Rekindling my love for Indian movies | Notes on the Valley | Monith Ilavarasan


I recently watched the uber popular Telegu film RRR and it was one of the most entertaining experiences I’ve had all year. Director SS Rajamouli’s latest film is a rousing anti-colonialist tale about the imaginary friendship of two very real Indian freedom fighters. What blew me away the most was the bonkers action scenes and the elaborate musical numbers.

Watching RRR reminded me that I love Indian movies. More specifically, I love Indian movies that follow the classic Bollywood format. An everyman who has superhero type strength when fighting enemies. A clear villain who is almost always the local rich guy. A sidekick who provides comic relief. An overly melodramatic love story. And best of all the frequent breaks in the action for songs with impeccable choreography in intricate costumes at completely random locations.

Growing up my parents and I would watch them and I would run around quoting the heroes one liner tagline to anybody who would listen. As I grew into my teens and beyond I stopped watching Indian movies in favor of more western films.

The action scenes were more logical and the stories even sometimes made sense. I scoffed at the nonsensical fight scenes and non-sequitur dances of Bollywood films. The bigger budgets of western movies also afforded some incredibly immersive and creative experiences.

As I grew even older I turned into somewhat of a film snob. For a period of time I would only watch movies that were on the Criterion Collection. In my mind someone with a refined artistic palette would only watch subtle, nuanced movies that moved at the speed of molasses.

Recently I’ve been exploring Indian movies more with my partner. She didn’t grow up watching them and was curious about the experience. We started with the classic Hindi movie Lagaan and we were both hooked. We even went to a Fremont theater with my parents and saw a new Indian movie with a meandering plot that made little sense. We loved it.

On Amazon prime we recently watched the classic Tamil film Baashha, which was released in 1995. I watched it all the time as a young kid. It’s a movie about an auto driver who used to be a robin hood esque mob boss in a different state, but had to change his identity because of his father’s dying wish.

He falls back into his old self and beats up the local thugs aligned with the police & politicians who harass the every day people in his town. Every fight has punches that land with the exact same artificial “dishoom” sound . Along the way a woman falls in love with him because of his smile or something. Honestly I still don’t get what she saw in him.

The movie’s plot was simple and the movie was three hours long. In between there are songs that to this day still play in Indian households.

Indian movies don’t really do ambiguity. There’s a good guy, there’s a bad guy, they fight, and the good guy wins. In this day and age I find the straightforwardness incredibly refreshing. They do what movies are meant to do, they entertain fully. If you haven’t done so, I would recommend checking out an Indian film in theaters and going along for the ride.

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