Why are South Indian films so unrealistic

The unknown side of Bollywood

In autumn 2004 a Bollywood film was broadcast on German television for the first time: "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham", in German "In good as in difficult days". Colorful, happy, long and full of music - the film shaped the image of Bollywood. And it triggered a short but violent boom, in the course of which more Indian films made it into German television programs - always with the same ingredients - and almost always with the same actor: Shahrukh Khan, who also likes to run from tree to tree while singing, when he falls in love with his female acting partner again.

Colorful, long and happy? Not always!

Singing and dancing Indian women in the film 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham'

But Bollywood can also be very different. More serious, more political, and also sadder. This second face of Bollywood became known as "Parallel Cinema" as early as the 1920s. The aim of this direction was a realistic representation of life in India. In the last few years, several attempts have been made to bring the two cinematic styles together. As a result, films were also produced in Bollywood that portray Indian society and its problems as realistically as possible and have thus become part of everyday culture. In the West, however, such strips are hardly known.

The Indian actress Sagarika won several awards in India with 'Parzania'

For example, in the movie "A Wednesday" a common man tries to fight terrorism in his own way. Without music and far from all Bollywood clich├ęs, the film addresses the bomb attacks in Mumbai in 1993, 2003 and 2006 and shows how ordinary people deal with the daily fear of attacks. The film won several awards in India, but remained unknown abroad. Another example is "Parzania", a film that critically examines the unrest between Hindus and Muslims in 2002.

Cinema cures homesickness

Siddharth Roy Kapur, managing director of the Indian UTV-Motion Pictures, says that his company tried to bring these socially critical films out abroad - without success: "The Indians living abroad," says Kapur, "unfortunately only want to watch such films , in which famous actors appear and in which there are many songs and dances. This is primarily how they quench their homesickness ".

Actor Shahrukh Khan is considered to be the epitome of the Bollywood hero

The Indians living abroad use Bollywood films for recreation. Through them, the audience is immersed in a fantasy world in which everything is perfect: nature, the surroundings, the clothes, and the actors. And if something disturbs this order, it will be resolved by the end of the third hour of broadcast at the latest. But the truth is, life in India is all about struggle: whether it's getting a place at university or a job at a company afterwards. You fight against poverty, for a better life or, much more banal, with the hot climate. That is why many Indians want to go to the cinema at least on weekends to experience another world. Here you can forget all problems for three hours and just enjoy everything.

On the trail of the real world

But there are also films that make you think. "Rang De Basanti" from about 2006. The film is about revolting students who no longer want to be satisfied with the Indian social order. The problems and the pent-up frustration of Indian youths are vividly presented. But at the end of the film, the government put down their revolt.

Film scene from 'Rang De Basanti'

A few months after its release, reality caught up with the film: Suddenly, you saw very similar student protests in India. Young people demonstrated against reforms in the education system, with which university places should be distributed via the caste system. The young people protested for months under the slogan "Youth for Equality". And the government reacted like in the film: police officers beat the students down and suppressed the protests. The film quickly became a symbol of the Indian student movement.

Marketing as the main problem

The film "Lagaan - Once Upon a Time in India" was nominated for an Oscar in 2002

In 2008 "Slumdog Millionaire" came out, the Hollywood film won several Oscars and Golden Globes. In India one sees this in two ways. Siddharth Roy Kapur does not like the fact that films are only recognized when western directors make them. There are Indian films that are better and don't win awards, Kapur complains. So did Bollywood just happen to become popular in the West? Since the attempts to make the "parallel cinema" known abroad have been discontinued, the image of Bollywood in the West remains unchanged. "That is also up to us Indians ourselves," says Kapur. "We have not been able to sell our films and our directors well. That is our main problem."

Author: Isha Bhatia
Editor: Thomas Latschan