Bang Bang! (India, 2014)

Directed by: Siddharth Anand.  Other than Mother India back in Film class, I basically haven’t seen any actual, legit Bollywood, so I randomly picked this off the shelf. Turns out it’s based on Knight and Day (directed by James Mangold), a dumb Hollywood romance-action-comedy that I snubbed when it came out, so I have no idea if this movie is overtly Hollywood-ized or if it actually gives me an idea of what legit Bollywood is like. But to my eyes, it seemed pretty Bollywood. It seemed more animated, more heightened, bursting at the seams, in the familiar James Bond spies-and-villains stuff, and in the familiar regular-person-in-extraordinary-circumstances stuff (which is getting really familiar after The In-Laws and Central Intelligence). I’m not sure what I mean by that, but there’s a sense I’m noticing in the non-Hollywood stuff I’m seeing, like the Hong Kong/Chinese movies I’ve been seeing, where instead of a usual deadening, gritty take that reads as “realism” in Hollywood, you get much more emotional, it’s a bit more operatic—the slow motion screaming, the dramatic music stabbing out of nowhere, without any qualms about presenting itself as a movie. I guess it feels like the diegesis isn’t such a holy thing here, where at all costs, we need to shield the audience from the fact that they’re watching a movie, and not, in fact, reality. Here, they respect that the audience knows it’s a fucking movie, knows that it’s a high-budget, high-production fantasy, and embraces that. And the most conspicuous example of this philosophy is, of course, the song and dance numbers. What a brilliant idea! Of course, classic Hollywood had a whole musical genre, but I think it was a casualty of  the same impulse that claims realism (even though most Hollywood movies are about as reflective of human behaviour as a fucking cartoon), that shames any enjoyment of something so obviously put-on. And I guess that’s a discussion for another day, but I think it’s great that a film can wear its film-ness on its sleeve. This film is a gigantic celebration of the coordination and expertise and practice and perfection of a high budget major movie production itself. This movie is such an assault on the senses, but unlike a Michael Bay movie for instance, I don’t feel like I was just forced, in some Clockwork Orange laboratory, to binge-watch 12 hours of demolition porn, which is how you’re supposed to feel after a Transformers movie, or a Fast and/or Furious movie. This is an assault on the senses in a much more positive sense, and I think it’s because it’s a generally positive movie, it has a functioning, simple, direct mythology in place, and it feels comfortable with itself. I’m sure many in the West might look at this thing and see how transparently male-centric it is, how impossibly heroic this handsome man is, and how hopelessly useless and dependent this leading woman is, but honestly, it’s no more misogynistic than any Michael Bay/Furious movie (not to mention James Bond movie) out there. And again, they’re so impossibly attractive, both of them, it exists so obviously outside of reality, that I would argue it causes way less harm overall. This was great fun, and I’d like to do it again sometime!

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