Sometimes, the most effective way to appreciate how far you have come is to remember where you were. So with tongue only slightly in cheek, here’s our throwback to the past.
Imagine, if you will, that we are in the 1980s. A writer-director (WD) has just walked into the trophy-laden, poster-plastered office of a big-shot producer (BP) and is about to start his pitch for a script that he plans directing. Let’s eavesdrop and see how that discussion goes.
BP: So, what’s the film about?
WD: Many things, sir. It is an underdog story and a family drama with a patriotic undercurrent and lots of hand-to-hand combat.
BP: Good, good! And it is based where?
WD: Balali village, sir, in Bhawani district, Haryana.
BP (To himself): Village?! He thinks he is making krishi darshan or what? If I like the script, I’ll change the location to Bombay* and add a couple of songs in Switzerland and Mauritius to make it even more upmarket. (Aloud) Ok, so what does the hero do?
WD: He is a wrestler, sir.
BP: Wrestler?! Arre bhai, in India there is only one sport, cricket, and even that doesn’t work in films. When Kabhi Ajnabi The flopped despite starring the dashing Sandeep Patil and cameos from the entire 1983 World Cup winning cricket team, how do you expect people to watch a God-forsaken sport like wrestling? Change the hero’s profession. Make him an honest police officer or a good-hearted, Robin Hood-type vigilante.
WD: But sir, wrestling is critical to the plot!
BP: You will teach me filmmaking? Nothing is critical to any plot except for showing the hero’s heroism.
WD (Trying to salvage the situation): Sir, don’t worry, the hero is full of heroism. Please hear me out, I am sure you will agree once you know the whole story.
BP: Ok, so tell me what exactly does the hero do that makes him so great?
WD: Sir, he trains not one, but two of his daughters to become international-level wrestlers.
BP (Aghast): He has daughters?! How old is he exactly?
WD: In his 60s, sir.
BP (Looks at his watch): Chalo, I have one more meeting now. I will call you again to discuss this further.
WD (Desperately): Sir, he’s in his 60s only in the end. We show him as a young man also.
BP: So he’s young throughout and in the last shot, we show him as an old man? Or is he old in the first scene and the whole film is in flashback?
WD (Gulping): Errr…actually, in just one shot we show him as a young man and for the rest of the film he’s in his 40s through 60s.
BP: Got it, thanks for coming. I will call you later.
WD (Pleading): The story is truly phenomenal sir, total blockbuster material! The whole theatre will stand up and clap in the climax! At least hear out the climax if nothing else.
BP: Tell me, what happens…you have two minutes.
WD: The hero’s daughter is fighting for the gold medal. It is an extremely tight match and she is trailing with mere seconds to go. But literally at the last moment she wins, thanks to her father. The stadium roars in delight and in the end we show the Indian flag being raised as the national anthem plays.
BP: Patriotism is a good commercial emotion, but how exactly does the hero help win the fight? Is he dead and his spirit enters the daughter?
WD: No sir, the hero is alive. What happens is that the daughter remembers a lesson her father had taught her as a kid and implements that to win.
BP: I see. And what exactly is the hero doing while all this is happening? Is he bashing up an army of his daughter’s opponent’s evil henchmen who have taken his wife – or even better, the entire village – hostage to ensure that the girl loses the fight?
WD: No, sir. Actually, he has been locked up in a room so he really doesn’t do anything in the climax fight.
BP (After a long pause): So let me get this straight. This is the story of a 60-year-old villager from Haryana who has two adult daughters…
WD (Cutting in): 4 daughters…but he trains only 2.
BP: Make it eight daughters for all I care! So all our budha hero does is train his daughters in a sport that no one cares a damn about and in the climax, his daughter does win, but he’s sitting on his backside in a locked-up room. Is that a fair summary of your so-called blockbuster?
WD: I guess, sir…but it is all about the treatment, once you…
BP (Cutting in): Yes, treatment is right! You do writing later, first you read…go read the Yellow Pages and see which psychiatrist will treat you most quickly and economically. Goodbye.
Defeated WD leaves. BP picks up phone to call video library for bootlegged copies of the latest Hollywood release for ‘inspiration’. End of scene.