Tattoo would run up the main bell tower to ring the bell and shout “De plane! De plane!” (in a French accent) to announce the arrival of a new set of guests at the beginning of each episode. Remember this? Rewind to 1977, The Fantasy Island, with Mr Roarke and Tattoo. Those who watched this series will remember with nostalgia the fun we had in our childhood, and for many others who have no idea, you can just continue watching our Tamil Soap operas or mega serials, to get a feel of it.
Vijayakanth, Action-King Arjun, A. Nagarjuna, Vivek Oberoi or Saif Ali Khan and the rest continue to pump out one fantasy movie after another, which the masses have no problems lapping up. Over the years, the fantasies have only gotten worse and yet the huge cult following continues unabated. In Hollywood, on the other hand, such shows are few and far apart, to have any social impact on the masses. Before one starts to jump and shoot me down, Ajith or Vijay style, movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, etc. are all released under the “Science Fiction” banner and not family or action drama like in Kollywood or Bollywood.
In the US TV series, only three visitors fly in to Fantasy Island to fulfill their fantasies in each episode, but in India millions throng movie halls to live out their fantasies in the three hours they get. Note that there is very little to separate the themes among all these movies. If the directors miss one aspect it is more than adequately compensated with ridiculous idiosyncrasies in their next movie. It was in the early 1990s when the Indian flash mob dancing started, replacing the styles of Gemini Ganesan and Savithri, dancing and running in circles around trees in parks. Interestingly only 10-15 years later. the term Flash Mob was coined. It’s quite fascinating and confusing to see how long Indian movie fans continue to swallow mega doses of such dance routines.
One of the key points I would really like to bring out here is the harm it has caused and how much knowingly or unknowingly our lives are moulded by what is being shown on the silver screen. In Malaysia, Kollywood (read South Indian movies) have contributed both positively and negatively to the Indian community in general. On the positive side, the movie and drama industry here has started to grow with expertise drawn in from India and also a number of Malaysians crossing over to India to act in serials, movies, and as playback singers. However, on the negative side, the impact has been far worse. A snapshot from any Action film could be like this, “Hero is chased by a gangster. Hero has a revolver but he has no bullets in it. As soon as the gangster shoots, Hero opens the bullet compartment of his revolver and catches the bullet. Then, he closes the bullet compartment and fires his gun and the gangster dies”.
The violence in Indian movies has undoubtedly increased exponentially and is worrisome. In the days of MGR and Nambiar, the climax would be a fight sequence between the two. No one is “injured”, let alone seriously. There is no triple summersault from a standing position over a 10-foot wall and all that science defying acts. On a lighter note, if only Indian sportsmen can achieve such feats, every athletics gold medal in the Olympics would be won by India. The killings shown in Tamil movies have become more gory and ruthless. In this same period of 20-25 years, Indian gangs have been on the rise in Malaysian too. The infamous ones are Gang 04, 08 and 36 with members nationwide. The government too had many times proposed to ban many Indian movies due to the level of violence and the impact it has had on increase of gangs in the country. They have held back so far not wanting to disappoint the Indian population in the country. It’s frustrating to know Malaysian Indians account for the highest number of prisoners in detention centers throughout the nation despite constituting just 7.1% of the Malaysian population. Even being on the “other side” of the law, each one of them actually thinks he is a Vijay or Ajith in “Pokkiri” or “Billa”. That’s another full story on its own.
There is little in what Viyajakanth portrays in movies that he could do in his political career or life. In Thennavan (2003), Vijayakanth comes up with a set of five atrocious (even though two were reasonable) conditions for elections to be held in Tamil Nadu. On the contrary, the current Chief Elections Officer of Tamil Nadu, Praveen Kumar IAS, did it with a finesse with no conditions and it was all “back to the basics”. He is considered to be the best CEO of Tamil Nadu on record for what he did in the last state elections. Logically, there were no fighting villains along Poonamallee High Road carrying an Aruval (long knife), dodging bullets or singing and doing a flash mob in front of the Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, during the whole time.
Tamil mega serials are even more miserable. The plots are dramatically illogical and demeaning to women folks in general. It’s a sad state when women are portrayed like they might have been back in the medieval times. Every drama must have this dialouge at least once a week. “I will hit, slap and kick her, I have the right. You are her parents, but I am her husband now. Who are you to interfere? Even the law can’t do anything about it!” If this sort of thrash is fed day in and day out to the public, why would violence against women not increase in India? This is what I would term as “Synchronized Reciprocal Projection”. The term is self-explanatory.
In conclusion, the themes and story lines of our films and mega serials cannot change overnight to become more realistic. However, a change will really help in also making peoples’ mindset to being more practical. In Star Trek, an Indian was hired as the Science Consultant/Advisor – Naren Shankar, who was a PhD in Engineering Physics from Cornell University. For starters, Tamil movie and mega-serial producers could really use the services of such a Government Policy and a Logic Review advisor. If you are making and directing a play or cinema, you might as well get your facts right so as to guide the masses to do things the right way! Many storylines can be weaved into real life situations, rather than fanning negativity and hatred in every episode. Over the last 30 years, directors and film producers have unwittingly created a culture where gang culture has been condoned and even though the “hero” wins in the end, gangsters see themselves as heroes and not villains. Rajnikanth can resolve issues within days or weeks in his movies through illogical processes, but why can’t scriptwriters do a sanity check to help the masses do it the right way that would work in the system or even the right way to change the system? To top it all, Peoples Mango Party must have been watching “Citizen” when they too tried some “Tollywood” methodologies to get some Anti-Corruption bill passed in Delhi. The bottom-line is what we need from the cinema world is balanced entertainment and an organizational effort to move from extreme make-believe and destructive themes to more realistic and beneficial storylines.