Thursday, May 24, 2012

Raising the bar - the "paisa vasool" aspiration of Bollywood

I read excerpts of this book that discusses the anthropology of gift giving: The Gift.

It had an interesting point which said that sometimes when you read a book, or watch a movie, you come across an experience or wisdom that is so profound that the amount of money you spent in buying the book/movie ticket seems infinitely smaller than the value you derive from it.
The author of the book feels that the book/movie/work of art operates in two economies - one market economy and other the gift economy. A gift is a thing that is bestowed on us - it is more than we paid for or asked for. Like a gift, some work of art - are beyond "sugar for sugar" or "salt for salt" mentality and they awaken our soul in a way that no price tag can be put on it.

There is a very strong line of thinking in Bollywood that speaks about Paisa Vasool (roughly translated "to get my money's worth"). Basically there is a section of people who make films with ingredients that they have concluded to be the one people want and if those ingredients are there - the audience gets it's money worth. These makers profess that their films are the ones the majority likes and unfortunately I also sense some inexplicable aggression from them towards any kind of meaningful cinema that anyone is attempting to make.

 I agree that even "Paisa vasool" with your work of art is a very high target however it is not the highest possible target or ambition you can have with it. Any movie that has survived more than a year were beyond paisa vasool.
I feel every filmmaker should also have an aspiration towards reaching a level of transcendence from time to time. It is a tough target and even great artists have failed to touch that target with their every work but atleast they strive to do so.

As an audience as well I feel I should not cap my expectations from a movie to get my 2 hours worth of entertainment but I should look for sparks in the film that will stay with me for a long time to come. I should be greedy and not just stop at "paisa vasool" but encourage my filmmakers to give me a gift too.

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