Madhubala! One of the great actresses of Hindi film history, The Most Beautiful Woman, with the most ridiculously dramatic and tragic life story. Appropriately for someone so full of love and so loved, her birthday is Valentine’s Day. And so I thought it would finally be time to do a Hindi Film 101 of her life.
I’ll be seeing Padmavat tonight, mainly because I haven’t been able to go see a movie in a while, and here it is. A large part of the reason it will no doubt get a big box office, here it is and there hasn’t been anything else for a long time. And also, my friend Dina is free to go with me and I haven’t seen her in almost a month. But, to counteract what I am beginning to hear about Padmavat, I am going to give us a little reminder of all the wonderfully strong female characters that there have been in Hindi film, and all the wonderful historical Muslim characters there have been.
Happy birthday Lataji! I felt so guilty last year for celebrating your sister’s birthday, and skipping yours. But not again!
This is semi-inspired by a conversation I had in the comments on the Rang De Basanti post with Shaily about what would need to change for Siddharth and Soha to end up together. Essentially, the whole movie except for the characters. Which got me thinking about all the Indian historical films that I really wish could have historically inaccurate happier endings.
I hate that myth. From two sides. First, people always think it means that characters don’t kiss. Characters totally kiss! And have sex and do all the normal things. It’s the actors who don’t. So we see the characters leaning in, but then rain obscures our view or whatever. The audience knows what happened, even without seeing it. Just like a “sex scene” in a movie doesn’t mean we explicitly see the actors having sex. We just see a bunch of sheets and know what happened. Oh, and also, actors totally kiss too. Anyway, this made up holiday gives me an excuse to post lots and lots of kissing videos, woo!
Notice how I put the really exciting picture at the top so we would remember why this really matters?
So, currently, the highest Shahrukh movie on the all time gross list for India is number 5. NUMBER 5!!! The shame of it! Ahead of him is PK, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Bahubali, and Dhoom 3. The whole list is here on wikipedia.
Now, you know what all these films have in common? They are all from the past 5 years. And the film at the top is usually from within the past 2 years. In America, we are used to that, the top grossers are always fairly recent, but in India that wasn’t always the case. Mother India set a box office record in 1957 that stayed in place for 3 years until Mughal-E-Azam surpassed it in 1960. Mughal-E-Azam held the record until Sholay beat it in 1975. Sholay held the record until Hum Aapke Hain Koun came along in 1994. Hum Aapke Hain Koun was toppled quickly by DDLJ in 1995. Then DDLJ lost it’s crown to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998. That record held until 2001 when it was beaten by both Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. Gadar held the record until 3 Idiots in 2009, at which point everyone breathed a sigh of release because they could start pretending Gadar never happened (very very problematic messages in that film). And then 3 Idiots held the record for a long time, by a big big margin, until it was finally beaten by Chennai Express in 2013. All Shahrukh fans cheered and celebrated and laughed in the faces of their Aamir-fan friends, or at least that’s what I did. Truly, it was a magical time!
(Shahrukh, take a bow! You earned it!)
And then about 2 months later, Dhoom 3 came out and Aamir was on top again. It stayed up there for a year, until PK came out, and then Aamir had the two top spots. PK is still up there, but Bajrangi Bhaijaan did really well this summer and came close to beating it. And Bahubali, of course, is a huge deal since it is the only non-Hindi film up there (although it was distributed by a Bombay based production house, Dharma, which is very important in terms of overseas awareness and national reach in India).
So, on the micro-level, this just means we all need to buy as many tickets for Dilwale as humanly possible in order to return Shahrukh to his rightful ranking. I don’t care if you are actually seeing Star Wars, you buy your ticket for Dilwale!!!
But on a macro-level, in terms of global trends, economics, and the future of the industry, what does all of this mean and where does it come from?
So, I finally watched, Magadheera, yay! It’s just as good as everyone said it would be, like Bahubali but only slightly less so. And the hero has beautiful hair and the heroine is spunky and the special effects are super, and it has one sequence that was just jaw-droppingly beautiful:
It starts out just “kill a 100 men so you can show off a lot!”. But then it turns into this sort of endurance effort to show the triumph of the human spirit and soul and nobility, because he is proving himself to his ancestors and his warrior spirit. And then it goes from being bravado to triumph of spirit, to just pure “I must do this for the person I love.” It didn’t even feel romantic to me, more in that “mother lifts a car off her child” kind of arena. Which is why it was so powerful, it turned into something completely selfless and loving and triumphal.
Anyway, I don’t want to talk about any of that. No, what I find interesting in the clip above is the how the Muslim enemy leader comes to respect our hero’s bravery and achievements. Which was a huge relief, because it meant the Muslim character in this movie was going to be an “Honorable Muslim” instead of a “Rapacious Muslim.”