Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What The Avengers made me think, and write

This is a rehash post of an earlier post I did on superheroes. You can still read on because I felt the need for a refreshed take on the topic.

Last week, the world saw The Avengers. Mesmerized. The only word that engulfs the sea of emotions that soar inside me as I walked back home after watching it. The tremendously entertaining flick is crammed with smashin
g superhero characters ensemble and packs in a hell lot of fun. The pantheon chugs along swiftly, set out to charm you, battling their own egos and the world's enemies serving out garnished visual treats. The plotline maybe contrived to make it all happen but its all a dream come true for any superhero fan. The CGI is unfathomably bombastic but does not blanket the main purpose of the plot. But The Avengers is no Dark Knight. Neither does it have the cinematic craft of it, nor the inexorable heft of it. Infact, The Avengers is the most bollywoodesque movie made by Hollywood in recent times. No, its not an exaggeration.

The Avengers s
ymptomatically adheres to utilizing the best of all the superheroes in the most relevant portions of the journey. The Iron Man is the narcissistic lovable douche, the Hulk is the quiet scene stealer, Captain America and Thor are almost made fun of, Black Widow is the hotness quotient and Hawkeye is the perfect superhero taken as a side for the main course. Apart from this, what it does well is to sustain the humor and fun in every frame as it unspools with ruthless elegance. Its a perfect masala entertainer, just the kind we like to make here in Bollywood. There are a lot of sub-plots to the main plot, there are a lot of slapdash sequences in the effort to fit in all the emotions with all the action with all the one-liners and there is a lot of breathless entertainment as all the superheroes join the party. It definitely turns out to be a perfect Bollywood masala entertainer, done smartly. As Shubhra Gupta points out here, it is the elements that make them look human that make superhero flicks favorable and The Avengers has many of them. Before you begin swanning at me, or hold me against a garrote for saying this, I wish to intone and instill that Bollywood makes such heady features, only once in a while, let alone making a superhero movie that stands up. Almost all our mainstream attempts are to make massy entertainers but higher proportion of them end up being puerile half-hearted attempts that seek unwarranted escape for the audience. We may make some of them work but we are still far from engaging our imaginations with the possibility of a successful superhero flick, almost like The Avengers.

Mr.India. Krrish. Ra.One. The only 'notable' films that I can think of when I am talking about projections of Indian superheroes on the c
elluloid. Please do not confuse these with science-fiction films because we have we have made a staggeringly brilliant mess of most of them and we are astoundingly nonchalant about it. Please do not confuse these with commercially unsuccessful films because all these films set the Box Office rolling and minted money for the makers like a cash cow, irrespective of the different times they were released at. Please do not confuse this argument as a affable yet devout clarification of how good or bad these movies were. My larger concern is, why these superheroes cannot come together for an Indian version of Avengers? Why are they not cool enough to come with well-made flicks that match up to their Hollywood counterparts?

The harsh truth is that we have never had an appetite for Indian superheroes! The 
Indian audience has a long way to go before they start appreciating superhero movies. Maybe we havent had too many or too good movies made in that genre yet. Krrish was a irresistible mashup of standard superhero concepts and subplots lavishly used in many Hollywood movies. The story line did not come up with anything new, the direction was lousy and the VFX were minimal. The film became a common joke after its releae. Ra.One was faced with the same test too and it failed. Ra.One tried to come up with a new superhero concept but the science behind everything they did lost its credibility, simply because of the way it was handled. It suffered from lousy direction and writing too, although the concepts werent lifted directly from any other movie. I dont count Mr.India as a superhero movie as it was made as more of a fantasy movie and had its soul in the right place. All these three films were aimed at kids. Mr India never got any criticism, the other two became a common fodder for slapstick jokes. The truth is, we have to stop making superhero movies for kids, specially not with B-town superstars. Take Darsheel Safary if you have to make a movie for kids. For everyone else, you have to remember that a lot of young audience watches these movies and you cant dish out something naive to them. Ra.One and Krrish, both had big budgets, were marketed exceptionally and made lots of money. The special effects, VFX and animation in Ra.One were breathtaking and at par with any movie that I have seen in this genre. But all the effort goes to waste if the movie becomes a joke amongst cinegoers. Make it big, but make it well too.

