Monday, July 19, 2010

Star Trek and Bollywood: Some Thoughts...

If there is one thing that I’ve noticed about Western fans of Bollywood – besides the large number of librarians haunting Bolly-blog land – is that there are also a cross over with genre fiction lovers.

So, what is it about Bollywood that intrigues or could potentially intrigue sci-fi lovers?

Let’s start with the similarities between
Star Trek and classic Bollywood:

1. Metaphorical narrative.

Gene Roddenberry had a vision for the future that was optimistic – no class or ethnic divisions, no sexism, no money. One might say it was almost socialist. Episodes tackled topics like the futility of war or the role of fate in one’s life.

Bollywood – at least until recently – picked up the same topics in the same metaphorical way.

Take the episode
The Enemy Within where Captain Kirk is divided into a Good Kirk and Bad Kirk.

*spoiler alert on that clip*

Could it be more Bollywood? The two halves cannot exist separately! How many films separate out a whole person in a double role only to have the two halves meet and figure out how to live together or how to kill one another.

Or how about
The Paradise Syndrome where Captain Kirk is adopted into an alien tribe as a God and messes around with the natural order of things? While that hasn’t been the exact plot of a Bollywood film, Beware False Gods is certainly no stranger to B-town.

2. Characters who are both individuals and a type.

Bollywood has the Hero, the Heroine, the Villain, the Comic Relief… well,
Star Trek has the same. Kirk and Spock may as well be the Amitabh and Vinod of Outer Space. The leader and his sexy number two. Plus, you have The Heart (McCoy), The Hottie (Uhura), The Comic Relief (Checkov), etc. etc.

The characters mostly stay the same and react predictably to the crazy events around them. Kirk et. al. may experience some growth over the course of an episode but generally they are reset again at the beginning of the next episode.

You go into a (classic) Amitabh movie expecting a certain level of Vijay-ness and you go into an episode of
Star Trek expecting a certain level of Kirk-ness.

The moustache-twirling villains are bad, the Hero – no matter how Kirky he is – is always good.

3. An appreciation for the visually un-subtle.

Why go bland when you could go
Star Trek Future fashion?

I think Helen has worn this outfit at exactly that dinner before.

Scantily clad babes, ridiculous and elaborate “future clothes” that no sane human would wear, it’s all here!

I’m just scratching the surface, folks. This idea has been chewing at me for a while and I want to take my time and explore it. Expect more as the week goes on! I have a lot to say! (As usual!)

1 comment:

Filmi Geek said...

I am more of a casual sci-fi fan myself - some of it I outright cannot stand - but I find this a very nice set of observations all the same. I would only quibble with your seeming implication that modern Hindi films don't do allegory - I rather think they still do. Not every single one does, but then not every masala potboiler of the 70s had the depth of the most memorable ones either.

At any rate, I'd add another observation to your list, at least when it comes to the motivations of western fans of Hindi movies - escape to another world. One of the things that makes sci-fi so fascinating is its imagination of alien cultures - their philosophies, their rituals, their entertainment. Likewise, the window Hindi film provides into a very different set of cultural norms, traditions, and even inside jokes is a big part of what keeps me - and I'd wager many other westerners like me - coming back for more and more.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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