Bazaar is an inseparable part of Bollywood movies. From fighting scenes to item songs, the bazaar has played the role of a constant context. Let us introspect the shades and shadows of the bazaar as it is shown on the silver screen of Bollywood.
Heroes are not almighty nowadays, villains are not dumb enough to show their true color in the marketplace in broad daylight. Most importantly, the approach of seeing and portraying a woman’s character is going through a positive change.
If one tries to think of an image that is related to both ‘bazaar’ and ‘Bollywood, the first thing that comes to mind is a fighting sequence. The angry young man hero is fighting with the main villain and his followers, and throwing them on random tea stalls, or moving carts of the vendors. Most of the time, this great deed of bravery is performed because the villain has said some offensive words, or has shown a disrespectful attitude towards the heroine. All the other people in the market are so accustomed to this situation that they don’t even bother to look at what is going on, or at the most, they keep staring with a blank expression on their face. A dozen glass dishes break meanwhile. The heroine reconsiders the hero’s eligibility of being a worthy lover. Life goes on- in bazaar, Bollywood, and in the unpoetic reality of the world.
Time has matured. That common scene of the bazaar as it used to be portrayed in Bollywood has changed its shades. Heroes are not almighty nowadays, villains are not dumb enough to show their true color in the marketplace in broad daylight. Most importantly, the approach of seeing and portraying a woman’s character is going through a positive change. They no longer play the passive role of just being rescued from danger by the ‘superman’ male protagonist. In fact, the word hero is being questioned in today’s realistic cinemas, and all we can see is some characters stuck in relatable mundane problems of daily lives. But, is that all? Have we reached the ‘nearly’ golden era then? Let’s have a glance at the color palette of the Indian market, as it is portrayed on the silver screen of our time.
Let’s start with ‘Bombay Talkies’. This film was made as a tribute to the 100 years of the Bollywood film industry. There were four different stories by four different directors. The four stories catch the characteristics of different bazaars from different angles. The first story is ‘Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh’ by Karan Johar. Though it’s a story of revelation and realization of one’s gender identity, the market is present here in a subtle way. We see a little girl in the station market area who collects money by singing old Bollywood songs. Her songs, like – “Lag ja gale” or “Ajeeb dastan hai yeh” reveal the unuttered words on behalf of the characters and play a choric role for the audience to interpret the story. The second story ‘Star’ is based on a story written by the legendary filmmaker of Indian cinema, Satyajit Ray. In this adaptation of the story called ‘Patol Babu, Film Star’, director Dibakar Banerjee has painted the hollowness and simplicity of the film market as well as that of life. Purandar, the protagonist, is a failed stage actor who struggles to make both ends meet. He has a sick daughter who loves to hear some interesting stories from him but always gets disappointed. One day Purandar really got a small role of a common pedestrian to play in the film. He only got a one-word dialogue, “Eh!”. Purandar did a praise-worthy execution of that role and came back home with a heart full of satisfaction and no money to tell a really interesting story that his daughter would enjoy!
Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’, the third story, peeps into the mind of a 12-year-old boy who wants to be a Bollywood dancer. He decides to raise funds for her sister’s school trip and dances to her favorite tune in a small ticketed event. The market plays multiple roles in this tale through the stereotypical expectations of Indian parents, through Katrina Kaif’s interview that the boy watches on television and gets inspired, and through the audience of the small event. Murabba, the final story, directed by Anurag Kashyap, starts in a marketplace. In a witty and humorous way, this film comments on the “market value” of the Bollywood stars, for instance- the auto driver charges a very high rate (Rs.2100) for dropping Vijay, the protagonist in front of Amitabh Bachchan’s house, and says, “Brother, you have come to Amitabh Bachchan’s address, that’s why the rate is so high, if you go to any Khan or Khanna’s place, I might have charged only 500”.
In the last decade, shopping malls have played an important role in the marketing routine of our daily lives. Likewise, in films too, the common pictures of markets consisting of street vendors and sweetmeat shops are getting replaced by shopping malls. In films like ‘Badhaai Ho’, we see the lead actor and actress are enjoying their shopping together in a mall while humming a tune together, even they pick up a packet of condoms from a counter as they have decided to spend the night together. This sweet and small gesture of love shows the long path that Bollywood has come since the days when two flowers were shown to mean sexual encounters. Now, we have overgrown the stupid old school romance where love couples are dancing in the middle of the market singing songs like- “Main toh raste se ja raha tha/ Main toh bhel puri kha raha tha/ Main to ladki ghuma raha tha… Tujhko mirchi lagi to main kya karoon”, but not totally. These films are being remade, and average Indians love to enjoy that stupid love scenes. Actually, those stupid days have the essence of magic and nostalgia. Moreover, the hidden hero of our mind loves the larger-than-life portrayal of love.
Like the real world, there are certain discriminations in the world of reels. On the one hand, we can see films like, “Hindi Medium” that remain truthful in portraying the picture of every type of bazaar, from clothing markets to educational markets. On the other hand, we still see a bit of an over-colored image of the market in films where the actors start to dance in the middle of the market singing songs like “Tu kheech meri photo”, or “De kitchen se awaz chicken, Kuk-doo-kuu” for a very trivial or no reason. OTT Platforms, another growing pillar of the Bollywood market, and their shows also are trying to avoid the typical exaggerated nature of Indian drama and are being truthful to the original and unexplored colors of the bazaar; like in ‘Made in Heaven’ we got a clear and beautiful concept about the wedding-bazaar of India, or in ‘Panchayat’ we got a glimpse of rural markets and their cultures. Rather than passing any judgment on the portrayal of bazaars in Bollywood films, we may conclude at the point that the shades of Indian cinema are as colorful as Indian. Here comes the common bond that we, the Indians, share with bazaar and Bollywood: unity in diversity.