My generation likes practicality. We relate to realistic cinema. We applaud the Ranbir Kapoor of Wake Up Sid with his simplistic dialogues and relatable lifestyle. Alia Bhatt of Highway is lovable because she just makes so much sense! We feel we are better off without the bombastic mix of drama and emotionalism that determined the tenor of films that were made prior to the 21st century. We cosy up to our subtle and ‘real-life’ cinema which is basically an enactment of the lives of the urban young with perhaps a saucy song or two to justify its existence in Bollywood. On the other hand, Gabar or Mogambo or even Devdas solicit an eye-brow raise of amusement at best, because they just cannot be real.
Lofty dialogues complemented by the same kind of fantastical props and costumes make for an all too good to be true image that we in 2015 find hard to believe. But, here is what I think. Why do many of us increasingly expect filmmakers to work within the realm of realism and not explore the romantic concepts of existence that our lives so obviously lack? Do we pay two hundred bucks and further more for popcorn to see ourselves in the skin of celebrities on-screen? I believe that exaggeration and glorification can awaken our otherwise routinely conditioned mind. I am a big fan of larger than life Salman Khan movies because they take me on a ride. When Dharmendra screams to Basanti,”In kutohn ke samne mat nachna,” I get overcome by the robustness of their simple yet brilliantly hued love story. Amitabh Bachan’s sensational ‘gyarah mulkon ki police’ dialogue made him the superhero of the underworld fantasy. Shashi Kapoor’s’mere paas maa hai…’ surely struck the hearts of millions of Indians that watched his film.
These films with their titles screaming of their eclectic mix of emotions and dialogues, song sequences and fights provide a complete and ridiculously exhilarating getaway from our all too real lives into a world we can only live through if we leave behind our notion of ‘sensible’ cinema. The way I see it, cinema does not have to be sensible or mature or even socially impactful (although these things are very welcome). Cinema is that phenomena which, although briefly, can lift us from our predictable and obviously structured orbit into the orbit of the flamboyant, the electric and even the unreasonable. The best kind of movies for me are those leave me somewhat buoyed in a secret acknowledgment of unlikely possibilities. This is not to say that I do not appreciate serious or issue-based cinema. I just have a deep reverence for that loud category of cinema which many rubbish as being cheesy or even kitsch.
So whether ‘thapad se dar lagta ho ya pyar se’, as long as there are over-emphasised Ray-Bans and an excessively ‘rangeela’ police officer, it works!
I have heard of and participated in a few debates over the stage of the origin of leadership qualities in a leader. There are two basic heads of discussion-leaders are born and leaders are made. Which of these is true and in what circumstances is NOT the point here, neither is any analysis over which theory holds more precedence in the course of history. The point here is simply and wholly about the little boy you see in the middle of the three in the picture above. The point is about the laser-like focus of his eyes and his unconsciously majestic style. He must be all of about six years but his sense of responsibility blended with his confidence says that he has a story. Through my passage, I will call this young boy Raju, not because that is easier than referring to him as ‘the boy’ or ‘young man’ every time , but because I think that he deserves an identity.
I happened to observe Raju along with his little platoon while I was on the way to a hill station with my parents. We needed a cup of hot Indian evening tea and having searched for a tea place for over an hour and having rejected a few over petty reasons , we decided to stop at whatever place we would come across next.
Once we finally made a stop in front of a shabby looking tea stall, my mom and I sat in the car with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner running. We began discussing the grim state of hygiene and other spheres of public life in our country and how progress in these areas is easier talked about than witnessed. While we were talking, we noticed a group of six kids making their way from the other end of the street to the side that we were parked. They begged and played as they made their way through a roadside full of street vendors, stray animals, chatting groups and other beggars. When they reached the tea stall we were parked at and saw the evening activity, they stopped and murmured stuff to each other. Perhaps the aroma of the fresh samosas and the steaming tea enticed them. Raju gave his group a reassuring nod and with the slightest hint of a smile on his tanned but well defined face, he marched up to the tea vendor. He said something to the vendor and on getting his reply, he reached into his pocket and got some coins out. He fiddled with them in his hand and began a negotiation with the vendor. During his negotiations, he kept his money tightly secured in his fist. While Raju spoke confidently and with the most fierce eye contact I have seen someone make, the vendor tried to hide his smile of amusement while he attended to this unlikely ‘customer’. The rest of his group, on the other hand, was waiting across the street with hope in their eyes and awe on their faces. After their brief talk, the vendor resumed his job of making and serving tea and Raju beckoned the others to sit on a rusty bench placed outside the stall. They all ran and at once leaped at the bench as though it were a tree of exotic fruit. While these kids sat talking and playing, there was a clear distinction in the body language of Raju and the rest of them. He took the seat in the middle of the bench and without any protest, two others sat on either side of him, giving him enough space to himself and another two made themselves comfortable on the ground. He seemed to be the center of the discussion and the origin of their communication. I noticed an extremely subtle but inherent sense of obeisance among the children to Raju. He laughed and joked with them, but with an air of authority that none of them seemed to question. After about ten minutes, the vendor brought them six cups of tea( half full) and three samosas. He placed them on the bench. I was not surprised to see what followed. None of the kids advanced towards the treat. They sat patiently but their eyes showed their enthusiasm. Raju then split the samosas into six and gave a piece to each of his companions along with a cup of tea. He took his in the end. I figured that the cups were only half full because he did not have enough money for six and must have asked the vendor to split three into six. While I tried to take a few snapshots of this celebration, Raju happened to look my way. His immediate reaction was a beaming smile followed by the straightening of his posture and the re-positioning of his hand which held the samosa. The other two on the bench followed his lead(obviously) and gave me this perfect shot that you see above! A couple of minutes after this ‘photo-shoot’, we decided to resume our journey. We drove off and Raju and and his pack waved to us excitedly. I have not heard of or seen Raju since and I am sure that he doesn’t know that I exist. But those fifteen or so minutes I spent observing him were enough for me to respect him and his attitude.
I know that what I have written is not an extraordinary story. Perhaps its barely a story. But I feel that I owe this to ‘Raju’. I feel that his alpha behavior at an age when care is a right and not a responsibility deserves an acknowledgement. I feel that his ability to be a guide and a leader to others his age among people who are on an average triple his age, is commendable. I don’t know who Raju will be when he is older or what he’ll do. I only know that he has the eye of a tiger and that right now, he’s a hero.
Well done, Raju.