Sunday, June 25, 2006


I was watching a "Hollywood Top Ten" show on Z Cafe today, when there was a reference to a movie about Jane Goodall. For those who came in late, Jane Goodall is the woman who single-handedly demolished our misconceptions about that relative of ours - the Gorilla. She showed, for example, that Gorillas do use tools - something we thought was exclusively human, leading to the modification of the definition of the human from 'tool-user' to 'tool-maker'.

Read more about her here:

Crediting Jane Goodall is not only why I wrote this post. I wrote this to highlight the difference between two classes of societies - one that respects and truly worships its heroes and the other that pretends to. With due apologies to my friend, 'Anonymous', who incidentally accuses me of being 90% American, we know which the two classes of societies are.

Look at the movies Hollywood has made about American heroes. And I am not referring to war heroes, politicians, or sportsmen. I am talking about your 'everyday' mathematician, scientist, or writer. Many examples abound: "A beautiful mind" talked about the achievements of Dr. John Nash, whose Nash equilibrium is said to be one of the building blocks of Operations Research, "Apollo 13" commemorated the bravery of the Apollo 13 astronauts who against great odds managed to finish their intended mission, why even our own Gandhi was first celebrated by Richard Attenborough in what is the classiest movie made about him. Not to mention all the unsung fire-fighters, policemen and other day-to-day heroes who have been celebrated in so many movies.

So the question arises, why don't we have the same in Bollywood? Is it because such movies don't sell? Or is it because as a society we don't really know how to honour our heroes? Is it because we don't like heroes except those imposed upon us - like the cricketers, film stars or politicos? Or, is it because, as a society and a culture, we don't have a sense of history? Why?

I don't know. But I do know that a society that forgets its history is condemned to repeat it.


kattricker said...

I think its because it doesnt sell. Bollywood is just giving what viewers are expecting - glamour. Bollywood movies for one are seen in the remotest villages - and in my opinion a lot of low income people. For them, entertainment is to see the glamour side of life. Though bollywood has produced some heroic movies, I dont think aam-janta look at it for anything inspirational. On the other hand I think movies like "The beautiful mind" easily sell in US - concept around a culture of innovation and its celebration. PBS also has regular shows about the spirit of America and about the inventors. Like "Da vinci code" for instance evokes curiosity in the US. Whether its true or not, its one of the best selling novels and close to a few million dollars first day show in the box office. The same movie was banned in India atleast for a while. It looks like pure strategy to me.

Gops said...


Yes, it is so simple, isn't it? Because it doesn't sell, these guys don't make such movies, and because they don't make such movies, there is no audience for them! :)

What you say is so true - the US has the culture of celebrating its 'heroes'...

Welcome back :)

kattricker said...

Thanks Gops for the welcome :). I have been regularly irregular!

I am not sure if its a catch-22 situation though. I remember when we were in tumkur there were about 5 theatres, most of which would screen kannada movies. Interestingly bangalore had more english movie screening theatres - and guess where all were located - MG Road area! - the early english settlement.

I remember one kannada movie - Shankar Nag's SP Sangliana. It had a sequel too and was pretty successful.

H said...

Gops, are'nt there Indian movies which worship Indian heroes ??

Guess, In the end it all boils down to how much money the movie industry can make on their investment.

Anonymous said...

There are good Indian Movies too. For instance, swades for its sheer simplicity yet carrying a strong message, Page3 that reflects what Page3 parties look like,Brilliant performances by Konkana sen and Rahul Bose in Mr & Mrs. Iyer.

If your wondering am talking about only the serious cinema, let me throw some light on some of the performances portrayed beautifully by Indian actors like the Priety Zinta playing the role of a highly disturbed/confused girl in Kal Ho Na Ho, do I need to say anything about Rani and Amitabh Bachan in Black? I don't know how many of us even bothered to notice Kiran Kher(in Hum Tum) playing the role of an innocent, funny, caring mother who is ready to compromise on any customs/traditions just to see her daughter(played by Rani) happy.

Its just that once a movie is a huge hit, the press brags n brags about the movie's success in west, east, north, south and everywhere and we completely forget what touched/taught/made us lay back n think in the last movie that we saw.
Or,Is it that we see only what we want to see in a movie ?

And now, coming back to
Jane Goodall,
Why is it so difficult for us to realize the fact that which Indian Dad/Mom would like to see their daughter wearing shorts, carrying a bag, roaming in the jungles of Africa doing some serious study on species of another kind?( No... don't get me wrong. am not trying to dis-respect Jane Goodall. was just trying to give the picture that prevails in our society and hopefully has a long long way to go).

John Nash
The country that I live in, is a developing country. Its always good to compare ourselves with someone who is far better than us in the field of research.Gives a lot of scope for improvement. Not that we do not respect our heroes, but maybe we'll get to see them in our movies once we have them in adundance :-)

Gops said...


As I have said a million times before, I only mean what I say and I only say what I mean. My point was not that there are no good movies in Hindi cinema - all the examples you gave are awesome, movies like Border celebrated our war heroes, and there are a hundred others. My point was that we don't have movies about the common hero. The Visvesvaraya who built my college, the Jamshedji who defied the British and built India's first steel plant, the JRD who was India's first pilot - where are the movies about them? Where are the text book lessons that quote the British resident saying "I'll eat every pound of steel that blood Indian makes"? In which text book will you read that immortal quote of Visvesvaraya's - "What a waste of energy" when he saw the Jog Falls!?

My post was also not a critique of Indian achievements...So, I don't mind that there is no Indian Jane Goodall. That is not an issue - in fact, there was no Indian Barkha Dutt either - until Kargil came along. And I must say, I'm privileged to know in flesh and blood, another one. So, it'll happen, if not today, tomorrow, that we'll have Jane Goodall's of our own. But will we celebrate them then? Or will we demean their achievements - like the Gowda's did to Narayana Murthy? That is the issue.

kattricker said...

Absolutely love the way you write pal!

Gops said...

Thanks Karthi!
I simply love appreciation! :D