Thursday, 9 February 2012

Govinda at the Oscars

Picture Clint Eastwood applauding loudly at Govinda's eclectic dance moves. Picture Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart smiling approvingly at the same dance.

This scene is not a product of my overactive imagination. It is a part of a film called Censor, a film that tops my list of "Bollywood movies that are so bad that they are good". If you have not had the pleasure and the privilege of watching Censor, here is an outline.

As the name suggests, the film is a satire on the Censor Board of India. Dev Anand plays a director who makes a revolutionary film about "Indian youth", that truly maligned group that all kinds of filmmakers make all kinds of assumptions about! The Censor Board of India refuses to pass the film because of its inclusion of sex and violence, not realizing that this is a profound film about "reality". I've forgotten most of the film within the film, because I was switching between Censor and something else. Yes, till that point in the film, I was still able to tear myself away from it.

The Indian Censor board declares that this film within the film cannot be released in India. One of the producers, Archana Puran Singh, decides to release it in America, where it is a runaway success and is nominated for the Academy Awards. From this point on, the film had me: there was no way I was changing the channel. Dev Anand used footage from actual Oscar telecasts in the film, and put it together with his narrative.

Naturally, the film wins the Oscar for Best Film, for which various Hollywood stars, including Clint Eastwood, applaud heartily. Not just that, in true Indian style, before the next award is announced, there is going to be a dance performance. And this is how Govinda gyrates on a stage, while various Hollywood stars look on approvingly. After Govinda's performance, Dev Anand wins the Oscar for Best Director, making a speech wherein he thanks his wife, and takes pot shots at the Indian Censor board. And Hollywood dutifully goes on applauding.

At that time, I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous this was. Today, I remember that hyperbolic moment most fondly. It was part of the fantasy of excess that made Dev Anand who he was, that makes Rajnikant who he is. More realistic cinema is all very well, but there are moods when I'd rather see something visually or imaginatively "over the top". It is soul food, but is definitely an acquired taste.