When I first stepped into the sweaty, grimy city of Bombay, doe-eyed-mouth-wide-open at that, I have to admit that I was a little confused. I didn’t expect to see so many cows on the road and such short, four-storied buildings. I expected a smaller, kitsch version of New York. Of course coming from an almost rural childhood in Assam, anything (or rather, any building, house, habitat) taller than my father was considered urban. But I still was, essentially a confused child. A few years into the city I chanced upon the realization that out of the few hundred things missing in Bombay, pothole-covers, dust-bins included, the most significant would be a signboard outside Goregaon Film City that said: “Goregaon Film City: Home to the delusional since 1911.” After a few years of puberty, I assume that 80-90% of Indians chance upon the fact that Bollywood has led to a statistical increase in the number of delusional people. For the remaining 10-20% who never really give up on their delusions, well, let’s just say that the chances of you getting a visa is less than you think it is.
Let’s face the facts. You are most likely to be born in a middle class family that cannot afford a huge-ass car, forget a chopper to drop off your son from college. This point may not be valid if you happen to be a scion to one of the Ambani brothers or Vijay Mallya but considering that they already have kids and are not willing to reproduce any further, I don’t see this as a possibility good enough. Forget the choppers, inviting a thousand or so young people for your local Karva Chauth party is going to be a riot, especially if you expect all of them to be well-dressed. The number of ACs you would require to have a party like that without everyone sweating their make-up off is huge. Your first day of college will neither be as bad a situation as the whole nerd-wearing-sweater-gets-bullied-by-Romeo-with-chick-who-sympathises-with-nerd, nor as great as dancing-with-giggly-cheerleaders-and-spotting-hunky-dude-with-green-ferrari. In fact, on the first day of college, the nerd and the Romeo will remain in the socially awkward bubble of introducing themselves. The hottest girl in college will not magically fall into your arms as you save her hair from catching fire from the stray spark of her Bunsen burner. There will be no stray spark and her hair will never catch fire. There will only be you, the semi-good looking girl from college and a Bunsen burner. Woops.
For those who reside in smaller towns or cities, life will bring further shocks. You may first enter a disco or a nightclub at the age of say, 18 and expect the DJ to dedicate a ‘song for that lovely girl in red’ and then some euphoric cheering while hordes of men and women dressed in the same colour scheme groove to the same moves, pulsating such that their drinks never spill. Or a random dude may guide the entire dance and revolve all the steps around you while you blush and laugh with your girlfriends. Welcome to reality dolt, that is the definition of creepy. And that guy who offered you a drink, who you may have calculated to be the perfect match for you, well I saw him drop a little something into it while you were busy trying to ignore him. Another disappointing factoid of life that you might have ignored is that it doesn’t really come with a background score unless you have the money to hire A.R Rahman who will transmit new tracks via satellite during an important event of your life. Violins cost money and skill, two things that will not come easy while you deliver your first kiss. If it is of any consolation, the sound of slurps, a car in the background whooshing past, a dog barking and (if luck may have it) a Gujrati lady talking about dhoklas may keep you pre-occupied during your, erm, event.
I don’t really have a problem with Bollywood over-exaggerating every comma in the storyline. It is entertaining to watch stereotypes grow. So whether or not that Muslim family next door sits on white mattresses and drinks Rooafza every evening, it is funny to assume that they are. Perhaps their young son was too tired flying kites and their young daughter was too exhausted from drying clothes on the terrace and hence needed some Rooafza to chill. It baffles young minds to think that a pot-bellied Sardar may not always crack jokes and laugh raucously at himself. From these cultural digs, what one may easily infer is predictable to say the least. America becomes the land of NRIs jogging, hoodie in place and headphones tagging along. Not to forget the gray-scaled condo with the modern kitchenette. India on the other hand becomes this montage of fast shots with a few finite elements such as the middle aged-man scratching himself publicly, the child gorging on a burger, a random cow in between, the old lady brushing her teeth, some men dangling from the local trains, a young beggar laughing amongst others. What’s more amusing is that muscular, oiled up men with a few emaralds hanging from their groin portray Indian Gods while the women goddesses move slimily on lotuses, wearing Kanjeevaram sarees. Good enough reason to doubt the existence of God, I say.
Considering I have lived all my life in India and most of my adolescent years in the land of Bollywood, I have evidence to prove the delusional effect of Bollywood on most people, such that if I had to classify it into any genre of art, I wouldn’t blink before shouting ‘Surrealism, bro!’. I don’t want to go all Chuck Palahniuk on you and destroy your dreams about a handsome Baazigar arriving on a horse, wearing a cape et all, but unless the Russian circus is back in town or a rich businessman’s son ran away from his wedding on the Mahalaxmi race course, I wouldn’t get my hopes on so high.