This is an academic paper on the way in which postmodern films like Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007) and Zoya Akhtar’s Luck by Chance (2009) juggle between celebrating and critiquing Bollywood. Major spoilers ahead for both films.
Coined in the 1970s when the film industry in India – constituting not only of Hindi language films but also of movies made in several regional languages, like Tamil and Telegu – overtook Hollywood in the number of films produced by a nation, the term Bollywood emerged as one that incorrectly begun to represent the Indian film industry as a whole. This word, in actuality, only represents a subset of films made in India by the Hindi film industry. To be even more precise, Bollywood accurately reflects an even smaller sphere of films originating from India, that is, the popular mainstream cinema of the Hindi film industry. This form of commercially viable cinema existed well before the 70s, with films starring Shammi Kapoor in the 60s, like Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) and An Evening in Paris (1967), providing a template for the quintessential “masala” film in Bollywood that used different genres like ingredients to mix into one bowl, from which there emerged a potpourri of a film. The various elements in these films did not necessarily have to constitute to a particular narrative cohesion or adhere to any form of logic, except an emotional one. The only motive of the films was to provide escapism and entertainment to a general audience, any logic coming in the way of that be damned!
The legitimization of the term Bollywood happened more prominently in the 70s with the rise of “Angry Young Man” films, particularly, Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975) which made its mark, both domestically and internationally, as one of the most successful “curry” Westerns made in India. (Mukherjee, 1) Its combination of action, comedy, drama, and romance set against the backdrop of a rugged Western landscape came to represent the quintessential Bollywood film, one that borrowed some elements from the West, but majorly Indianized it to create a distinctly Indian film that adhered closely to the “masala” template. This emphasis on over-the-top dialogues, action, and melodrama along with several song sequences and a close-ended narrative set a model that various filmmakers throughout the evolution of Bollywood would continue to try and successfully (and unsuccessfully) follow to keep the spirit of Bollywood alive.
Following more in the footsteps of Shammi Kapoor than Amitabh Bachchan, the 90s films starring Shah Rukh Khan, most notably Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995) tried to maintain their grasp of Bollywood by focusing mostly on romance. The need for the commercial appeal of these films, however still required that the filmmakers stuck firmly to the stylistic ticks of the “masala” films that emphasized escapism and entertainment over logic, or narrative coherence. Moreover, the growing international appeal of these films because of increased globalization solidified the notion of Bollywood even outside India. This continuity in the largely inflexible image of Bollywood films from the 70s to the 90s comes to define the stylistic elements that people, to this date associate with the vast majority of Bollywood films.
However, various other elements are existing outside of the actual film, like the lives of the “star” celebrities, their fashion trends, the independent existence of movie songs, and the relationships of people within the Hindi film industry, that people associate to even more with the word Bollywood. The fandom surrounding the actors in Bollywood, in particular, is aggressively high with popular actors like Shah Rukh Khan being the larger pull for a large section of the country’s audience than the actual film itself. The private lives of these stars – what they eat, where they sleep, how their relationship is with their co-star– is a major source of gossip in India that in turn provides an avenue for several gossip magazines to continue to prosper in the country. Furthermore, large billboards, auto-rickshaws, and food stalls adorn the faces of these stars, promoting a product and not their actual films, suggesting the greater importance given to actors than the films in Bollywood. (Jaikumar, 24) Increased digitization and increased commercialization of information worldwide also means a greater emphasis on the song-and-dance videos of movies that sometimes attract greater audiences than the films themselves! This importance of these “parts” – the actors, and the song and dance – that make a Bollywood film has always been prominent. However, the gradual erosion of importance of the whole movie itself has caused a different attitude to emerge towards Bollywood that attempts to question both the narratives and the filmmaking practices of Bollywood.
