MovieChat Forums > Kites (2010) Discussion > I Need A Cultural Perspective On This Fi...

I Need A Cultural Perspective On This Film.


I'm an American who's never been to India and has seen only one other Bollywood film, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which was excellent. Over the years I have seen pre-Bollywood Indian films. So what am I missing here? I liked KITES most of the time, but towards the end had the feeling I really wasn't getting it. That there were inside jokes and references which were going by me. Could you Indians be kind enough to explain what you saw that I may not have? Thanks!

--Rayf

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I am not an Indian. However, like you, I'm an American who saw my first Bollywood film recently. This February I saw My Name is Khan, which led me on this journey to understand the phenomena of Indian cinema. I'll try to be brief as to what I have gleaned:

Slumdog Millionaire was a British film. There are about about five moviemaking centers in India, Mumbai's (called Bollywood) is the largest. Lots of Indian films are set in the USA, Australia, Canada, or elsewhere to make interesting stories regarding the clash of cultures. That was a huge theme in MNIK, set in San Francisco. MNIK -- Indians refer to their films in acronyms. Since 22.5 million Indians live elsewhere, abbrev'd as NRI (non-resident Indian), the diaspora audience is huge. Also, Indians in general are global players, big time. However, with 1,000 film releases a year (compared to 600 for US), most films, of course, are set in India. MNIK and Kites both had a global release strategy.

Until recently, all Bollywood movies had huge song and dance numbers. Less so the other four movie making centers. As to Kites, hope you saw the Hindi version to see Hrithik (pronounced Rittick) dance. He's revered as a gorgeous hunk in India, among many other hunks. His acting is good, too -- very good in Kites, I thought. MNIK featured the biggest performing artist IN THE WORLD, Shahrukh Khan, 79th richest man in the world in 2008. His "biggest star" label is based on fan base -- some say 3 billion. No typo, 3 billion. Don't forget there's 1.2 billion in India. Grandmas love him, little kids, too. An amazing guy -- very accessible, VERY articulate. I have listened to a lot of interviews on youtube.

The Indian govt. has controls over morals shown in film -- I'm not too acquainted with that aspect -- but as a result of the controls as well as plain ol' tradition, there's no kissing. Kites is one of the first and, if you saw the Indian version, there wasn't much. One critic called Kites a good example of Hindi sensibility. Loved that phrase. As an aside, Kites was released this weekend in a N. American version and apparently there is a steamy sex scene.

The Indian cinema community page on imdb.com is very interesting to read. There's some really opinionated folks on there! They spat and feud. Very entertaining.

Didn't mean to drone on. Hey Indians and NRIs, correct me where I am wrong.

"Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal."

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[deleted]

The musical numbers I expected because of SLUMDOG... neatly done. Hrithik is indeed a fine dancer, and the chemistry between him and the female lead is impressive given the restrictions on explicit sensuality. I had no idea who Khan was and now see why he kept "coming back."

Thanks,

Rayf


















--Rayf

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The Indian govt. has controls over morals shown in film -- I'm not too acquainted with that aspect -- but as a result of the controls as well as plain ol' tradition, there's no kissing. Kites is one of the first and, if you saw the Indian version, there wasn't much.


They have some control but sometimes filmakers can argue around points and get what they want as opposed to what the censors want. For example in 2004, a film called Shaque was released with a topless scene in it. It had gotten away with it because it didn't have any big name stars so they thought nobody would see it. I read that people went to see it just for that scene.

As for kissing, the west perpetuates this idea that kissing is banned in 'Bollywood' films. This is simply not true. Though kissing is not so common, especially when you compare to western films, it has been in hindi or 'bollywood films for at least over 40 years. I saw the film "Mera Naam Joker" made in 1970, which had both an inter-racial kissing scene and some nudity in it. And this was a mainstream bollywood film with one of it's top actor-directors of the time.

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[The Indian govt. has controls over morals shown in film -- I'm not too acquainted with that aspect -- but as a result of the controls as well as plain ol' tradition, there's no kissing. Kites is one of the first and, if you saw the Indian version, there wasn't much]

Not true really. Infact the first ever bollywood kissing scene is quite old. It was a 1920s-30s movie, i forget the name now, but am sure you can google it.

What the 'censor board' doesn't like is nude (topless/front/back) or extremely suggestive scenes, even in movies certified as 'A' (Adult). But mostly you don't find erotic scenes because the makers don't want an 'A' certificate for their movies. And so, you will find a kissing scene only if the censor board feels the plot really demands it.

These things have also gone in cycles over the years, with the 70s being a lot more open (there were a few movies with near-nudity like Mera Naam Joker, Ram Teri Ganga Maili, etc and racy themes). than the late 80s and 90s, and the 00s again seeing a relaxation in cultural attitudes.

