By Rollo Skinner
If you’re only looking straight ahead you can’t go very far – Part II
I’m on the flight trying to choose a film I’d never watch.
I close my eyes, finger on screen and choose…
Fitoor. A young artist tries to win the heart of his muse, while her mother hatches a scheme to end his quest for true love.
Sounds great. I’ve never watched a Bollywood movie.
My expectations? Music, melodrama and dancing.
I’m not wrong. We open on the Kashmir … Snow falling… Music playing… I’m thrilled.
Then a title, ‘Based on Great Expectations by Charles Dickens’
Devastated. I want to try something different. Something original. This isn’t a real dot if I already know the story. But then the music soars, begging me to watch on.
After meeting our central character Noor (Pip). He’s soon called to the house of Begun (Miss Haversham). The arrival of Fitaus (Stella) is spectacular. She canters in slow motion, dressed all in white, on a white horse.
Sitars strumming, women wailing, every semiotic in the book telling us there’s no one as fit as Fitaus.
Lesson 1: For a crash course in semiotics watch Bollywood movies.
Noor is spellbound. 40 seconds of slow motion wonderment.
She dismounts and then promptly laughs as his shabby shoes.
15 years later in Delhi and Fitaus and Noor meet again. They are both now impossibly beautiful and successful. Noor is wearing some practical trainers. Fitaus looks at them and smirks.
Cue another montage of Noor in the shoe shop buying very expensive black shoes. The uplifting music is in full blast – buying expensive shoes isssss goooooood it tells us. Noor appears to again to Fitaus. She’s visibly impressed by his shoes. In fact I think she falls for him in that moment.
Wealth and glamour seem tantamount to happiness in this film. The stirring music doesn’t just tell me to feel something, it does make me feel something.
But it’s too polished.
It seems garishly beautiful. Luxuriously lit.
The sequences bursting in their sumptuousness.
But then it’s no different from a Chanel advert.
Lesson 2: It’s all about context.
There’s one caucasian actor.
He has one line ‘I’m going to cancel my yoga today… I can’t do it… I just can’t… ‘
No explanation why he’s there, he doesn’t appear again. He’s the token white guy.
Thanks to Bollywood there’s no need for Western movies. Their knowledge of us is through tourists. So they must think we’re a a bunch of pasty yoga loving hippies.
The most memorable moment of the film was Noor’s sister arriving to greet him. She walks up the street smiling, waving, then, BANG, she is blasted by a bomb. Immediately drawing your attention to the Indo-Pakistani conflict in Kashmir.
A while later someone on the plane lifted their window letting in sunlight. In the corner of my eye the light and the whooshing sound made me jolt with fear that the plane had just burst into flames. This was the affect the bomb scene had had on me.
We need to affect our audience so that it continues to affect them after engaging.
Lesson 3: You need to shock to be remembered.
The rest of the film blurs in my memory.
This year I’m going to challenge myself to –
Lesson 4: Collect as wide a range of dots as possible.
In this overpopulated, creatively saturated world, Creatives will all be searching for dots in the same places. The same shows on Netflix. The same galleries.
To stand out from others we need to broaden our search. The broader the search the more exciting the possibilities. And the sum of the two dots will equal something greater than either of them.
1 + 1 = 3
Who knows, one of us might be working in Delhi one day. What better way to learn about a nation’s attitude, dreams and fears than through their films. So watch a Bollywood film, (although perhaps not Fitoor, it wasn’t well received), I’ll be watching another.
If you’re only looking straight ahead you can’t go very far.