While Bollywood has always been the primary source of entertainment for masses in India, globalization, the emergence of multiplex cinemas and a greater appetite for new forms of storytelling and new stories have somewhat threated the “masala” template of Bollywood which tends to emphasize emotional moments over narrative coherency. The construction of a greater number of cinema halls in urban cities in India and increased digitization has led to the development of a new type of audience that demands a different form of cinema than Bollywood. These critics voice the need for realistic and socially conscious cinema that extends beyond tugging at the audiences’ heartstrings, wanting a form a cinema that stirs their intellect instead. This “New Bollywood” calls for a diminished emphasis on song-and-dance that disrupts the narrative of a film, the need for newer actors from outside Bollywood’s nepotistic culture, and the need for better writing and directors. These discussions tend to raise sharp critiques on Bollywood’s insular, formulaic, and self-celebratory nature, wanting to adopt a style more akin to Western art-house cinema that emphasizes storytelling over the “parts” that Bollywood instead emphasizes. While these debates about Bollywood prompt an insightful reflection on the state and stylistic tendencies of the most popular form of cinema that India continues to offer, it minimally affects the performance of several Bollywood films that continue to adhere to the “masala” formula. If anything, the emergence of this more Westernized form of Bollywood has given the opportunity for an alternative kind of cinema to exist, in concurrence with Bollywood.
This confusion in retaining, critiquing, or questioning the relevance of Bollywood in the 21st century has led to the emergence of postmodern films that focus on the very debates that people have about the industry, its movies, and its culture. These films, like the structure of the industry and perceptions towards it, place themselves on different positions of a spectrum that either shout their support for Bollywood or pick apart both the transparent and minute flaws that are present in the industry. Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007), and Zoya Akhtar’s Luck by Chance (2009) place themselves somewhat closer to the middle, with the former choosing to be closer to expressing reverence for Bollywood, and the latter pushing itself away from to occupy the form of “New Bollywood.” These two films commonly practice some forms of postmodernism, mainly intertextuality, and reflexivity to deconstruct and critique the nature and essence of Bollywood. However, crucially Khan employs other elements of postmodernism, like hyperrealism, boundary-blurring, bricolage, and depthlessness (Wright, 82) in her film to offer a form of “reflexive bonhomie” (Ciecko, 25) towards Bollywood. Akhtar, on the other hand, opts for a more realist aesthetic that avoids the historical tendencies of a typical “masala” Bollywood film, which further allow her to emphasize her critiques on Bollywood.
Through observing the ways in which both these female filmmakers approach the journey of their protagonist outsiders in Bollywood in their films and the ways in which they either celebrate or critique Bollywood insiders, especially the celebrities of the industry, this paper attempts to show the commonality that exists between the two films in their critiques of Bollywood. The paper then importantly distinguishes the distinct ways in which both filmmakers treat this critique by focusing on how Khan’s film indulges in the very excess of Bollywood that it pokes fun at by opting to express the romance between its protagonists in an incredibly heightened way, and by choosing a parodic tone that severely dampens its critique against Bollywood. Akhtar’s Luck by Chance, on the other hand, the paper argues mostly steers away from the glossiness of Bollywood, attempting to use songs also as a way to realistically express the psyche of the protagonist, and centering the story more on the details of the inner workings of Bollywood rather than romantic elements to provide a scathing satirical look at the world of Bollywood.
Released worldwide during the Diwali festive period, usually reserved for films starring the biggest stars in the country, Khan’s Om Shanti Om is a romantic-comedy-thriller-musical-melodrama which focuses on the love story between a struggling artist Om Makhija (Shah Rukh Khan), and superstar Shantipriya (newcomer Deepika Padukone) in the 1970s. The setting of the 70s not only serves as the backdrop for the film but also as the main inspiration for the actual story, which primarily draws upon revenge dramas like Karz (1980) that emphasize implausible narratives with themes like reincarnation that allow the filmmaker to flex their melodramatic muscles further. (Shastri, 33) Ending the first half of her film with the tragic demise of her hero and heroine, Khan opts to mirror the roles of her protagonists in the second half to transform the struggling artist to become the famous star, Om Kapoor (again, played by Shah Rukh Khan) and the dream girl in the 70s to become the fan, Sandy (again, played by Deepika Padukone). Connecting the past, and the present of Om’s story, Khan, indulges in more drama that requires OK to correct the mistakes of the past by taking revenge from evil producer Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal), insisting that “the film cannot end without having a happy ending.”
