I recently watched the movie It's Complicated, a Nancy Meyers romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. But despite its high-wattage star cast, especially multiple Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, the movie was the perfect representation of all that’s going wrong with Hollywood and its insistence in churning out formulaic templates of movies.
About a divorced woman in her fifties, the movie explores her efforts at finding love again, even as her ex-husband pulls out all the stops to get her back. It's Complicated is inexcusably cliche-ridden, sexist and banal. And, its movies like it that now make me think more than twice before I make the effort to go watch an English movie. This is a far cry from just 10 years back, when we'd wait with incredible anticipation to watch the slickly produced, ‘un-escapist’ cinema of Hollywood.
But, that was then, when our film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, would bring out with amazing regularity ‘masala’ movies with wafer-thin plots and poor styling. So much has changed now, thanks to a growing breed of young directors in Mumbai who have been bred on world cinema, and are making smart, small-scale films that speak to the modern city aesthetic.
These films shun the stereotypes of yore and rely on a decent story well told to do the trick. Of course, the multiplex boom in India's big metros has catalysed the success of these films, clearly made for a niche audience. And meanwhile, small theatres have ensured even movies that don't speak to the lowest common denominator of the masses can yield handsome returns. In fact, the success of such movies has forced ‘legends’, directors, producers and actors, to be wary of fantastical storytelling or epic sagas that don't speak in a real voice.
Just this year, highly anticipated movies like Mani Ratnam's Raavan and the Hrithik Roshan movie Kites failed to ignite the box office. Yet last weekend, a slice of life film about two young people in love, I Hate Luv Storys by debutante director Punit Malhotra, was marching to box office glory. Maybe Hollywood could learn a thing or two from us now.