March 9, 2006

Integrity of imagination

As I mentioned yesterday, we have been watching a lot of television lately. I found myself wondering if this was perhaps because the quality of entertainment available when it comes to movies. Is it just me or does there seem to be a dearth of imagination (or rather a lack of originality) with most Hollywood (and Bollywood) offerings these days?

If you take Hollywood, you mostly seem to get either remakes, adaptations or re-imaginings. There used to be a time when a move based on a comic book character was rare – except of course for "Superman" and "Batman" and the occasional (really bad) "Captain America" :p But then came the Marvel invasion when Hollywood suddenly discovered that there was a whole bunch of already tried ideas and a rabid fanbase behind them. You got "Spider-Man", "X-Men", "Blade", "Hulk", "The Punisher", "The Fantastic Four" and a whole heap of sequels and other movies based on marvel characters. Then there are all the book based adaptations like "Harry Potter", "Lord of the Rings", "Five Children and It" and "Narnia". Not to mention re-makes of old television series such as "The Avengers" or "Bewitched".

On the Bollywood side, things have become even more drastic. Sure, Bollywood has never been known for having very complicate plots :p It used to be boy meets girl, boy and girl falls in love, parents oppose the union, they go through tough times and finally it all works out. Of course, after about 40 years of different variations on the above theme, people began to get a teensy, weensy bit tired of it. They then began "borrowing" from Hollywood movies but were a bit circumspect about it. They wouldn’t "borrow" from well-known Hollywood movies or the latest ones. Instead they’d borrow from older movies or ones which were not so well-known. I’ve seen Bollywood remakes of "Coming to America", "Roman Holiday" and "Big", to name a few. The stories weren’t always quite the same as the Hollywood version and they always managed to add a love story, songs and a few fights in there.

However, there’s a new breed of Bollywood movie today – probably because the Indian audiences got tired of the rehashed Hollywood stuff. The new movies aren’t really "borrowing", they steal lock, stock and barrel and from the latest and most well-known stuff too :p They are dropping the songs and dances and going for a much more Hollywood like feel. At first, I kind of liked the new and slick production values but when you start getting the same old Hollywood movies in a Bollywood format, you begin to get tired of it.

In the past few months, I’ve come across not one but two variations on "The Usual Suspects" – "Dus" and "Chocolate". Then there is "Kaante" which rips off a little bit from "The Usual Suspects" as well as a lot more from "Reservoir Dogs" and "Heat". At the moment we are watching "Ek Ajnabee" which is almost a scene for scene copy of "Man on Fire" though they do say that the ending is different – we haven’t finished it and so we have no idea :) We’ve also got "Main Aisa Hi Hoon" which looks very much like a remake of "I Am Sam" …

So my question is – are the major movie industries of the world just becoming lazy? Or are they just learning from each other that they can make more money by "borrowing"/adapting existing properties that they know have been successful elsewhere or in another medium? Or are we actually witnessing a decline in originality and imagination? Either way, this seems to be a rather sad state of affairs …

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