The first half of the film, although mostly playful in its tone, broadly establishes the aspirations of Om Makhija to allude to a possible unhappy ending that awaits a number of the struggling artists in Bollywood. From the opening scene itself, Khan externalizes Om’s dreams of becoming a Bollywood actor. In this scene, the film’s protagonist does not imagine himself acting in an intense scene. Instead, he dreams of performing a song-and-dance number in front of a big crowd that uses the same tune of the very film from which Om Shanti Om draws its biggest inspiration – Karz! This opening scene alone demonstrates the dreams and ambitions of masses of outsiders who relate to Bollywood primarily because of this escapist allure of the musical numbers in the film. Soon after, Om describes his dream of becoming a star to his friend Pappu (Shreyas Talpade), where again he emphasizes his aspirations to achieve the “style” that the film stars in the 70s had. Here, Om describes the various materialistic pleasures, like the stylish clothes, associated with stardom that he craves, and how more than artistic satisfaction, fame in Bollywood constitutes to power and luxury that forms a large part of many industry outsiders’ dreams. This emphasis on Om’s dreams and aspirations to become an actor, however only form a small section of the first half, dwarfed by the major storyline that focuses on Om’s romance with Shanti.
However, Khan provides enough scenes to hint at the unfair treatment and nepotistic culture of Bollywood that prevents outsiders from entering into the industry. One of the first interactions that take place between Om and Pappu in the film has the side-kick complaining to the protagonist about his non-filmy surname. Nonchalantly, Pappu declares to Om that he has all the talent in the world to become a successful superstar in Bollywood. However, the only thing stopping him from getting entry into the industry is his surname. The surname “Makhija” (which, Om later mocks in front of his mother by literally translating it to mean “shooing away flies”), Pappu suggests, lacks the weight of famous industry surnames like “Kapoor,” “Kumar,” or “Khan.” Farah Khan re-enforces this nepotistic culture persistent in Bollywood in another interaction when both Om and Pappu laugh off another struggling actor who tells them his name is Govind Ahuja. They suggest him too to change his name to try and gain entry in the industry to which he concurs and decides to go with “Govinda,” a reference to the now famous real-life actor Govinda. (Shastri, 35) Furthermore, Khan gently alludes to the poor treatment given to the struggling actors, and extras in Bollywood in the only scene when Om goes to work on a film set. The lack of respect and minuscule direction and attention is representative of the little importance given to crew members in Bollywood. The focus of the director and the production crew instead rests on pampering the hero and heroine of the film, which refers to the very treatment that many of the outsiders, especially like Om, want when they fulfill their Bollywood dream.
The biggest indictment that Khan offers on the restricted levels of access into Bollywood, however, comes naturally built into the narrative of the film. The ending of the first half shows Om attempting to save Shanti from the collapsing set of the film within the film they are shooting, also called Om Shanti Om. The hopeless lover, however, dies trying to save the actress, cutting short not only his love for her but also extinguishing his dreams to make it into Bollywood. Post interval, the film immediately shifts its attention to the modern-day which shows superstar Om Kapoor (known in the movie as OK) lavishly enjoying his stardom. The fame and luxury enjoyed are in the same manner that Om wanted. OK also has the same birthmark that Om had. The director makes it very clear that OK is a reincarnation of Om. However, crucially Khan never denies that he had to be born in a film family, and with the surname “Kapoor” to actually be part of the film industry. The director works towards diminishing the effect of this tragedy even more in the second half of the film when she evokes the image of Om while OK is giving an acceptance speech at an awards function, suggesting that the spirit of Om did eventually achieve his dream. However, the implications of this narrative remain intact, cementing the near-miraculous route that outsiders need to take to be part of an insular industry.
