeled as “diaspora authors”. There’s this whole category of personal memoirs that has been defined and squeezed in between Indian authors and American authors, and I love it. Film is still treading a little behind, but it’s getting there, I see more and more discussion of Bend It Like Beckham (for instance) as a diaspora film instead of an Indian film.

            On Fri, Apr 17, 2020 at 10:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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