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Movies about Movies about Movies: Bollywood’s Best Metafictional Moments

Teja Main Hoon, Mark Idhar Hai

Happy Ending and The Shaukeens are not the first films to lovingly make fun of Bollywood. We look back at some old favourites

Teja Main Hoon

Of late, it seems like Bollywood has fallen a little bit in love with itself. Films maintain an ironic distance from their script by pretending to be a send up of filmy tropes. Every Karan Johar movie has someone or the other falling in love to the background music of Kucch Kucch Hota Hai, Farah Khan has made a career out of referencing the kind of 70s pot boilers that she grew up to, while her brother attempts to do the same less successfully with his favourite ‘bad’ movies.

But this ‘meta-ness’ (visible in spades in the recent Happy Ending, Kill Dil  and The Shaukeens) is not quite as new as the new-age directors would like to believe . Bollywood’s first love has always been -well- Bollywood.

Here then are five of our favourite  metafictional films, from Bollywood’s storied past.

A word of warning though. Metafiction-like beauty-lies in the eyes of the beholder, and it is quite likely that where we saw a commentary on Bollywood, you saw a groan worthy film. (And if you believe that the terrible Gunday was really a comment on how Bollywood exoticises the male body, tell us in the comments below!)

Golmaal

There is so much talk about how sensitive and warm Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s movies are, that it is easy to forget that he was also immensely clever.  He played on star imagery and filmdom’s insularity long before it became a trend to do so. What else was Baawarchi but a paean to Rajesh Khanna’s magical ability to solve anything with the twinkle of his eyes? And Rang Birangi broke the fourth wall and then some, hilariously!

Golmaal was the quintessential ‘film about films’. Amol Palekar ends up wearing a too-short kurta to his interview because he borrows from the costumeer’s Sanjeev Kumar collection instead of Amitabh Bachchan’s rack. Our hero and his friends dream of Rekha and Amitabh Bachchan in their dreams. And everyone ramps up the ‘filmy’ quotient as they act and overact in an attempt to keep their pile of lies from collapsing. The entire film seems an affectionate commentary on how audiences lap up the implausible lies weaved by filmmakers because they want to believe.

Hero Hiralal

He is an auto-driver, she an unreachable star with an aggressive stage parent. He gets caught up in the cruel celebrity game as the intended victim of a televised suicide (and this was nearly two decades before the first Bigg Boss!). If that doesn’t sound sufficiently insider-y to you, picture this. ‘He’ is played by Naseeruddin Shah – an art house hero who is in the process of ‘killing’ his craft to become a mainstream darling. And she is played by Sanjana Kapoor-  Bollywood royalty whose heart was clearly never in films.

Andaaz Apna Apna

The difference between great homage and a badly done pastiche is the amount of love the writers have for the filmy conventions they are gently mocking and mock-embracing. Rajkumar Santoshi loves his masala. That is why his protagonists are called Amar and Prem,  and Raveena Tandon is called Karishma and Karishma Kapoor  is called Raveena (or is it the other way around?). The character played by Aamir Khan in the film falls for Juhi Chawla in his dreams in much the same way that Aamir Khan ‘the actor’ has done in countless films. The villain’s henchman wants to be Ajit but realises that it is impossible to achieve the “Loin’s” suaveness, and of course the only way to distinguish between look-alikes is a mark on the face (in this case, one made hastily with a sketch pen).

A few year’s later when Santoshi attempted to distil the same magic in Ajab Prem Ki Ghajab Kahani, clearly his love for Bollywood had ebbed, leading to an only intermittently wonderful film.

Abhimaan

The Amitabh Bachchan- Jaya Bhaduri relationship has inspired so many pieces of pop culture, from Shashi Tharoor’s rolicking Show Business to Yash Chopra’s sordid Silsilaa. But no film better enunciates the highs and lows of being married to an artistic equal than Abhimaan. Perhaps the reason the film works is that the two, truly, are equally gifted actors. Or perhaps it works because the story stands on its own, and would be just as beautiful and heart rendering even if the characters were played by different actors.

Rangeela/ Aaja Nachle

Ohh Ramu, How we miss your spark! Ram Gopal Varma made two films about Bollywood, both interesting in their uniquely different ways. Rangeela lifts up Urmila Matondkar (and her character Mili) from obscurity, and while some of that is her spark, at least an equally important part is the way she is filmed by a director who is half in love with her. Along the way- to maintain his reputation as the enfant terrible of cinema- Ramu skewers star moms, popular directors and the loneliness of film stars. However, this is not the bitter Ram Gopal Verma of 2014. He still loves the wonder of cinema with a wide-eyed naivete that leads to beautiful sequences such as this one.

And while Rangeela shows you how a star is born, Aaja Nachle a few years later is the comeback story of a comeback. Of course cinema was languishing after she eloped with a foreigner. Of course single theatre song and dance shows were being replaced by multiplex theatres (whose owners loved her just as much they mocked her throwback charm). And of course the only way to save cinema was with her hundred-watt smile and luminous dancing.

Which are some of your favourite Bollywood moments about Bollywood? Tell us in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

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