As much as Om Shanti Om only vaguely implies the struggles of the outsiders, more than often deafening it with the excess of songs, and melodrama, it revels in both celebrating and parodying the insiders of Bollywood, and its narratives. The film minutely alludes to the narcissism and self-centered attitude of the popular stars in the first half in a scene when 70s superstar Rajesh Kapoor, on being questioned “When is the good news coming (of his first child’s birth)?” over-confidently and negligently answers “I’m sure that like every year I am going to receive the best actor award this year too.” The second half reiterates this arrogant, and superficial attitude that film stars like OK (his son) have in comparison to outsiders like Om. Khan, especially plays on superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s real-life media personality, blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, to suggest the spoilt habits of many insiders. Khan, in many parodic scenes, shows superstar OK to be incredibly late for his film shoots, showing off style more than acting, and always surrounded by people only caring about his physical looks as opposed to his acting talents. His interactions with the producer and director of his film too demonstrate the power hierarchy that exists in Bollywood, at the top of which rests the superstar.
Even more so than the major characters in the film though, Om Shanti Om uses numerous celebrity cameos to mock the conventions, award functions and attitudes of several film stars in Bollywood. Beginning with the red-carpet event that takes place before the Filmfare Awards function in India (the equivalent Hollywood’s Oscars), the director introduces a host of Bollywood celebrities, almost flaunting a guest list that consists of nearly everyone in the industry. (Shastri, 39) This scene in the film would most certainly be the “extra” element that Bollywood films often put in the film regardless of its significance to the narrative of the film, which further allows it to offer insight into how traditionally celebrities act in front of the media in Bollywood. A montage of interview snippets demonstrates how veteran actors only believe that their sons are capable of winning the best actor award, how these young actors also only believe they are capable of winning the award, and how several actresses (and in one case, an actor) coyly answer “We are just friends” when asked of their relationship to OK. This form of broad parody continues when Khan also shows various clips that present the nominations of each of the nominated actor’s performances in their respective films. The director again plays on the image of the real-life actors here, most notably on that of Shah Rukh Khan’s romantic persona itself, drawing from similar films the actor did in the 90s to show the repetitive nature of storytelling and performances in Bollywood.
This unidimensional representation of Bollywood insiders, especially of the popular stars in the film demonstrates that Khan believes the industry, its practices, its people and their attitudes to be so silly that they appear almost parodic. However, the director follows this scene up immediately with possibly the most lavish, and celebratory song in the history of Bollywood, “Dewaangi Dewaangi,” (Madness) that flaunts the excess of everything that makes Bollywood…Bollywood. The choreographer-turned-director puts up a full 9-minute show that pushes the narrative aside and indulges in introducing close to 30 well-known Bollywood celebrities, each getting individual introductions, and a chance to show off their dance moves with OK. Many actresses in this song who have worked with Shah Rukh Khan in numerous other films, most notably Kajol, appear for mere seconds to evoke nostalgia for their well-known steps and moments in other movies to celebrate the enduring escapism of Bollywood. This immediate juxtaposition of the celebration of Bollywood with the parody of Bollywood may almost seem hypocritical on Khan’s part, but like the rest of the film’s narrative, the filmmaker maintains this tight-rope balancing act between critique and celebration, always leaning more towards rejoicing in all of Bollywood’s excesses and glory.
