Chennai and Tamil Nadu
Types and stereotypes
Revenge or romance, cinema is about different audiences and diverse taste.
Sometimes, the lines between “type” (representative of an identifiable class or group of people) and stereotype are very thin, especially in mainstream commercial cinema, because whether a type is oversimplified or not is completely subjective.
Dose of drama
Over the years, our audiences have been conditioned to drama through doses of larger-than-life mythology and iconography. Which is why street plays use mythology, and idioms need to be rooted in it. Why did ‘Gadar,’ which made the urban audience laugh and the politically correct audience cringe in their seats, strike a chord with the people and go on to be a huge hit, probably bigger than ‘Lagaan’ that year? Because, it was patriotism packaged through idioms used in the Ramayan… abduction and rescue.
At some level, it is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at play. Roughly, the people at the bottom of the pyramid want their basic needs addressed out of cinema: to escape from the brutal reality of life and give vent to the angst. So you have the Revenge/Action genre.
Those who have managed to escape the brutal reality of life probably long for the innocence of romance. Hence, the extremely popular Romance genre. Those who have had enough romance in their life probably just want to discuss sex, adultery and the complexity of urban life, morality and political correctness.
The coming-of-age adult genre, discussing sex. Those who have grown up on sophisticated taste find other things to appreciate – the finer things: wine, books, literature, art and look for what they believe are the finer aspects of life to satisfy them in what they consider entertainment. The art house multiplex genre.
Revenge, romance, sex and multiplex have emerged as the dominant forms of cinema in the country along with the growing urbanisation of the country.
Why is it essential for all movies to have complex characters? The greatest filmmakers, including our own Mani Ratnam, have used types to make a complex subject more comprehensible. A story about an issue when broken down takes human shape and the two sides of an argument (since films are about conflict) are personified by actors representing ideologies... Each character stands for something and it is through the face-off of these characters that ideologies or schools of thoughts clash (Sample: ‘Bombay,’ ‘Yuva,’ ‘Rang De Basanti,’ ‘Taare Zameen Par’ or ‘Halla Bol’).
The reality about Indian cinema is that, unlike European cinema which is made for connoisseurs as an artistic expression, or assembly-line American cinema that is largely spectacle-based and made for a diverse global English-speaking, Hollywood-worshipping audience, our storytelling culture is rooted in mythology of Gods and heroes...
Criticising a filmmaker for not thinking the way you do or for choosing an audience that does not include you, is unfair.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu