Making a Hindu-Muslim/India-Pakistan tearjerker is easy. You don’t need a script or a story line. All you need to do is juggle the characters around and tweak the plot – One wanders into the other’s territory by error and is incarcerated, but then there are good guys there and of course one of them falls in love with our befuddled intruder.
And here is Spunkybong’s First Law of India-Pak Smoochery – the hero is usually Indian and a Hindu and the Heroine, obviously Pakistani and Muslim. Throw in evil uncles, vicious sarpanchs, avaricious police officers and bleeding heart mullahs/swamijis and you have a sure-fire blockbuster.
Oh yeah, the mullah/swamiji has to be pure milk and honey, speaking his lines with sage nods and all-knowing and benign smiles, from a pedestal on high. The pathetic Bollywood-crafted illusion that holy men are the very symbol of piety and truth, has to be maintained, or otherwise the movie will turn into one of those Om Puri/Nana Patekar revenge bloodfests. The audiences won’t accept that in an India-Pak amity movie. They have come to see love, brotherhood and lots and lots of hugs and mush.
The other permanent fixture in any India-Pak smoochfest is the military man. Invariably he is a good, exceedingly brave guy, who is ready to give his life for his nation. Doesn’t matter if he is Indian or Pakistani. Military guy -> Good guy, brave guy, period.
And if I may add the Bollywood version of the Korean DMZ (De-Militarized Zone)and the Iraqi NFZ (No-Fly-Zone) – I have named it the NMFFZ (No Meandering Force Field Zone) – a barren strip of land on both sides of the India-Pak border over which the hero (the Hindu Indian) meanders absentmindedly into Pakistani territory. The force field kinda draws the hero on to the other sides – that’s it, shmuck, keep goin’, ‘nuther coupla steps and yore there, Gotcha! You could of course call it the OTIYBZ (Oops This Is Your Backyard? Zone).
The overall balance is a fine one – the number of Pakistani bad guys is equivalent to the number of Indian bad guys and so is it for the good guys. And if the Indian hero is an orphan so is the Pakistani heroine. Call it Spunkybong’s Second Law of India-Pak Smoochery. Check it out if you don’t believe me.
To the ordinary man on the street, be it in Karachi or in Delhi, film-goers are thirsty for peace and brotherhood in real life between the two nations. The yearning is palpable – so deep that every single India-Pak smoochie-coo has been a hit even when some really sucked.
The latest bubble-boo, the Salman Khan starrer Bajrangi Bhaijan, has already recovered it’s cost of production many times over. It is running to packed houses as I write, having been released just a week back. The recent real tensions across the border seem to have fueled the box office bonanza.
Yeah, that’s another thing – Spunkybong’s Third Law of India-Pak Smoochery – the more the real cross-border tensions, the higher shall be the abovementioned yearning and therefore the box office receipts from these mushy India-Pak shoobadee-doos. Defense contractors are not the only ones who benefit from the India – Pakistan border skirmishes. They have bureaucrats and politicians to bribe, while the Bollywood producer simply keeps ‘Bhai’ in Karachi happy and he can rake it in.
The paradox – how India-Pak relations in reality are inversely proportional to that on celluloid – is not India-specific. Remember ‘The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming’, the super-hit Hollywood comedy at the height of the cold war? The idea of Russians and Americans being friendly toward each other was a novel one for recently McCarthy-freed American audiences.
I think it is that ‘adversaries coming together’ thing that the audiences love. Imagine if Oscar Schindler had been Jewish? (Schindler after all can be a Jewish name too). Would Schindler’s List have been even a story, let alone a blockbuster?
Hey, I’m not done yet – there’s Spunkybong’s Fifth Law of India-Pak Smoochery – if an India-Pak cuddlefest doesn’t have too much sex in it and shows a modicum of balanced nuances, the movie is sure to win the Indian National Award, much like the way a Hollywood film on the Holocaust or American slavery or Native Americans sweeps the Oscars. If it hadn’t been so ludicrously inauthentic (as most Quentin Tarantino films usually are), Inglorious Basterds (or is it Bestards?) would have surpassed Titanic at the box office.
Let’s take a quick look at some India-Pak rub-a-dubs of the recent past –
Henna(1991): Indian (shmuck) boy wanders into Pak territory in a daze from an auto accident, mistaken as Indian spy but lovingly brought back to health by pretty Pakistani farm girl. Straightforward, innit? (Cost: $0.6 million / Box Office: $1.9 million)
Gadar(2001): Set in 1947, a love story between a Jatt Sikh and a Muslim girl, with the India-Pakistan partition as its backdrop. Boy saves girl or girl saves boy, I don’t know and I don’t give a shit. (Cost: $2.9 million / Box Office: $9.4 million)
Veer-Zara(2004): Boy, Indian Air Force pilot, crashes inside Pak territory, saved and brought back to health by sexy Pak farm broad. (Cost: $3.9 million / Box Office: $15.1 million)
Bajrangi Bhaijan(2015): A small Pakistani Muslim girl (twist – she’s deaf or dumb or something) who gets stranded in India and this simpleton Hindu man who rescues her and takes her back home to Pakistan. And wait, the girl gets back her speech (ugh) (Cost: $19 million / Box Office: $100 million and counting)
There you are. Don’t they prove the Spunkybong Laws?