Akhtar’s Luck by Chance, however, attempts to dig deeper than the surface-level critiques and pleasures of Bollywood. Made on a much smaller budget than Om Shanti Om, and with two actors (Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen Sharma, ironically children to famous names in the Hindi film industry) who are nowhere near as popular as Shah Rukh Khan in the film industry, Akhtar, daughter of renowned writer Javed Akhtar and sister of the lead actor in her film, uses her background in Bollywood as a template to offer a sharp critique on it. Tracking the journey of two struggling outsiders, Vikram Jaisingh and Sona Mishra, Akhtar details the minutiae of all the conversations that take place between these characters, establishing their dreams and aspirations fully. Furthermore, she highlights their differing interactions with the industry insiders too to demonstrate the cruelty that Bollywood can inflict on struggling actors. Showing that fate, destiny, luck, and acting off-screen play a more critical role than talent in allowing outsiders entry into the industry, Akhtar contrasts the two journeys of Vikram and Sona to show how difficult it is for aspiring actors to break through the barriers of insularity that exist in Bollywood.
The film begins with Sona facing exploitation at the hands of a producer declaring off-screen that it is not the camera that is important in the production of a movie, but the maker’s vision itself. Then, Akhtar fades in to reveal a meek, innocent, and unconfident woman who is sitting across the table from the producer. The subsequent shot-reverse shots then show her reacting similarly to all of the producers’ claims about how destiny brought her to him, and how he is confident that she is the girl who will be part of his next film. (Ciecko, 30) Then, as the camera dollies in, he very casually suggests that it is crucial for the artist and the maker to know each other, for which they “need to spend time together.” The reverse shot then dollies in on the woman to show her expressions, which reveals her subtle reluctant acceptance of the producer’s casting couch demands. Opening one of her central protagonists’ journey with her exploitative encounter at the hands of an insider producer, Akhtar immediately demonstrates that she intends to pick apart every interaction that people in the industry have with each other.
The director continues to show Sona’s struggles throughout the film, concluding with a bittersweet ending that suggests that the best way for outsiders in the industry is to accept alternatives to Bollywood – the television industry, regional cinema or drama – and make peace with them. Akhtar tracks several small part roles that Sona does in big film productions, while she awaits the chance for her film as a leading a lady to start. Amidst performing these roles, Sona discusses with her agent about her worry that she is becoming “typecast” in the role of playing the elder sister, a reference to the way that Bollywood often treats actors who are not stars. Unsurprisingly, when her film fails to kick start, the producer who used her also complains to her that she does not meet his film’s requirement for a “new heroine,” as she has done numerous small roles throughout her career (several times, after taking advice from him). Sona then slips into a rut, struggling to manage the failure of her career and her newly successful boyfriend, Vikram’s unexpected change in priorities and attitudes. In the end, however she decides to make peace with both these aspects of her life, leaving Vikram and her pursuit of becoming a Bollywood star, and finds happiness in the modest triumphs of having the opportunity to be an actor in the television industry who is happy that she works and earns a living for herself.
Paralleling this bittersweet journey of an outsider’s acceptance that Bollywood will not open doors for her with the rise of another outsider, Vikram, who makes it into the industry, Akhtar shows how factors like luck, manipulation, and networking play an integral part in allowing him entry into Bollywood. Introducing Vikram as a student of an acting class, Akhtar begins by showing some of the acting talents that he possesses (the teacher says, “not bad,” but complains that he “underplays his emotions a lot”). Promptly, the director shows a montage of the struggling actor training to build his physique and getting head-shots to send to production houses. Rarely ever after this, however, does Akhtar show Vikram performing on screen. Instead, the director focuses on his highly coincidental rise to fame, and how he takes his chances on these opportunities by acting in front of the industry insiders to butter them up to allow his image to stay glorified in their minds. Starting with helping his assistant director friend in getting him a grandfather clock for his film’s shoot which leads to the same friend taking him to an industry insider event where he indulgently praises the enduring image of yesteryear star, Neena Walia, Vikram quickly realizes that to make it into Bollywood it is crucial for him to lose his sense of morality. His photos coincidentally land through Sona to her sleazy producer, who is a close relative of producer Rommy Rolly, who is producing Walia’s daughter’s first film and is seeking a new hero. Ultimately, the selection process for the leading actor rests with Neena Walia, who remembers Vikram from before and decides to cast him over another actor whom Rolly prefers.
