The resounding success of Slumdog Millionaire has temporarily transported Danny Boyle to seventh heaven – a plane not unfamiliar to many of Bollywood’s great directors. While there, DB happened to bump into a permanent resident of the heavenly spheres – masala-maestro Manmohan Desai. Here’s what they talked about:
MD: Danny, my boy, the world needs more masala. The future of films rests on masala.
DB: You’re so right, Man ji. In Slumdog Millionaire, I tried to reproduce your formula with a few innovations. I hope you liked it.
MD: Aah Danny… Innovation is the death of masala. Always remember that.
DB (taken aback): but…
MD (ignoring the interruption): And when you make a good curry, you DONT STINT ON THE MASALA.
DB (determinedly interrupting): The Laws of Masala Movie Making say that certain departures from formula are allowed. And I did NOT stint on masala. There was poverty, cute kids undergoing extreme hardship, separation and re-unions (I had more re-unions in 10 minutes than you had in one whole film!), unbelievable co-incidences, loathsome villains, destiny, romance, and above all, rags-to-riches and happily-ever after! Thats the required masala allowance.
MD’s smile is a study in patience. Here’s a man, it seems to say, who needs to be taught the ABC of masala. Ever generous, MD is willing to teach this new kid-on-the-block the delicate art of masala movie-making.
Rule #1 - Maa NEVER dies, at least not until the end. If you must kill a parent, make it the loving father whose death puts intolerable burdens on her. I always say that one careless Maa (the ones in my movies were always misplacing their kids) is better than a dozen loving fathers.
Rule #2 - Re-unions always need a theme song or a sign (body art/birthmark or love-token) or someone who knows the truth and can inform the parted brothers/lovers. Whoever heard of kids growing up into different actors but still recognising each other on sight? That is so unrealistic!
Rule #3 - All villains should either be reformed by the end, or pay for their crimes with death or jail. You let Anil Kapoor get away with every kind of villainy and he didnt even get dishoomed!
Rule #4 - Police does not torture innocent, hard-working people, unless it happens to be British police in the Raj. If you must break this rule, then at least have the policeman give a speech about his duty being above his feelings!
Rule #5 - The hero always protects his heroine’s izzat and if he fails to do so, takes revenge on the guy(s) who took it away.
Rule #6 – The hero should be able to dishoom a dozen men single-handedly. Your hero not only looks like a chai-walla he actually behaves like one, too, and never dishooms back!
Rule #7 – Any director who neglects to include memorable dialogues, comedy, a romantic song (or two) and a spunky heroine, doesnt deserve to be elevated to the masala realm. You need to inject some FUN in the movie!
A considerably chastened DB attempts to remonstrate with the masala-maestro, but MD continues unmoved…
MD (severely): And you’ve also broken the most important rule of all,
Rule #8 - Good masala is always family-friendly. How can parents and kids enjoy a movie if they are scared of puking or howling in pain from onscreen shit and gore? That shit covered kid in your movie will bring down food-sales in the interval and escalate the theatre’s cleaning bills!
Having dashed poor DB’s masala hopes, MD has this consolation to offer…
MD: Of course, your film isn't all bad. You can show it to all those pro-life people and show them what happens to orphans. They might lose their eagerness to bring unwanted babies into this world.
DB (feebly): I was only trying to inject some much-needed reality into the masala formula.
MD: Reality is so over rated… But if it is reality you want, let me tell you, its even harder than good masala. I can introduce you to my neighbour Satyajit Ray, or earthlings – Messrs. Govind Nihalani and Shyam Benegal et al… - who can teach you how to make reality tastefully and artistically. But my advise to you is: stick with masala. Its more rewarding and longer-lasting than reality, provided its well done.