Before we begin, a clarification. Or a disclaimer if you prefer it. This is NOT a review of the 2011 hit movie. It does, however, take up the movie’s storyline, and the fact that it was a hit, to make some observations.
Why does a movie succeed at the box office? Of course that can’t be answered : there is no formula which ensures a hit. But there may be some pointers gained from movies that have succeeded. One of the factors is that the audience identifies with the protagonist (s). Their victories are ours; we feel their successes as our own. We sort of live out our own fantasies in their stories. That may work for some popular TV shows as well, like KBC. Of course there is the sheer charisma of the Big B, but if we did not feel a vicarious pleasure in the contestant winning, would we take to the show as much as we have?
If we accept that as a starting point, ZNMD is a case in point. It throws up some amazing dynamics. Consider these points which are so anithecal to what we perceive as our culture and which, presumably, guide our lives. Here are three young guys off on a vacation to Spain just before one of them gets married. Ok, that may not be so unusual, and, wow, for those of us (read 99%) not on the gravy train, this is perfect for vicarious fun.
So far, so good. Now enter the girl, played by Katrina Kaif. Now it seems to get further away from the cultural restrictions by which we swear. At least we live our real lives within many of these restrictions (or pretend to). She works in London but is in Spain, all by herself, no mom hovering in the background, on a ..well .. sabbatical shall we say, and is a scuba-diving instructor. I can hear the arteries bursting in all the Indian dad’s heads ( I am one too). Imagine the scene in real life. Wow. I can’t.
Remember the scene in which the three of them and the girl are sitting in a pub having a drink together? (Those of you guys/ ladies who haven’t seen the movie, go buy a DVD now, its worth it. And no, I’m not making any money from saying this). Whoa. The arteries are now going berserk. The GIRL is sitting in a pub, with three guys, NONE of them relatives, or friends or even known to the family. There is no question of their ancestry having been checked out. Way out. And she is (gasp) DRINKING. And then she asks one of the guys, who is probably mildly trying his luck to be her boyfriend, to get her a drink. He obliges, cheerfully. Are we there yet? I ardently hope so but the vast majority of us guys aren’t there yet.
As if that wasn’t enough, take a gander at the advice the bloke uncertain about his impending marriage (played by Abhay Deol) gets from his friends. They urge him not to go ahead if there is uncertainty in his mind. They weren’t very subtle about it either. Hold on now. When he cites the fact that his parents are involved too, as there has been an “engagement”, he is told to take his own decision, not play to the gallery. Not to worry if his parents have box seats in the gallery.
Stop me if I am wrong, but this seems to be horribly removed from the reality I am used to.
5000 years of culture are being blown away. We should dump this movie, right? But no sireee, its a hit! We have all flocked to the theatres, and we love this. So what does that say about what we fantasize about ? I mean, do we dream about living our lives according to rules and standards that are vastly different from what is really happening in our lives? Makes one stop and think, what? Is the way we actually lead our lives at great variance from the way we would like to live? There seems to be a big gap between our reality and our fantasies.