This interconnectedness in the industry that leads to Vikram’s rise to success further helps Akhtar pick apart the various characters and incestuous connections that people inside Bollywood have. These characters in the film are closer to being caricatures than the outsiders; however, Akhtar imbues them with enough dimensionality to never let her mocking of Bollywood practices come off as a parodic. Instead, this combination of realism with the intertextual references makes the critique of these characters to come off as a biting, authentic and sharp satire on Bollywood personalities. Notably, the representation of the aging producer, Romy Rolly, and his interactions with industry insiders comically show the static image that producers hold of filmmaking and actors in Bollywood. (Punathambekar, 51) Needing to please everyone, from the stars of the film to the star’s mother of the film, the producer demands the least amount of hassle from the writer and his director (both actors Anurag Kashyap, and Sanjay Kapoor playing on their real-life images). In a scene in which he attempts to change his story based on his hero’s demands, an irritated Rolly listens to both these people’s ideas, with Kapoor telling him how the concept of his script is perfect because it is directly copied from a hit film in Hollywood. Akhtar re-enforces these digs at Bollywood’s history of entirely copying Western narratives by having a poster of “A Fistful of Rupees” in the background when the director makes his point to emphasize the history of unoriginality that exists in the industry.
Furthermore, Akhtar demonstrates Rolly’s frustrations through his interaction with a host of celebrity actors, all of them playing cameo versions of themselves, to ground his character in reality and suggest how insulted even industry insiders sometimes feel by the attitudes of people in Bollywood. These cameos are reminiscent of the way Khan handles montages in Om Shanti Om, with each actor in Akhtar’s film complaining about the lack of dates they have for Rolly’s film, or about their fear of getting typecast in the lead role, or about just not wanting to do the movie because another famous actor was attached to it. Rolly, heartbroken by the way the actors treat him, breaks down crying in front of his wife insisting how insulting it is to see young actors disrespect him like this. He laments on the “lack of respect in Bollywood nowadays” suggesting that if anything, the industry has become even more stale and corrupt. Akhtar’s decision to humanize Rolly’s character diminishes the emotional distancing effect of her meta-ness, allowing her to instead use it along with the realism to make her film seem more authentic.
Like the protagonists, and supporting characters in the film, Akhtar’s use of celebrity cameos in the film also provides a richly lived-in perspective of the world of Bollywood, with a few stars playing on their established images for comedic effect, while some offering wisdom to the film’s characters about the potential pitfalls of the industry. This balanced approach in representing the stars steers clear from celebrating them, instead opting to use them as devices that either work towards pushing the narrative of the film ahead or helping the central characters in the movie realize their ambitions. Notably, the cameo appearance of superstar Shah Rukh Khan towards the end of the film provides one of the brutally honest self-acknowledging statements on the success and failure of stardom in Bollywood. The honesty with which the actor says, “Stardom is like a cocktail. Fame, power, money – (all of them are) dangerous addictions…and insane,” demonstrates how what sometimes outsiders associate to be the highs of a Bollywood star’s life may very quickly become the lows for those celebrities who achieve it. Akhtar’s decision to use the cameos of one of the most prominent actors in the country not to provide an escapist fantasy, but a cautionary message about the possible corrosiveness of Bollywood demonstrates how Luck by Chance distinguishes itself from becoming a celebration of the industry.
In addition to the differing ways in which both these filmmakers treat the various thematic, and narrative elements of their respective films, the difference in their intention and execution of the song-and-dance sequences in the movie – an aspect that is crucial indicator of a quintessential Bollywood film – shows how Om Shanti Om veers towards keeping the spirit of Bollywood alive, whereas Luck by Chance attempts to define the “New Bollywood.” Khan’s film uses the songs in her film as individual set-pieces that work towards either re-enforcing the emotion expressed by her protagonists in a previous scene or as narrative asides (like “Dewaangi”) that provide the surface-level pleasures that masses crave from Bollywood. Akhtar’s film, on the other hand, uses songs minimally, mostly akin to her use of background score to emphasize the psyche of her protagonist, and in conjunction with the narrative of the film.
