New Age Cinema, New Age Mindset

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It’s indeed a brave new world. The pandemic and the global lockdown aftermath that ensued changed the world, but the severest affected was definitely the glitzy world of cinema. With theatres closing down and OTT platforms emerging as a supreme entertainment source, everything has indeed gone topsy-turvy – from audience choices that have gone through a sea of changes, to box office numbers that have gone on a rollercoaster ride.
And though theatres have opened up again, the old order changeth for the new and the audience has shown its utter contempt for the typical masala fare of the Bollywood of old and has opted for eclectic content that can break, make or redefine society.
Of course, the worst hit are superstars like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar or even Shah Rukh Khan who could in the past make the box office sing to their tunes, have now found themselves getting out for a duck thanks to poor box office numbers. Brilliant actors like Manoj Bajpayee, Ayushmann Khurrana, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao instead are now being hailed as new-age box office winners.
Suddenly, the cinematic need of the day is films with edgy content that change mindsets so whether it is Rajkummar Rao’s hat ke Badhai Do, Deepika Padukone’s serial smoochin’ fare Gehraiyaan or the mind-bending Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, the viewers have shown their approval. And, how!
Deepika Padukone, an actor known to take the safe route in the past; has veered treacherously on an unknown thorny path starting with Gehraiyaan. She plays Alisha, an urbane Mumbaikar in the Shakun Batra-directed film which delves into human relationships. In the film, Deepika as Alisha cheats on her boyfriend and has an affair with her cousin’s fiance. Deepika candidly confesses that Gehraiyaan was a ‘bit difficult for the family to digest. She said, “I think at a personal level, it was a bit difficult for them to digest what my character goes through.” A much-reviewed and debated film Gehraiyaan indeed caused ripples, however, the ever-changing audience mindset appreciated that.

Another film that underlined changing mindsets was Badhaai Do which had Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar playing two LGBTQ characters who marry each under due to family pressure. A bold subject which would have never seen the light of day earlier, opened to stellar reviews. Rajkummar Rao’s sister-in-law Parnalekha (who is actor Patralekha’s sister) in her Instagram post, averred: “Badhaai Do is an intimate revolution that will activate a desire of transformation in the way LGBTQIA+ oriented films are made in India. Finally, my community has a film; wherein, two girls are not sexually objectified for being two dykes in love, and two men aren’t being called “meetha” and “chukka” for being homosexual studs. At the end of the day, it’s all about the sensitivity in “the gaze” and not only about “the gays” in LGBTQIA+ films. …Really appreciated the “absence” of the “male gaze” in this sensitive queer outing. The emotional, physical and psychological consequences of “lavender marriages” are intense, honourable, honest and dramatic. Add a bit of humor to this conflict and you get a light-hearted dramedy called Badhaai Do.”
Badhaai Do’s (Sumi) Bhumi Pednekar averred, “I’m really proud that filmmakers making differential content and taking on clutter-breaking subjects feel I can helm a project that is unique and bring their vision to life. I thrive on pushing myself constantly and my decision to do Badhaai Do was based on the fact that I get to sensitively portray a character and give voice to a subject that will be an eye-opener for India,”.
Adding, “It is really exciting to be an actor in these times because such subjects are being backed by big producers who want to create a change in society. As a human being, I’m drawn to subjects that can lead to a positive impact on people and be a catalyst for social good.”
Rajkumar Rao who essayed the role of a tough gay cop in the film, also said, “Of course, I understand the responsibilities and not just me I think all of us do. We are also big supporters of the LGBTQI community. However, as I said, it’s a very well-researched film and Harsh (the director) even had some people from the community involved while writing it. He was constantly making them read the script so that there is no wrong message.”
Another actor, who never shies from taking a lesser-known path, is Ayushmann. He’s played a whole host of unique characters including a gay character in last year’s rom-com Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan.
This time ‘round, Ayushmann Khurrana plays Manvinder Munjal in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, a macho gym instructor in Chandigarh who is smitten by Maanvi Brar (Vani Kapoor), a Zumba teacher who shares his workspace. Maanvi in the course of the film turns out to be a trans-woman.
Ayushmann in an interview said, “We need to see this film from an Indian perspective, where society is very complex. Indians in general, don’t even know the meaning of trans. They have no idea that, if you feel like a girl and if you’re born in a boy’s body, you can actually become a girl – they’re alien to this subject.”
By the way, Ayushmann calls Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui his riskiest film ever and claimed that the movie deliberately masked its actual subject of transphobia in its promotions and created the illusion of just another regular romantic comedy to at least get the audience in.
Ayushmann even hints at a sequel to Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and says that a real trans woman should play the lead this time ‘round.
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui did well and that speaks volumes about how the mindset of the public has changed in recent times. Earlier, transgender or gay characters would veer between villainous characters, like Sadashiv Amrapurkar’s Maharani in Sadak or crude comic prototype figures. However, Gangubai Kathiawadi showed the world how well Vijay Raaz in the role of a transgender Razia Bai was portrayed.

Indeed, it’s a new brave world with new-age mindsets. So go ahead, delve and dive into the complex yet super interesting world of New Age cinema where fearless filmmakers dare to tread into unknown terrains.

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