Gooooooood Morning, Bollywood fans!
It is now January 2nd, and if your New Year’s Eve hangover hasn’t worn off by now, I’d suggest consulting a physician. For the rest of us, who are now (hopefully) of sound mind, it’s back to business as usual. Our business, of course, is Bollywood…and business hasn’t exactly been a-boomin’.
2017 was a notoriously disastrous year for Bollywood at the box office, with the Salman Khan/Katrina Kaif starrer Tiger Zinda Hai swooping in at the last minute to salvage at least some of Bollywood’s remaining dignity (and investors). But Bollywood fans couldn’t focus solely on the silence of the cash registers, so we were forced to turn our attention to other things…like who changes Taimur Ali Khan’s diapers, for instance.
So yeah, you could say it was a pretty dry year. But on the upside, it gave us a lot to think about, and several ideas as to how Bollywood and the media members who cover it could improve in the coming twelve months and beyond. So here are 10 New Year’s resolutions we hope Bollywood will make (but we’re not holding our breath).
Resolution #1: No more airport looks!
Quite frankly, if you need a stylist to help you put together a presentable pair of jeans and a t-shirt, you might be in the wrong profession. The idea that what a celebrity would wear to the airport would actually interest us is so frivolous, so laughable, so 2017…that it must be true. But if it is, please know that that’s only for lack of other interesting news stories.
Please, we beg of you, stop fueling this madness by covering airport looks! We all know they’re going to change into their PJs the moment they get on the plane anyway.
Resolution #2: Fewer biopics, please!
These days, every other film announced seems like it’s either a remake or a biopic. And while biopics can be excellent and insightful viewing experiences, we don’t need a million of them every year to fill Bollywood’s gap in imagination. What’s most puzzling is the fact that biopics are now being made on people in the prime of the careers! How ridiculous is that? Imagine if filmmakers had released a biopic on Neil Armstrong before he walked on the moon. I imagine they would be sitting there scratching their heads, thinking, “Well, that could have been a major plot point!”
People like Saina Nehwal haven’t finished writing their story, so why bring it to screen now? And as for the Sanjay Dutt biopic, well…with all due respect to Mr. Hirani, it might be a bit of a conflict of interest to make a movie about a good personal friend, especially when that friend has ties to terrorist organizations. Just saying.
Resolution #3: Invest in good writers!
Writers! Writers! Writers! They are the lifeblood of storytelling, and treating them like cogs in the well-oiled Bollywood machine ensures an end product that, even if passable, could have been so much more.
Audiences deserve more than pretty faces and breathtaking set pieces. We deserve stories that have been worked on, edited, and worked on again, repeated ad nauseam until the film that hits the screens has come together so seamlessly that we never check our watches, or get up for long bathroom breaks, or nod off while some robotic simulation of a real woman grooves to re-released 90′s track. The audience deserves the best Bollywood has to offer, and in order for that to happen, the industry needs to treat its writers better.
Resolution #4: Employ older actresses!
The fact that Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Sridevi, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai, Sonali Bendre, Preity Zinta, and so many others who helped make the Khans the superstars they are today are sitting home for a large part of the year, depriving us of their onscreen magic, is a tragedy. Shahrukh Khan once used the excuse of market forces to avoid employing his former heroines, but you cannot tell me with a straight face that CGI-ing yourself as a dwarf is less of a risk than making another film with Madhuri Dixit.
The fact is that no one, from the writers and directors to the male stars themselves, seems to be able to imagine a world where women over a certain age have rich interior lives, with dreams and desires and stories to tell. Things are changing slightly: this year, Sridevi gave us a star turn in the thriller Mom, while Aishwarya is playing a glamorous popstar in Fanne Khan and Rani is poised to make a comeback as a teacher with Tourette’s Syndrome in Hichki. But frankly, these changes just aren’t good enough. Women have to create extraordinary content with limited resources, like this year’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, to get even a fraction of the recognition a Khan starrer will receive just upon being announced. It’s time the 40-and-over crowd of heroes accept that they’re aging, and embrace it by returning to the women who first created onscreen magic with them. There’s an audience for those films, I promise you.
Resolution #5: Stop using your personal lives to promote films!
Does Bollywood think we’re stupid? Do they think we don’t know by now that they’re the ones linking costars together right before a big release, through distasteful blind items and talk show innuendo? Apparently they do doubt our intelligence, because they keep trying to sell us the narrative content of their films through the drama that is their personal lives. Seriously, does anyone even know what the Kangana Ranaut-starrer Simran was about? All I can remember is a long promotional tour that told us the story of her alleged romance with Hrithik Roshan, not the story of the film she was supposed to be promoting. And to be fair, Ms. Ranaut is hardly the only one using these types of gauche promotional tactics. Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra have “broken up” more times than I can count, their relationship status seemingly dependent on whether or not Sid needs to promote a movie with an equally hot costar like Jacqueline Fernandez. And we see how well that worked for their film A Gentleman, with their so-called scorching chemistry failing to fill theater seats.
