While most Indians wax eloquent about the Bollywood song and dance routine, calling it unique and something that we should all be proud about, I for one totally detest it. I think it leads to great mediocrity and has polluted other aspects of Indian life.
I always used to walk out of the cinema hall and take a break when yet another mindless song would appear out of the blue, much to the chagrin of those who used to watch with me.
But first let me explain why it's all a very bad idea…
1. Totally kills story narration: You are watching a nice movie with a slow moving storyline and suddenly a song pops out of nowhere and the hero and heroine start singing. At the end of the mindless song, sometimes you've totally forgotten what the story was leading up to.
In fact, that's why historically storywriters have been treated with such disdain and there used to be no scripts till some time back. You can take any clichéd disjointed story and throw in a dozen songs and still get a film which will make money.
While there have been a few cases of brilliance, Bollywood is among the worst storytellers in the world among world cinema. Boy meets girl. They sing and dance again and again and again. Comedian sidekick cracks jokes. Villain creates problems between the lovers and is defeated. And so, boy and girl reunite in the end. This could well be the story of more than half of Bollywood movies.
2. The hero doesn't have to act: If a hero acts well but looks silly dancing and singing, then he has a tough time with his career. On the other hand, if a hero can't act for nuts but looks great while singing and dancing, then he can become a superstar.
The biggest example of this is Salman Khan. This dude has charisma oozing out of every pore of his body and looks great on the screen. Even I love watching him. But he can't act. The scripts he chooses are really shitty. Some of his super hits are pathetic.
|Salman Khan in Dabangg.|
It's great for the box office, but not so much for the general quality of cinema.
On the other hand, someone like was Sunny Deol forced to dance till disaster status. He didn't last like the other superstars who could. In fact, had there been a market for two-hour fast paced thrillers and action films with no songs then Sunny probably would have come out with many more super hits.
|Sunny Deol in a still from Jeet.|
3. They make them too long: Many people complain that Bollywood films are much longer than the Hollywood ones. That is one of the main reasons that only Indians and NRIs watch them as the rest of the world is used to seeing much shorter films.
Again, the songs are the culprit. Say a Bollywood movie has eight songs of five minutes each. That’s 40 minutes that doesn’t add anything to the storyline and also stretches the film to something beyond the limits of what an foreigner can watch. It’s also a drag for Indians who don’t like watching songs in their movies in the first place.
4. The heroine is reduced to eye candy: Thanks to the song and dance formula and the need to build every film around it, the heroine is reduced to nothing but eye candy and a prop for the hero. Sure there have been women-oriented films for the likes of Sharmila Tagore in the past and Kangana Ranaut today, but they are the exceptions.
|Sharmila Tagore in Amar Prem.|
If you're the hero, then just learn martial arts, dancing and lip-synching.
If you're a heroine, then just learn dancing and lip-synching along with the art of fluttering your eyelids to look coy.
|Kangana Ranaut in Queen.|
No acting skills required! Which other film industry outside India requires the main leads not to even have basic acting skills! That shows in the quality of cinema.
5. Producers get lazy on good soundtrack: Outside India, a film producer would probably look for a good story, good director and good cast in that order. Not so in India. If you make a great music album, then you can just fill in the blanks later on.
Get any director, a hero who dances and heroine who looks good. Make great promos. If the music sells, and you get you rights and advance booking right, you will be laughing all the way to the bank even before the audience starts crying, realising what a shitty film you have made.
6. Has killed the Indipop industry: In the West pop music is big. There's rock 'n roll, R&B, hip hop, etc, etc. There's a music industry bustling with talent, music videos and Grammys.
As I write this, the top Twitter superstar in terms of followers is Katy Perry with 84 million. In fact five of the top seven are pop singers. You can't expect such a thing in India where singers are anonymous behind the scenes players and many don't even get front credits in a Bollywood movie! Can you beat that?
|A still from Katy Perry's "Firework".|
They tried it in the 1990s, but Bollywood has totally killed the Indipop industry. You can't have an MTV out of India because it's all about film music. I bet no industry in the world is as monotonous as the Indian music industry.
7. Has destroyed all other forms of entertainment: In a film award show, probably two-thirds of the time goes to stage dances. Talent shows abound with Bollywood song and dance routines. Dance competitions also favour Bollywood dances.
Annual school and college functions abound with Bollywood songs. We as a nation are addicted like drugs to the Bollywood song and dance phenomenon and it totally kills off talent and creativity in every field.
You don't need any talent. Just copy and paste any Bollywood number and you'll be popular and famous.
8. Has killed off every other genre: Forget French cinema, even Hollywood is far richer than Bollywood in variety and creativity. How many Bollywood movies have songs? 99 per cent? How many have a love story that may or may not be central to the theme? 99 per cent?
It could be argued that 99 per cent of our films are romantic musicals then! That's how monotonous we are. Romantic musical action films. Romantic musical thrillers. Romantic musical horror. Romantic musical science fiction. Romantic musical crime… it goes on and on.
A sophisticated high-tech robot in Ra.One has to sing and dance.
|Shah Rukh Khan in Ra.One.|
A ghost has to sing and dance.
A police officer has to sing and dance.
A god has to sing and dance.
No matter what profession the hero belongs to, he has to do the sing and dance nautanki.
Some argue that this song and dance routine has made Bollywood richer, but I strongly feel that it has made our industry much poorer and as long as it lasts, then we'll never be taken seriously the world over.