A storm got brewed up in the Malayalam film industry recently. A young actress who has attained fame for her exceptional portrayal of diverse and challenging roles in the last few years lashed out at one of the superstars of the industry for his role in one of his recent movies. She took offence to some of the words that were used by the actor in the movie. She has been unequivocal about her experiences in the industry especially how she has not able to bag many roles because of the curse of the casting couch, something that plagues almost every movie industry. After her remarks, her social media profiles are being inundated with hate messages from his overzealous fans.
Indian movie industry, in general, was stuck in the rut for a very long time. The formula to make a successful commercial movie had become written in stone. A righteous hero, a devious villain, his henchmen that includes one who is bigger and stronger than the hero, a coy heroine, a suffering mother, children separated at childhood and meet up as strangers later, x number of songs, y number of fight scenes, z number of comedy scenes interspersed with emotional scenes, these were some of the staple ingredients of a typical movie that would be a guaranteed commercial success. The formula worked even in Hollywood when Ashok Amritraj produced “Double Impact” and it became a hit. But these established norms were shattered by “Dil Chahta Hai” in 2001. A completely urban movie based on the lives and journey of the protagonists from college to adulthood in a fast-paced city, the movie broke barriers when it found fame in rural areas as well.
Malayalam movie industry also used this recipe but it was mostly driven by content-based movies from the 1980s itself. Stories that resonated with people’s lives and the hardships of living within the framework of a society dominated the storyboards for some time. Then it switched to satire with rural and small-town life as the backdrop. But like other movie industries, Mollywood as it is called now became dominated by two superstars and a few stars a couple of rungs below them. Movies that glorify these actors slowly started coming into vogue. Fans associations started forming for these actors. People lapped up everything and gave them the demigod status. It is this hegemony that is being utilised to make commercial movies that are guaranteed to succeed.
The actress in the eye of the storm happened to watch one such movie. She didn’t like some of the words the actor has used in his dialogues and she has a very good reason for that. Cinema is one of the most powerful media in our society to influence people. Superstars sit on top of this medium so they have the power to exert maximum influence on people. This makes them the most responsible or even the guardians of the industry and about what message is being passed on to the masses. I believe she was completely right in pointing out that the senior actors should be more responsible and careful about the movies they do. What concerns me here are two things. One, the superstar hasn’t come out yet and requested his fans to stop abusing the actress and two, he belongs to a certain religion and it is people from that religion who have been abusing her the most, giving a religious overture to the situation as well.
When movies started getting made in black and white, heroes were righteous and white and villains were heinous and black. The objective was to show clearly what is right and what is wrong. But that was a utopian world. Nothing in this world is pure white or black. Everything is in shades of grey. The movie industry finally understood this and evolved. Now the grey is getting glorified in movies. Heroes spitting out vile venomously against villains has become an add-on to their aura. I believe the movie industries are getting too far ahead in their search to create realistic movies. The best solution is to stick to creating sci-fi, animation and rom-com movies. They are no-brainers without any influence on people’s psyche.
Finally, I have wondered why some extremely terrible movies get made. I am not referring to low budget movies but the ones with a big star cast and horrifying storylines and direction. Recent examples in Mollywood are “Georgettan’s Pooram” and “Role Models”. Then I got to know about how money from the underworld is being used to bankroll movies in Bollywood. This could be true in other movie industries as well including Hollywood. This could mean stashed black money could also be getting funnelled into movie making. Maybe this is the secret behind making terrible movies with big stars, to make illegal money legal. My movie preferences have become refined over the years with experience. I watch movies only on their merit and I cannot be fooled or coerced into watching any movie based on the stars, genre or any other reason.