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The Great Bollywood Teen Movie
Deepa Gahlot | January 17, 2003 12:52 IST
Every year, a spate of teen movies are released in Hollywood. Set on campus, most of them are coming of age movies, mostly from the male point of view -- of late, the more gross, the better -- American Pie, Dude Where's My Car, for example. There was even a spoof Not Just Another Teen Movie, using all the stereotypes of the teen movie: the jock, prom queen, ugly girl, cheerleader, nerd, and so on.
Filmmakers in Mumbai are waking up to the potential of the teen market now and designing films for them. Unfortunately, they are abysmally poor copies of the worst kind of cheap and exploitative Hollywood teen flick -- Style, Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai and Raghu More Bachelor Of Hearts, to name three recent efforts. A stylistically superior but otherwise superficial Dil Chahta Hai would fall into the same category.
Raghu More... actually offended a teenager who thought it gave a completely distorted picture of college life. Real teens, he said, were not preoccupied with sex all the time and didn't spend all their time chasing girls -- or boys, as the case may be. They did plenty of other fun stuff too. No film, for instance, has captured the funky, innovative and enterprising ambience of the college fest like Malhar (at St Xavier's College, Mumbai), or (the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai's) Mood Indigo.
In America, teens have a different lifestyle -- cheerleaders and football jocks are a quintessentially Yankee phenomenon. Indian colleges have their own 'types.' While the Indian teen may also wake up to raging hormones and sexual anxiety, our society is a little more conservative. Or let's say hypocritical, more so when it comes to women.
Indians would be aghast if a film was made about teenaged girls dying to lose their virginity or searching for orgasm. But such films have been made in Hollywood.
The Indian teen, caught up in a rigid educational system and rapidly changing social norms, is concerned with marks, admissions, careers, future, in spite of the supposed MTVisation of our society. Then there is the generation gap, peer pressure, class and status-linked friction, also sexual doubts, image problems, cultural confusion, the classic nerd-vs-cool thing, and a whole youth subculture, which our films have not even touched upon.
Dil Chahta Hai was cool, urban, chic -- Hum hain naye, andaz kyon ho purana provided an anthem -- but it existed out of an identifiable social milieu. Rich kids who can afford to wear trendy labels, hang out at cool spots, holiday abroad, drive hot wheels, flaunt gizmos, easily attract the opposite sex and stand to inherit family businesses, would have no problems bigger than romantic ones!
At the other extreme are the Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai and Raghu More kind of films that are unreal in another way, due to their skewed focus on just the sexual fantasies of young men. Style unabashedly went for the tapori duffer whose only dream is to patao rich girls. Its director N Chandra's Excuse Me is not likely to be any different.
All of them get their laughs making fun of silly professors or handicapped people and humiliating girls.
In recent times, films like Chalo America and Dollar Dreams did deal with the aspirations of middle class youth in their own way, but they remained festival films.
Today's urban teens are smart, well informed, focused. Some of them are socially committed and almost all are career oriented. Romance and sex is just one aspect of their lives, not an overwhelming obsession.
Now another abhorrent Hollywood trend is entering Bollywood with Kucch To Hai: the teenage slasher movie of the I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, Scary Movie kind, which Hollywood spews at a furious pace every year. Most of them have skimpily clad young women being terrorised and slaughtered.
There is the Great Bollywood Teen Movie just waiting to be made. It can be funny yet deal with relevant issues, entertaining but not empty headed, visually exciting but not Mohabbatein-fake. And hopefully not sexist.
Who will take up the challenge when there is a variety of Hollywood films just there to be picked and 'adapted'?