Chicken Soup for the soul from Bollywood

There are movies that make you laugh for 3 hours, temporarily forgetting all your worries. Then there are movies that transport you into a different world giving you an out of the body experience. And then there are those that elevate your whole spirit to a different level. Of the first and second kind, I can think of plenty of Bollywood movies. But of the third kind the ones I can recollect even Ekalavya can count on the fingers of one hand even after gifting away the thumb to his Guru. In this time when people are listing out their top 100 movies of all times, top 75 movies of the decade, top 10 movies of the year etc., I lay before you the 4 Hindi movies that really moved me. In my mind these 4 movies stand far apart from the rest, the only ones that could really evoke strong feelings in me.

Interestingly at a conceptual level, all the four movies have exactly the same theme – ordinary people trying to play the part of much nobler person and in the process undergoing a transformation ascending to live up to the high standards of the person they are trying to emulate. The four movies I am talking about are Guide (1965), Main Azad Hoon (1989), Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006) and Rang De Basanti(2006). The protagonists of all 4 movies are ordinary people. A lovelorn tourist guide, a penniless vagabond, a local ruffian and a group of fun loving youth. Circumstances force them to act out parts mainly for selfish reasons - women and money. The guide becomes a saint and the vagabond a social revolutionary for the want of money. The ruffian becomes a Gandhian and the youth freedom fighters for the want of a lady’s approval. These men set out to take on heroic roles. But they soon discover that instead the roles have take them on. As they are thrown into situations that call for heroes, these pretenders rise to the occasion and stand up to be counted as true heroes: leaders in the true sense of the word, who put society above self. A drought in the village gives the guide an opportunity to become a true saint fasting for 12 days to pray for rains sacrificing his life in the process. The plight of the poor farmers and factory workers converts the vagabond into a true social revolutionary who gives up his life willingly for their cause. The ruffian becomes a true Gandhian who uses Gandhiji's ideals to defeat the ploys of a corrupt builder. The death of a friend, a patriotic pilot transforms the fun loving youth into freedom fighters who lay down their lives for their country in their fight against corruption.

Movies such as these remind us ordinary people that there is more to life than our mundane day to day problems. Maybe one or two movies like that won’t immediately transform us. But definitely the idea is seeded. Who knows? The idea might slowly take root and begin to grow and one day we might blossom as full blown heroes. Till then we can only watch such films, get inspired and pretend to be heroes like the protagonists of the movies. Slowly we might imbibe the qualities of who we are pretending to be and one day when the situation arises, we could also have our day of glory. Till then we can only ‘stand and wait’ as Milton says, concluding his poem ‘On his blindness’.

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Chet Baker said...

Hello Raven, kindly review my comment on your post :P

I'm not really a big fan of hindi movies, and of the 4 movies you've mentioned, i guess only Guide would make it to my top 5 hindi movies list, if i ever sat down to make such a list.

I find it strange that a lot of people find RDB to be an uplifting movie(and I totally respect their choice), and a lot of them fail to see the bigger problem that the movie poses. NO, it is not about how corrupt our leaders are and how the 4 youths(if you can call Amir Khan that) stand up to injustice.

The biggest problem is the fact that it took an Englishwoman to come to our country and evoke a sense of national pride amongst our youth. And that is something that didn't go down well with me. I seriously hope that we haven't reached such a bad state.

The Fool said...

@ Chet Baker - Depends on how you see it. I felt the English woman was unimportant to the story. It was not as if English woman came and gave them a speech about patriotism and they got inspired or anything.It was the personalities of Bhagat Singh, Azad etc. that did the trick.

Chet Baker said...

Er, if my memory serves me right, i think she did give them a bhaashan on how they had forgotten their heroes and all that.

Waise bhi, don't think debating over a hindi movie is worth it. :)

manju said...

well , i think of all the four movies u mentioned i dont think munnabhai impressive enough to qualify for the top bollywood movies....instead i think the latest flick by karan johar ''MY NAME IS KHAN'' strikes a chord with an unusual story and anti-hero protagonist .

The journey of a not-so-normal man is more speculative than his destination.....the simple humane deeds he performs during his journey moves our(read my) heart and the "simple"..(notice the inverted commas)...dialogues are simply awe-inspiring.

the simple acts he does catapults him above all the so-called normal beings and this movie supersedes in my opinion, all bollywood movies made on conventional lines and themes.

The Fool said...

@Manju - Yeah. Munnabhai doesn't do too much of sacrifice. But a gunda understanding the Mahatma's ideal and intrepreting it his way was touching. I saw My Name is Khan. Very ordinary film. Nothing I could relate to. The fellow (Khan) does no sacrifice, the movie does not have any takeaway.

The Fool said...

@Chet Baker - Don't know if your one of those psuedo intellectuals who turns up his nose at Desi stuff and runs after American things or someone who does not want to waste time on mundane stuff like movies. If your the later, I appreciate you. If your the former I need to remind you Hollwood makes lot of hogwash too: 2012, James Bond movies, Mission Impossible Movies for a start are some utterly useless Hollwood movies that immedetaley come to my mind.

Aphron said...

The Movies which you have mentioned are worth being at the Top!! No argument there!
About My name is khan,Though the Theme of the Movie is good but then there are very serious flaws in the movie. It could have been lot better than what it was. For me RDB is one of the finest.Swades not far behind.

The Fool said...

@Aditya - I also considered Swadesh. But though concept wise it was very good, I did not get that much of an emotional connect and a personal take away.

manju said...

@the fool- well , i appreciate ur views (aftr all we all have our personal take on things )...but munnabhai somehow doesn't fit today's scenario ... i mean its just kinda impractical......

i totally abide by watever u said abt MNIK but i think u dont really need to sacrifice n all to be an idol ...actually thats d point did u notice the simple dialogues loaded wd meaningful content (allusion to d jail scene) the humane emotions embedded... look at d events n story line m sure nyone n everyone out there can relate to it...and as they say ...thats d very purpose of mirror our society ...i personally consider it a gud attempt by a run-around-trees type of director.

The Fool said...

@ Manju - Nothing impractical about Gandhiji's philosophy yesterday or today. Just that people don't have the moral fabric to emulate him. Nobody can have the cake and eat it too. A leader has to sacrifice. If one wants to have everything and enjoy, then leadership is not for him/her unless they want to be like our corrupt politicians.

Anyways talking of My Name is Khan, I have posted a link to beautiful review of the movie on someone's blog.
Hope you enjoy it.

Chetbaker said...

I haven't checked this email account in a long time so I couldn't reply earlier. I worship the works of Ilayaraja and totally into bands like Shakti. Mani ratnam is my favourite indian movie director(movies he made in the 80s and 90s) and I rate Kamal Haasan over Al Pacino. I hope that answers the first part. As for the latter, Hollywood make more utter nonsense movies than we do, it's just that I don't watch them and so I don't think it's worth discussing them. Hogwash is hogwash be it Indian or American. It's more of whether or not you can relate to movies. I can somehow relate more to Japanese and Korean cinema. Probably because they have a similar kind of value system which we do and it is potrayed more eloquently in their movies without all the melodrama which we just can't seem to do without.

Pankti Mehta said...

You forgot Black! I find that quite inspirational as in even though you are dealt with a bad deal in life, you try to make something out of it kind.

PS: I have Lage Raho Munnabhai. Full of cliche.

The Fool said...

Well, Pankti - I think when I published the article, I argued with people on the movies. But truth is it is a matter of taste and personal inclination. I have mentioned my favorite movies with the reasons based on my philosophy of life and preferences. Obviously it won't match with others tastes. There can not be any absolute standards here.

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