This article was written for Pune Mirror for their 2011 new year issue. The topic assigned was Bollywood and Hollywood - 10 years gone by 10 years to come.
This is the breakneck speed that films have to work at to capture the imagination of this generation. The noughties have had films trying to run-and-catch up with the times and its tastes - from the Harry Potter series to The Social Network. That's hardly commendable, as in, that's the job description of films.
But fascinatingly, these past 10 years have produced films that the audience has had to keep pace with - from Memento to Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a representative in-between. It's not about whether you liked these films or not, they brought discussion, and that's the beautiful side effect of this medium when done well.
The innovation has extended to visuals way beyond any other department of film-making. You and I would have called each other crazy if we thought that animation techniques would not only be major players in entertaining adults, films based on them would also run shoulder-to-shoulder with mainstream films at award ceremonies.
Even though Gollum (The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers) didn't get through to The Academy's 'Best Actor' category, the debate was exciting enough. Such is the proportion of the number and money flowing into animation and special effects that, the same you and I will root for voice-over artists and animated characters to win awards for acting in the future. In fact, if 2001 saw the first "Best Animated Feature" award, the 2010s would only be regressive if Animated Features don't get their own sub-categories.
In all this talk about the glory of Tinseltown, it's very easy to think of "Bollywood" as a wannabe relative. The list of Hindi films that made us fume and put to flame the producers' money is figuratively unending. But that's only because we have easier access to them than their counterparts from around the world.
Fortunately or unfortunately, that scene is changing faster than we thought. An international film festival in almost every metropolis in the country, TV channels dedicated to world cinema, and the Internet are making sure we get our hands at all kinds of movies - good and bad.
And actually, not all has been unwell in films from Mumbai either. With every over-hyped, big-budget film that tanks by the end of the weekend, we see an indie film that is liked by audiences and critics. The future can be only brighter with production houses with better means supporting a fresh generation of writers and directors. There is hope for content to rule.
But, the most remarkable one is that we are celebrating a new age of music in Hindi films, 30 years after the golden era has passed. Something that was unthinkable at the beginning of this century. Not to mention that lip-sync is on its way out. A major cause for concern was and will remain blatant plagiarism.
Yet, being inspired by the world around us might not be the most horrible thing; it just might be an answer to the prayers of people who want intelligence in their cinema. Maybe there is a day out there on which the likes of Tees Maar Khan, instead of being sued are denied the rights to be remade. Maybe, this flop in the dying weeks of the 00s has seen a blessing in disguise. Maybe the assault on the sense and sensibilities of the audience is dying. Maybe, just maybe, the star system will wilt in its own glamor and glitz. Not too much to ask for, considering that the multiplex culture is barely 10 years old.
The torn, sponge seat has been displaced by the well-cushioned and bedbug-free, reclining couch. Freshly popped corn has dethroned its counterpart that went stale in cheap plastic bags. The 10-fold ticket prices in multiplexes have magically killed the black market and the whistlers and the hooters from the "stalls". Never-before-seen-in-theaters families file in to make the weekend release a blockbuster.
What's more, the interiors too have seen 'same day' releases via satellite instead of the 4-month delay for the prints to outrun their lives in the cities.
Nevertheless, the stage is set, dear filmmakers. Bring on the stories that will make a wreck out of our brains and yet have us enjoy every bit of the process. Cinema is only a hundred years old, and we live 6+ billion people at a time, there certainly are a few stories not told yet. Yes, the ones that can be made into movies too.