The Worship of Mediocrity

The commercial release of a Bengali movie in Kolkata coincided with the Durga Puja of 2014.  I still remember the first movie made by the same director a few years back. Impressed with the slick trailer and unconventional songs, I wanted to watch it. Back in my home town from college for a between-terms break and missing all of my childhood friends in my home town, I decided to go and watch it myself, all alone. So badly I wanted to taste it [It is although not such a bad idea watching a film all by yourself, it can allow you to immerse yourself better at times. But that discussion is “out of scope” for this piece of lament :)].

It wasn’t such a bad work, especially for a first-timer. However, there was one sequence which struck me as particularly odd. In an idol-immersion sequence, which had symbolic significance given the crossroads the character watching the process of immersion was finding himself in, the camera just lingered on and on, well past the point where I am sure any viewer aware of the cultural nuances would have “gotten” the message.

Every time I watch a movie of this director’s, this sequence gains a wholly different significance for me. It is typical of his style. He is not content with hinting. He almost subtitles his hints, voices them over if possible. It’s almost as if he does not trust you to think and conclude for yourself and is wary of leaving things to chance. And I grow more and more tired. I have tried to avoid watching his films, trying not to give in to effusive  reviews for almost all of his movies from professional reviewers in the media and the circle of acquaintances alike. But this time, due to prevailing circumstances and having no better way to pass the time, it became necessary once again to experience another of his movies. And it was again more of the same. The same pretence of something above the ordinary, the same wannabe-art-film airs. The superficial reuse of templates of true masters, the attempt at giving the multiplex-prowling urban movie-goer, “aspiring” to watch good cinema beyond the escapist fare, a dose of pseudo-intellectual exhibition.

On top of it, this latest edition is littered with that other narcissistic evil: in-jokes and references. With the presence of several big shots of the industry, one or two in-jokes could have been entertaining, especially with clever use. But an in joke every minute gets nauseating beyond a point. After all, there is only as much the audience can love the film industry. Most of them do not seek to make it their life, neither is it a part of their lives in a way it is for the creators of the film itself. All the audience seeks is a piece of work that can touch their hearts, entertain them.

Are small beautiful films so difficult to make? If not, why not just go and create another formulaic entertainer with action, comedy and item songs? At least it’s better than pretentious, self-worshipping melodrama. One could even forgive the out-and-out escapist song-dance-and-hero-worshipping movies. But this pretense, this vain attempt at passing off mediocre for good, is as difficult to forgive as digest. Such films are, sadly, becoming a genre by themselves. Drawing plot inspirations from stories of all-time great mystery authors and films is absolutely fine. But trying to carelessly copy-paste themes and patterns from another great without appreciating the whole context which made the original themes and pattens so effective in the first place, is just trying to take a short cut to greatness. It only comes out as cheap, besides being a bad form of tribute to the great, if that was another intention.

There are no templates to greatness. Formulae can neither produce timeless art nor touch the heart.

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