Khan attempts to make the audience feel the grandeur, and euphoria that Om feels when he sees Shantipriya for the first time at the premiere of her film through the song “Ajab Si.” The director begins the song by employing slow motion which captures the hypnotized gaze of Om when he sees Shanti walk out of her car. The bright pink color palette, accompanied by the similarly red and pink costumes of both Om and Shanti exaggerate this emotion of excitement and love, almost transporting the viewer to a dream world. Khan then increases the drama by incidentally making Om’s “dhaaga” (ceremonious cotton thread) to be caught in Shanti’s sari. As the camera romantically glides, the director captures the wondrously romantic sequence as Om walks behind Shanti without her knowing that his “dhaaga” is caught in her sari in a wide-shot. As the lyrics of the song continue to emphasize how the “beauty and grace” that Shanti carries with her continue to “knock the wind off” Om, the two come face-to-face. Here too, the director rarely employs a two-shot and instead decides to use a shot-reverse-shot to capture Om’s nervous excitement at coming in direct interaction with her love. Khan ends the song dramatically, with the guards at the premier dragging Om away from Shanti and him doing an imitation of fainting to demonstrate the power of her beauty further. This combination of slow motion with the emotional nature of the song and hyper-realistic production design and costumes all contribute to making this sequence in the film quintessentially Bollywood, in sync with Khan’s celebration of this form of filmmaking in India.
Eschewing the use of songs to romanticize the relationship between the protagonists in the film, Akhtar instead employs the song, “Sapnon Se Bhare Naina” to not only reflect the tense psyche of Vikram but also to indicate how stressful the audition process is in Bollywood for numerous struggling actors. The director employs hand-held camerawork, as soon as Vikram enters the audition room, to immediately draw attention to the nervousness he feels in the scene. The production design and costumes in the scene too are greyish-black, in stark contrast to the bright color palette of the rest of the film, further reflecting the dinginess of the location where the audition is taking place. Akhtar then cuts rapidly between close-ups, over-the-shoulder shots, and wide shots of Vikram to indicate how the actor consistently self-reflects after looking at numerous other strugglers at the audition. He observes someone’s shoes, face, or language, always making the viewer anxious about his restless mind. As the non-diegetic song continuously reflects upon the uncertainty of Vikram’s (and millions of outsiders’) rate of success in the industry, Akhtar pushes the song to the background, allowing the diegetic sound to take over. She proceeds to present then a montage of people auditioning for the role in the film, simultaneously demonstrating the volume of aspiring actors in India, and the minimal time each one of them has time to make an impression. Akhtar even refrains here from showing the face of the people seemingly rejecting the participants, emphasizing, if anything the cruel reality and struggle that Bollywood poses through the use of a song in her film.
The commentary that both these films pose stylistically, thematically, and narratively represents a current conflict that exists at the heart of the debate about Bollywood. Some filmmakers and cinephiles, acknowledging the prevalent problems in the industry, continue to revere the old-fashioned pleasures of it, whereas the other camp demands a change in path. The co-existence of both forms perhaps provides the best solution.
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- Mukherjee, Madhuja. “The Singing Cowboys: Sholay and the Significance of (Indian) Curry Westerns within Post-Colonial Narratives.” Transformations, Issue 24, The Other Western, 2014, 1-19.
- Punathambekar, Aswin. From Bombay to Bollywood. NYU Press, 2013, 51-78.
- Shastri, Sudha. ““The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”: Intertextuality in Om Shanti Om.” Journal of Film and Video,63, No. 1, 2011, 32-43.
- Wright, Neelam Sridhar. Bollywood and Postmodernism. Edinburgh Press University, 2015, 79-127.