However, this is not a one way street. The movie going audience needs a definitive change in their outlook too. You may say things like India doesn't make good superhero movies, they copy concepts from Hollywood, the VFX is not up to the mark or there is no science behind their science fictions etc. Agreed, to a larger extent. But I happen to believe that its not that we cant match up to their technology, but we have to try a lot harder to refine our storytelling. We need to invest larger efforts to develop such movies and the vision they require. What lacks is the far-sightedness and pushing the levels of imagination, like a Joss Whedon possibly did for The Avengers. However, inane beliefs like, "Oh this is Bollywood, its good enough for them" and "Bollywood can only make cute love stories well" deserve comeuppance. Watch our three selections for Cannes' Film Festival this year and then make a statement. Miss Lovely, Peddlers and Gangs of Wasseypur - all three of them have been selected in different elite categories at the fest. 
Give Indian cinema the chance to do it, because till a very long time we were only making cinema to please our audiences, our revenues were little and risks high. Now is the time that we can do it right, but we will make a few mistakes before that and in that period, its imperative to encourage the attempts that are being made, if not appreciate them. You cant run down every attempt and improve cinema too at the same time.

The Avengers created an unfathomable interest and buzz and grossed millions across the globe on the weekend of its release. Every tom, dick and harry wanted to go for it and put up a Facebook status thereafter but the larger picture says that not everything that Hollywood does is as cool. T
hor was bullshit, Green Lantern was worse than my poop and there are many other examples. Not every movie is a Dark Knight or a Spiderman 2. What do most of them really have? A guy with powers, a girl who doesnt know, he saves some lives, he kills the bad guy, he kisses the girl? Or maybe some weird creatures fighting? How much more does the plot really have, barring a few commendable attempts? And you still go and lick some ass there. Truth is, they have the money and the system in place to do all this. Their industry has always made 2-3 superhero movies every second month for the past many many years, hence, it is wrong to compare us to them. Apart from money, they also have the years of literature in comics and legends to provide more scope to this genre whereas we will have to develop our own heroes and then construct innovative visionary plotlines around them. I do not wish to call upon the wrath of the perpetrators of science fiction movies, because those definitely need some believable amounts of projected science, considering that I, myself, am a big sucker for them. But for real, the serving of superhero movies comes with a hidden tag of statutory warning which include a suspension of disbelief a palpable appetite to sit with a tub of popcorn merely for entertainment purposes, rather than scrutiny. We do that very easily for Hollywood, but not for Bollywood maybe because inherently we dont want it to break out into doing something it has not done.

So why did I rehash this post with a take on The Avengers? Because it is a classic example of how Bollywood would have made a superhero movie, with perfect ad
ditions of all masalas required in the recipe, provided we had the vision to support it. The current nett earning of The Avengers stands at an imitable figure of USD 100 million, with a few days of its release. And believe me as I said before, its no Dark Knight. At its fleeting best, I would rate it a 3-3.5/5 movie but cant turn my eyes away from the behemoth figures it has attached to it. The film may suffer from contrived plotting as opposed to a masterpiece but who cares, and the formula can be redone by anyone across the world. You dont need to make the most sensible superhero movie to break into the genre, and Hollywood is a living proof of that as they have bombarded the Box Office with them almost every fortnight. I  asked a question somewhere in this post, are we not cool enough to make a commendable superhero movie? The truth is no, we are not, but the complete truth is, that yes, we will be, soon, and this also calls for more acceptance from the audience. We have to open up and more new filmmakers have to try out this genre to create a significant difference. Till then, the Indian Superheroes have a long way to go and I can go watch The Avengers again!

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