Cinema is an integral part of our lives. Everybody loves to watch movies, and cinema is one of the most entertaining aspects of our lives. A unifying factor, Bhaichand Patel, author of the book Bollywood’s Top Twenty: Superstars of Indian Cinema, said, “There are three things which unite our country – cricket, cinema and corruption. Everybody loves cinema. It was the only form of entertainment I had while growing up,” while opening the panel discussion ‘Bollywood Baatein’ at the fourth edition of the Hyderabad Literary Festival on Sunday.
Accompanying journalist-turned-author Bhavana Somaaya, the author elaborated on some of the best times of India’s Hindi film industry and why he thinks now is as good as it has gets.
Having followed Bollywood for years and written books like Chasing the Good Life and Happy Hours, Patel though was guilty of equating Bollywood to Indian cinema at large. “The period between 1940 and 1960 is regarded as the golden age of Indian cinema. It produced films like Awaara, Pyaasa, Mughal-e-Azam and so on. This period also produced some of the finest music ever with composers such as S D Burman and Naushad and singers like Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. In the 70s and 80s, we made some really bad movies. It was one of the worst phases of Indian cinema.”
Bhavana though stepped in to vehemently disapprove of the term ‘Bollywood’. “India produces the highest number of films in the world. Why should we name our film industry after Hollywood? Moreover, Bollywood gives the impression that it is a Bombay film industry, when this country has so much more to offer,” the journalist said.
This is where Patel expressed that the growing number of multiplexes were helping good quality movies find an audience and that Indian cinema is currently at its peak. “Earlier cinema halls were really dirty and smelly places. A lot of people chose to stay away from them as a result. Moreover, a film like Hyderabad Blues could only be seen at a noon show. But with the influx of multiplexes, there are eight different screens in some places and people can watch whatever they wish. This is great, since a lot of good movies are being made, like Gangs of Wasseypur, Peepli Live, The Lunchbox, etc. Indian movies today are as good as they ever were.”
While the discussion flitted between their different career graphs through the evolution of cinema and how big budget movies are changing the topography of the industry, censorship also took up quite the attention. Bhavana, who is also on the advisory board of the Censor Board of Film Certification, said, “Censorship is extremely necessary and I feel that our guidelines are extremely fair. I am not against the portrayal of heavy content or nudity, but it’s the vulgar camera angles which objectifies women,” she opined.
As the discussion wound up, the audience were piqued to know why Indian cinemas don’t do well at the Oscars. While Bhavana opined that it wasn’t fair to compare our cinemas to the West – “Our movies are fantasies made to entertain the common man”, Patel nodded his agreement.