Just how do you see a movie? Go along to the theatre, get some       
popcorn, find a nice comfortable seat- seats if you're with some       
one and relax. The movie starts an action film, romance, or       
whatever, and you're immersed in the world of the film. It finishes,       
and you come out, relaxed and satisfied. Depends on the film.     
       That's what happens in most parts of
       the world. But not in India. In India
       watching a film is something entirely
       different. But let's start at the beginning.
       Let me give you an image: a little boy -
       me listening to one of my father's old
       aides telling me the story of Rama, the
       god-hero of the epic the Ramayana.
       Listening open-mouthed, as the old man
       half recited, half sang the legend; drawn
       into the magic world of chariots, warriors,
       saints and magic spells, of great battles
       and of gods and goddesses helping the
       good people overcome the bad.
    It wasn't just listening. It was participation. I was living in the world of the epic, totally a part         
  of the world the old man wove with his words and his song. It wasn't just the willing suspension         
  of disbelief; it was a willing entrance into a magic, enchanted world, just as Alice entered         
To generations of movie-goers in India that's what seeing a film  
means. Not just sitting back in a seat and watching from the  
outside, so to speak. But being part of the action they see. If one  
grasps this, one will then understand the nature of Hindi Films  
very easily. Here's what one of the most talented young actors   
in Hindi films, Manoj Bajpai says about this “if you really want to  
enjoy a Hindi Film, you should go to some small town in Bihar.  
Small town people tear their shirts when thy are feeling very  
excited. They do that when a hit song is on the screen; when  
some titillating dance is going on, you see coins being thrown  
at screens. They don't hold back any emotion, they don't care  
a damn what people think. If they want to cry, they cry or howl  
in the theater.”  
    An average Hindi Film will not be less than two or two and a half hours long. The audience demands         
  that. They want their money's worth. But even though there's a bit of everything in a Hindi film         
  there are very definite kind of films; there are what are called family dramas. One of the all time         
  greats in this category is Hum Aapke Hain Koun! (What Am I To You i.e., more loosely translated,         
  Am I really a Relation of Yours?) This is a film about a grand wedding, of the antics of the         
  bridegroom's younger brother and the bride's younger sister. It's about all the hilarious things that         
  happen to uncles, aunts and cousins - the nice and not so nice. There's tradition, there's romance,         
  there's sadness, but above all there's fun, song and dance. This film has grossed the highest         
  amount any film has ever grossed in India about $16 million, which is pretty high by Indian         
  standards. Why? Simply because it gave the audience exactly what they wanted. They came out of         
  the hall feeling good, happy. In fact there are many who've seen this film over sixty times! It has         
  in the lead two top stars of the Hindi film world, Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan, but as one viewer         
  said, mopping her tears, 'every time she watched it she cried at exactly the same moments because         
  she lived in a joint family and could relate to what was happening' (Quoted by Patricia Uberoi in         
  “Imagining The Family” an essay in Pleasure and the Nation, edited by Rachel Dwyer and         
    Christopher Pinney.)         
There is then the action movie, which reached     
its peak with the superstar Amitabh Bachchan,     
right from his first action film Zanjeer. Action      
films mean just that, but again it isn't only      
action: there's romance, sacrifice, and      
patriotism side by side with evil villains. And      
unlike films from the west, it isn't enough for      
the hero to have a brief fight and bring down      
the baddie. The action has to go on and on.      
That's what the audience has paid to see.     
  A new genre has begun to gain popularity; it was there before, but now it seems to be pulling in the         
  crowds in greater numbers. It's almost certainly because of the increased tension between India         
  and Pakistan, but that doesn't detract from the very well depicted action sequences, the poignancy         
  of sacrifice, of valour in battle. Films like Border and Sarfarosh and Roja have become household         
  words. And the audience weeps, laughs and cheers just as if they were where the action is.         
    Just how much an audience relates to characters can be gauged from this wry story from Sanjay         
    Leela Bhansali, one of the most intelligent film directors working today, and one whose film Hum         
  Dil De Chuke Sanam, a tear-jerking poignant romance was a tremendous hit: “I'll tell you what I         
  went through with my first film, Khamoshi (Silence). The main character is a deaf mute who was         
  played by Nana Patekar. Anna is known for his fiery dialogue delivery and violent outbursts and         
  speeches. First day, first show. I am in the Liberty cinema. The film starts and Nana is seen         
  communicating through sign language. The audience in the lower stalls start shouting: 'Nana! Talk!         
  Please Speak!' I just sank in the Liberty theatre. I just sank. I said ' Gone. My film is gone!' a few         
  days later, a distributor from Delhi came to me saying,' Sir, in Delhi they are  hooting away. In the         
  last scene please let Nana speak.' He touched my feet and said,' Please, go to a recording studio         
  and add Nana's dialogue.' I told him I cannot go against my convictions. But why did the         
  distributor tell me this? Because the audience demands it.”         
  (From Nasreen Munni Kabir's book, Bollywood.)         
 prologue   And why does the audience demand it? Because that's the world the want to live in, the world where         
 welcome   Nana Patekar (who has a rich, fine voice) would deliver passionate speeches, destroy the villains         
 contents   with the contempt in his voice, and the audience would cheer, and weep with joy. This is the total         
 subject moderators   identification that makes film going in India so different, so wonderful. It really is like entering         
 history   Wonderland- you leave behind your troubles and live for two hours in a world which is not make-         
 sexuality   believe, but real, for that time. It is this magic that makes Hindi Films what they are; and so very         
 social landscapes   worth watching. As one commentator dryly observed,' Half the fun is watching the film; the other         
 art   half is watching the audience.’         
 pot pourri             
    But Wonderland is enchanting ; to those of us who have grown up with these films they can still         
  weave their magic spell, and draw us into that world again and again. And now, please excuse me-         
  I'm going with my sister to see the latest hit, Lagaan.