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The legendary Satyajit Ray once revealed that he saw the Italian neorealist masterpiece ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and came out of the theatre determined to become a filmmaker. He created ‘Pather Panchali’, first of the famed Apu Trilogy, with amateur actors, at actual shooting locations, and with a minuscule budget. Now imagine aspiring filmmakers of today coming out of the theatre after watching ADHM. They would be under the ridiculous impression that to make a successful movie, all you need are a few simple ingredients: a cast made of famous ‘actors’, exotic locations, a half-baked story, and an overblown budget to get the first two. Now, imagine those same filmmakers watching a movie like Aligarh. A movie far superior in quality which didn’t even pull in 1/10th of ADHM’s box office collection. And this, in my opinion, is the problem with Bollywood. Lines drawn between mainstream and parallel cinema have become as dangerous as international borders and the general audience’s continuous fascination with mindless entertainment has been far more detrimental to Hindi cinema than could be imagined. If one of our friends suggests to us a Bollywood movie, our first question would be to ask who is the celebrity star and not about the story. When actors become bigger than the story and quality, silver screen apocalypse is nearby. People would argue that the failure of Aligarh and the success of ADHM, Chennai Express, or Kick can be attributed to the fact that it is an art style movie and not masala/popcorn which the audience like. To them, I say ‘Sholay!’ Masala movies used to have brains. Sholay also had famous actors, big budget, and a plethora of songs and yet, it still stands the test of time. No one can forget the scenery chewing acting of Amjad Khan, infinitely quotable dialogues, balls to the wall action, and the story (though inspired from Kurosawa’s classics) which launched a thousand, inferior imitators. Being a masala movie is no excuse for a sub-par finished product. And the sooner Bollywood understands this, the better it would be. Yes, as audience, we crave entertainment. Majority of us go to movies to escape from the frustration of our ordinary lives and we crave it in a format which should never resemble real life. And after decades of being fed on movies from Karan Johar, David Dhawan, Rohit Shetty school of film-making, we have unconsciously lowered our standards. A movie like Rockstar is lauded where the lead actor does nothing but scream at the screen and make painful expressions. We have forgotten that we deserve much better. Blinded by exotic locations, catchy songs, and actors who look like runway models (with the same stoned expression to depict every emotion), we have lost our hunger for truly good cinema. Fault is in both supply and demand. To revert this, we need to show some love to movies which may not have stars but which definitely have actors. If people start being smart, film producers will have to follow. After all, it is our money which runs the giant machine of Bollywood.

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