We all enjoy some juicy gossip now and then, but today’s audience is wiser than they were a decade ago. We can, for the most part, tell the faux-link ups from the genuine article. We also know that if you have to resort to planting rumors and creating personal drama to sell a film, it’s probably not worth watching in the first place.
Resolution #6: Stars, please educate yourselves on social issues!
When Sonam Kapoor spoke out against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which effectively criminalizes homosexuality, many of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community were elated. A mainstream Bollywood star taking a stance on a political issue is a rare occurrence, but one that can help embolden others to speak out or educate those who don’t understand the issue in the first place.
Out of fear and a misplaced sense of self-preservation, Bollywood has allowed itself to be held ransom by various political factions on a variety of topics, and it has come to the point where freedom of speech itself is under threat. Not only do Bollywood stars need to come together and speak out, they need to speak in a way that shows they actually know what they’re talking about. No one is asking them to return to school and get a degree in political science; but if they’re not using those frequent flights to and fro to read scripts, they could at least read up on issues like sanitary conditions, human rights, and communal violence. It’s a blessing to be given a platform, and it’s about time some of these tight-lipped diplomats started using theirs for the greater good.
Resolution #7: For the love of God, stop bitching about Bollywood award shows!
By now, just about every celebrity has admitted that most, if not all Bollywood award shows are farces. While some may have a smidgeon more credibility than others, it is popularly declared that awards are handed out–and often made up at the last minute–depending on who decides to show up.
What the stars won’t tell you is that this is a situation of their own making. Award shows need celebrities to score high enough ratings to justify their rather expensive existence, and these very same celebrities who self-righteously declare that these shows are fixed are the same celebrities who will be nowhere in sight when it comes to attending an event purely to support the industry they work in. The difference between the Oscars and the Filmfare Awards isn’t that one gives out awards fairly and the other doesn’t; it’s that it’s considered an honor to attend one and applaud your contemporaries, while the other is merely a show some stars deign to attend only if they get a few minutes on stage in the interest of self-promotion.
You can’t have it both ways. Declaring that you will no longer attend award shows because they’re not legitimate in your eyes is a self-serving act that tells us your time is too valuable to simply support the industry that employs you. Either you contribute to creating a culture where award ceremonies are legitimized by the coming together of talent to celebrate the craft of filmmaking, or you selfishly withhold your presence while others are being awarded so that you can claim some sense of intellectual superiority. Either way, quit complaining! You have three options: you can help change the situation, you can zip your lips, or you can continue to sound like an elitist butthead. Your call.
Resolution #8: Stop stalking children. It’s weird.
We get it, star kids are cute. Many even grow up to be beautiful. But is anyone else disturbed by the amount of media coverage given to them, considering their greatest achievement in life so far is to be born into the right family?
A few pictures every now and then of star kids like Taimur Ali Khan, AbRam Khan, Aaradhya Bachchan, and Yash and Roohi Johar will suffice. We can all coo over how this one has his mother’s eyes, or that one has her father’s nose. But tracking a child’s every move, to the point that celebs are now savvy enough to do literal paparazzi strolls holding their brand-boosting children, is creepy. You know what I see in the above picture? A baby in a swing. It’s pretty much the exact same sight I see whenever I take my nephew to the park. Trust me, it’s not that exciting.
Can we all mutually agree to at least give these kids a chance at a semi-normal childhood? With the way things are going, we will immortalize every awkward moment, every public faux pas they make from childhood to young adulthood, until they inevitably enter the entertainment industry because hey, why not? They’ve been entertaining us since they were born! (At which point, we’ll all complain about nepotism.)
Isn’t it easier to just…back off and let them be kids? I, for one, could do without a day-to-day update on the child of someone I don’t even know. I get enough of that on Facebook, thank you very much!
Resolution #9: Hire new singers!
Another Arijit Singh ballad? Really? Don’t ruin a good thing by beating us over the head with it. I’m sure there are hundreds of talented singers out there just waiting for their big break. And quite frankly, we need a break from hearing the same voices over and over and over again.
Resolution #10: Respect your audience!
We give you our love, our hard-earned money; we buy magazines when you grace the covers; we stay up half the night just to catch a live chat with you on Twitter. We are the reason that you are who you are, and yet you disrespect us at every turn. You blow us off at airports when we just want a quick selfie. You sell us films you know are terrible just to line your own pockets. You prey on our insecurities by telling us to buy products for ridiculous purposes, like whitening our armpits (seriously, what was that?!). You know that we would do anything for you, and you take advantage of that fact. That, my friends, is the opposite of respect.
I ask you to bear this in mind, though: one day, you’ll ask for too much and give us too little in return, and your star will dim. No one will be waiting for you at the airport, or asking you to sell bottled water on the side of the road, let alone beauty products. Fame is fleeting, but the love your audience gives you can last forever…if only you’d stop treating us like flies to be swatted, that is.