Critics’ Raves And High-octane Action: The Magic Of Award-winning Films – India’s global blockbusters paint an incomplete picture Online streaming is more reflective of the country’s diversity, but it’s becoming a double-edged sword.
American awards pundits raised eyebrows last September when the Film Federation of India announced which film it had decided to submit as India’s official Oscar nominee in the international film category. The organization refused to select the maximalist Telugu blockbuster directed by S.S. Rajamouli
Critics’ Raves And High-octane Action: The Magic Of Award-winning Films
Was that rare Indian film that captured audiences outside India, enjoying healthy runs in US theaters and a solid afterlife on Netflix (albeit dubbed in Hindi). Even after
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Became the object of affection among American critics, who were obsessed with its dazzling visual kinetics and anti-colonial brilliance. The film is set in 1920s India and imagines what would happen if two revolutionaries in Indian history, Kumaram Bhim and Aluri Sitarama Raju, came together to challenge British rule. At over three hours long, the film is so diligent that the narrative moves at a brisk pace, though it does offer occasional respites in the form of songs like “Naatu Naatu” (now up for Best Original Song at the Oscars). As entertainment,
Without a doubt, it is the work of a consummate craftsman. What a South Indian film has managed to disrupt the hegemony of popular Hindi cinema, or Bollywood, can also do
He also gleefully uses excessive grammar, which may partly explain why he’s so popular with audiences around the world. The film did not challenge but confirmed a certain view of Indian cinema that exists in the global mind: that Indian films are full of songs and dances by design, that they are aware and proud of their ridiculousness (CG tigers). , there are many snakes and leopards
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The film’s reputation grew, as did its celebrity status among audiences of Indian origin, who argued that any charm of the film’s infectious spectacle overshadowed its hidden politics. This dissent included criticism that the film offended Adivasis (indigenous tribal groups), while embodying the rule of the upper caste and whitewashing India’s image as a Hindu rather than a secular state. A jubilant end-credits song meant to evoke patriotic fervor, in which the film’s stars pose in front of images of India’s freedom fighters, has also drawn criticism for its portrayal of ostensibly militant figures, eschewing nonviolent resistance leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit icon and the chief architect of the country’s constitution. (In a recent interview with
, Rajamouli has been circumspect on these issues: “I hate extremism, be it the BJP, the Muslim League or whatever,” he said, referring to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party that is currently in power, also saying that its the main aim was to entertain the audience, no matter what stage of Indian life they belonged to).
RRR did not question, but confirmed a certain vision of Indian cinema that exists in the world’s consciousness.
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The film’s politics may be a Rorschach test for audiences, but its appeal to audiences outside of India leads us to another compelling conversation about which Indian films capture the global imagination. A random look at the worldwide box office of movies like
It can be assumed that this is the heyday of masala cinema, a term that refers to the blending of seemingly contradictory genres (melodrama, farce, action and musicals) into a unique Indian cinematic product. After a dismal period of collecting projects of this kind (especially during the peak of the severity of the pandemic in India), only last year gave reasons for optimism. Among the films that delighted audiences in 2022 was the Sanjay Leela Bhansali directorial.
, a drama about a brothel lady who fights for the empowerment of her fellow sex workers; It had an impressive box office performance outside of India and an even stronger run on Netflix, where it reportedly immediately became the number one non-English-language film on the platform, remaining in the top 10 most viewed films in 25 countries. for several weeks. The attention has led his team to organize campaigns for the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs, a sign of confidence in popular Indian cinema’s ability to compete for prestigious equipment on the world stage.
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, another big-budget film that grossed $100 million worldwide in less than two weeks, despite organized efforts to derail its success. The film is a high-octane action thriller in which the main character (beloved superstar Shahrukh Khan) fights to protect India from a biological weapon controlled by an Indian citizen who is in cahoots with a Pakistani army general.
It clocks in at over two and a half hours, but it’s a high-energy watch that demands viewers turn off their minds and succumb to its wiles. There’s a motorcycle chase sequence on a frozen lake in Siberia, a train fight, and an aerial chase. In other words, it’s calibrated to please moviegoers. However, before launching
Has been the victim of a smear campaign by hardliners for a number of alleged offences, namely star Deepika Padukone’s saffron swimsuit during a song; Some on the right saw the garment as an affront to Hinduism, given its scarcity and evoking a sacred tone. (The film also had a target on its back because its main character, Khan, was Muslim.)
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It could have followed the populist rubric with its extravagant visual display, one of the most important sequences featuring a stirring monologue by the protagonist defending the rights of sex workers. (Bhansali has also been targeted by Hindus before, notably when he made the epic Padmaavat in 2018.)
, is essentially a patriotic film based on the heroic defense of the Indian state, though it treads a fine line in the service of entertaining the masses; In an essay published in February, writer Azad Essa criticized the film for uprooting its protagonist, who declares allegiance to his country without tying himself to any specific religious identity.
But the stunning global success of these films may raise other gripes, perhaps suggesting that global audiences are still engrossed in an incomplete view of Indian entertainment as a technical circus of song and dance, while the heroes and villains are painted in monotone. However, a more structured view of the Indian art scene emerges when considering streaming platforms such as Amazon India, Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar (which will be available on Hulu in the United States in 2021). In recent years, these online services have grown in popularity both in India and abroad, especially as the pandemic has forced more viewers to stay at home. With a little more room for progressive storytelling, these platforms reveal a portrait of India that is more pluralistic and intersectional than viewers might initially think.
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Four years ago, both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video seemed to be in serious competition for the hearts of Indian viewers. Among the most notable titles of the former are two dramas, a propaganda thriller
(2018-2019) and alarming crime in Delhi (2019-present). The former was nominated for an International Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2019; the latter gave India the first
(2019-present), meanwhile, charted the lives of two wedding planners and deftly set up the rich and pampered members of India’s elite. These shows forensically illuminate social issues that more traditional forms of entertainment may not have addressed:
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The use of a sacred Vedic chant led to a politician accusing Netflix of “defaming Hindus”. One of
The main character is a gay man suffering at the hands of the state for a crime against his sexuality.
Since then, the field of streaming has only expanded in diversity and become more daring. Consider Amazon Prime Videos
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. This analogy, while imperfect, captures the show’s unashamed spirit: Centered around four friends from Mumbai, the show doesn’t hesitate to show its bravery by tackling themes like queerness with self-conscious enthusiasm (a focal point of the season two finale is a wedding between two women) and sex work (one of the characters is a cam girl in her spare time, but a much older family friend threatens to expose her). Some may view the series’ engagement with these themes as more superficial than delicate, treating the characters as their personalities rather than exploring their full humanity. But the energetic vision of the program is distinctive, and it would be unwise to deny its resonance:
Was nominated for the 2020 International Emmy Awards in the comedy category, the first in the category for an Indian show, and in the same year, its second season reportedly became the most-watched Indian show on Amazon Prime Video. This is also India, some might extrapolate from watching the series: a country where young women want to express themselves freely and without fear, without worrying about what’s inappropriate.
(2020–present), a charming TV series that fictionalizes the travails of two very real Indian celebrities, fashion designer Masaba Gupta and her mother, actress Neena Gupta. (Both women play analogs of themselves on the show.) The elder Gupta gave birth to a daughter out of wedlock from an affair with Antiguan cricketer Viv Richards (who is black). what
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Puts the emotional world of a mixed race woman at its best.
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