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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Heavenly masala movie-making…

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.
MD: Let me enumerate the sacred masala rules you’ve broken:
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.


  1. This is brilliant--and hilarious! Great post--though I loved "Slumdog"!;)

    You really know your masala--and gosh, you're 100% correct about all of your, er, I mean MD's points!

  2. Applause...wah !!
    What a post !! You should do this more often. You are so correct. MD revisited in SM. Even I had mentioned about MD's formulas in my SM review.

  3. You rock!!! This is absolutely superb. I'm still laughing, remembering all the MD movies I've seen that have adhered strictly to each of these rules.

  4. ROTFLOL You are, as ever, hilariously correct.

  5. Oh Bollyviewer, So true!!! Now I understand why there was no interval during the show... :>!! Had I but known that SM was not just a 'masala movie' but a 'masala movie gone all wrong' I would never have ventured near the theatre! But I was quite proud of myself for not throwing up (not a mean achievement if you are in your first weeks of pregnancy and are watching SM) - I did cheat by keeping my eyes closed half the time though :).

  6. Hahaha!! Thanks for the laugh today! Love the masala-ness. :)

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  8. Ira you are a genious. Undoubtedly a genious. "one careless Maa is better than a dozen loving fathers."- indeed.

  9. Hilarious :) Manmohan D. is chuckling from on high.

    I liked Slumdog precisely because it struck a balance between Bollywood-ish masala and a more serious film...although I wouldn't call it realistic in the least as some people have been labeling it.

    But there's nothing better IMO than MD's particular brand of cracktastic masala. Nobody but him can do it the same way.

  10. Thanks everybody for the compliments. Love 'em! :-D

    Nida, I was certain MD would feel very strongly about DB's breaking of masala rules! ;-)

    Darshit, you also noticed touches of MD in SM? *off to find your review*

    dustedoff, MD was a stickler for the rules. Thats what made his movies so much fun!

    ajnabi, I like the implication that I am always correct! ;-D

    Ruchi, "masala movie gone wrong" is an excellent way to describe SM! Inspite of all the right story elements, good acting, great production values, etc., it just doesnt work. And yes, I had to look away from the screen to avoid embarassing myself too, and I am not pregnant! You need to watch Luck By Chance to recover from this, and for some very well done masala...

    Nicki, you are welcome!

    theBollywoodFan, wouldnt it be great to see a masala-contest between Desai and Boyle? My money's on apna Manbhai.

    Shweta, MD knew the true value of maa ki mamta! ;-)

    memsaab, there's nothing quite like "cracktastic masala", is there? :-)

    SM's been marketed as a "feel-good" movie but frankly, I've felt better after watching the darkest of Govind Nihalani's films! For me, the masala was greatly overshadowed by all those gruesome and plain yuck things onscreen that prevented me from enjoying the film.

  11. #4 - make that "honest policeman does not torture innocent, hard-working people". After all, the police can always be "in the pockets of" mafia/villain/politician.

  12. Tsk tsk tsk... Amey, have you seen an MD movie? Logic doesnt rate even a guest appearance, and you want it to be the lead! MD khush nahin hua.

  13. Love it! Who knew for a form that seems so free-wheeling and zany that there are in fact so many elaborate and finely-tuned conventions and rules!

  14. Brilliant - the sheer madness/genius of masala movies is explained in a way only MD could ;) The man responsible for 3 of the (arguably) greatest masala movies ever in AAA,
    Suhaag (1979)
    & Naseeb is certainly capable of teaching the fine nuances to any good filmmaker.

  15. Great reading. I'm all for MD, everything everyone says is taking me further and further away from watching SDM.

    Simply loved that 'careless mother' bit.

  16. Beth, the devil is in the detail and if you get the details wrong, the finished product doesnt come out quite right! I do hope that DB will learn from MD but considering the number of awards the movie keeps harvesting, the hopes of that seem slim.

    Sanket, thanks and welcome to OiG. I loooovve Suhaag and AAA and Naseeb are on my to-watch list. MD certainly was the masala king! They sure dont make such films anymore. :-(

    Banno, stick to MD's masala - its way more fun than Slumdog Millionaire!

  17. Lying on the floor in splits!!!


  18. This post deserves to be published.
    ROFL (as usual).

  19. Greatest post I've come across so far on the filmi blogs! Wonderful job! This should have got some mainstream coverage imo back when this movie was making the rounds.

  20. Thank you so much Upendra! You just made my day!!! :D