It’s a musical. It’s a drama. It’s romance. It’s comedy. It’s Bollywood.
Hollywood and Bollywood don’t differ from each other all that much. I feel that they share the same principles of movie-making. They both have heroes. They both have heroines. Villains? Yes. Action? Yes. Both also have fight scenes. Of course, this doesn’t apply to non-action movies. But the premise is there, they share the same principles. Hero struggles to get the girl in the beginning, but eventually does at the end. Villain gets what he deserved and dies/loses at the end. And everyone lives happily ever after. Yada yada yada.
One element that Bollywood has that Hollywood doesn’t, is, well you guessed it:
And for this reason, and this reason alone, people seem to label Bollywood films as musicals. There are some musical films during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and some of the prominent ones are Singing in the Rain, West Side Story and Grease. Maybe the zeitgeist of the time was to avoid incorporating any violence or destruction into films because at that time period, the world had just recovered/still recovering from the effects of the World War. To counter the panic and turmoil, musicals seemed to be the easiest form of propaganda to instil into the hearts and minds of people that life was actually gonna be okay.
But as of the 1960s-70s, musicals in Hollywood began to die out and action and horror films began to gain popularity. Now, in the 21st century, Hollywood musicals are beginning to make a comeback via Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast, Rock of Ages and of course, the critically acclaimed La La Land.
But I digress.
I have watched Om Shanti Om countless numbers of times now. I grew up watching Hindi films because my family loved watching Hindi films. The first time I watched it, I was struck in awe. Seriously. It’s a film about the film industry (loosely, not entirely about the film industry), which automatically made it cool because at the point of time, I had my heart set on becoming a film director. And seeing this film which had stunning visuals, unique (in my opinion) plot and the best thing; the film sets in the film, just made me that much excited to pursue a career in cinematography/directing.
The plot, as I said, is unique. It revolves around the idea of reincarnation. Let’s talk about this for a second. Obviously, reincarnation is a religious belief. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, just to name a few, believe in the philosophical or religious concept that an aspect of a living being starts a new life in a different physical body or form after each biological death. Why did I say it’s unique? Hollywood has never done any film that is about reincarnation before. Before Om Shanti Om, Bollywood have done it before in the form of a film: Karan Arjun (1995). Okay, so it’s not unique because it has been done before. But, it’s still a novel idea. It’s unusual. It’s unheard of. It’s new. It’s different.
People might not know it but they love to watch something different. Everything’s the same lately. Same principles of movie-making: hero, heroine, villain, etc. Don’t get me wrong. Om Shanti Om follows the same principles. The hero struggled to get the girl. The villain ultimately got what he deserved and died. At the core, Om Shanti Om is no different than the rest. But by just adding that element of reincarnation, it changes the whole game. It propelled the story forward in a way that cannot be done via any other logical way.
That’s the beauty of Asian Cinemas. Asia consists of so many diverse cultures and religions that it liberates filmmakers from the shackles of boring old narratives. Sure, people argue that the concept of reincarnation is portrayed wrongly in Om Shanti Om, in that, the main character shouldn’t even remember what he did/was like in his previous life. And to that I say: who cares?
Film is an art. It’s an escape from reality. It’s a portal to another dimension. It shouldn’t be realistic. If you want realistic, then maybe you should just document the daily events of your life. That’s the realistic story you’re looking for.
It shouldn’t be realistic. It just has to be believable.