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what exactly did you not get? As far as i remember, there were no real inside jokes or references in this film. If you were more specific about the scenes then maybe i would be able to explain better. I'm an Indian and this film really didn't appeal to me much.

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Well, let's start with the mermaid-went-back-to-the-sea finish. If ever a film should NOT have had a doomed-lover ending,IMO, it was KITES. Even decorated by Hans Christian Andersen the doomed-lover bit did not work for me. Why did it work in India?
--Rayf

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It didn't! This film has flopped in India. I assure you that the ending wasn't liked at all in India.

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[deleted]

Now THAT surprises me. So for whom was this film made? From what cultural perspective?
--Rayf

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I think that's one of the big reasons why it flopped. It tried to use a typical hindi film story and make it into hollywood style and spectacle but it backfired on them as it neither did well in India or overseas.

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Don't mean to be a boor about this, but what do you mean by "a typical hindi film story?" KITES did not strike ma as very typical of anything especially during its first--and best--hour.
--Rayf

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Well, nothing really happened in the first hour that we can call story. The first hour was basically set up. The second hour was the story which was basically a ripoff of god knows how many hindi movies. The only difference was that instead of two people from different stratas of society such as a rich girl, poor boy, this movies opts for two people from different cultures altogether. By plot, i meant basical plotline, like two people who were with someone else, fall in love and runaway to be pursued by the people they betrayed. That isn't a very original idea anywhere.

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I think that climax scene where lovers die falling of a cliff was an intentional homage to the end scene of a classic Indian film Maro Charitra, (Telugu film)*(1978) which was later remade into equally and more widely successful Hindi film "Ed Duje Ke Liye"(1980). Kites also shares the language barrier of the two lovers from this movie:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082314/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ek_Duuje_Ke_Liye


<blockquote>The movie is about the love between a Tamil man, Vasu (Kamal Haasan) and a North-Indian woman, Sapna (Rati Agnihotri), who are neighbours in (Goa). They come from totally different backgrounds, <b>and can hardly speak each other's language</b>. Their parents despise each other and there are regular skirmishes for various reasons. When Vasu and Sapna admit their love there is chaos in their homes and their parents totally reject the idea.

As a ploy to separate the lovers, their parents impose a condition that Vasu and Sapna should stay away from each other for a year, and after such a period if they still want to get together they can get married. Also, during the period there should be no contact between them whatsoever. Vasu and Sapna agree to the condition and decide to separate.

Vasu moves to Hyderabad, and they both initially suffer a lot being unable to tolerate the separation. Vasu then meets Sandhya (Madhavi), a widow who teaches him Hindi. Meanwhile, Sapna's mother brings a family friend's son, Chakram (Rakesh Bedi) to Goa to distract Sapna from her devotion to Vasu, but she is not impressed. At a chance meeting in Mangalore, Chakram lies to Vasu that Sapna has agreed to marry him. Vasu gets upset and decides to marry Sandhya on the rebound. However, Sandhya comes to know of Vasu's real love and goes to Goa to clear the misunderstanding between the lovers.

Vasu then returns to Goa and impresses Sapna's parents with his Hindi skills. When Vasu goes to meet Sapna he is attacked by an assassin hired by Sandhya's brother (Raza Murad). Meanwhile, Sapna gets raped at a temple and left to die. <b>The movie ends tragically when they both commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.</b> It was a remake of the Telugu movie Maro Charithra.</blockquote>


To answer a question you raise, yes Kites COULD have been a successful movie in India even with the doomed lover scene(there are several other examples of doomed lover films that were successful; ie. not doomed, at box office. But Kites somehow sucked big time, for me. I appreciate good Hollywood movies and good, masala, entertaining Bollywood movies. Kites is not a typical bollywood movie. Watching it was a forgettable experience for me.

Another example of doomed lovers in film in India is the several remakes of "Devdas" (a Bengali fictional story), remade (some times multiple times) in all filmmaking centers in India. The latest attempt was a successful movie starring the King of Bollywood, Sharukh Khan himself and the "most beautiful woman in the world" Aishwarya Rai.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0238936/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devdas_%282002_film%29

<blockquote>Devdas (Hindi) is a 2002 Hindi film based on the Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay novella Devdas. This is the third Bollywood (Hindi) version and the first colour film version of the story in Hindi. The film is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and stars Shahrukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, and Aishwarya Rai in the leading roles.

At the time of its release, Devdas was the most expensive Bollywood film ever produced, with a reported budget of Rs 50 crores.[1] The film was released in six alternative language versions: English, French, German, Mandarin, Thai, and Punjabi.</blockquote>


<blockquote>[...]On the verge of death, Devdas remembers his promise to see Paro one last time. He travels to her house, collapsing in front of the main gate. Paro learns of his presence, and, screaming his name, runs out of the house and attempts to reach him. Bhuvan, probably thinking she is going to escape for her lover, sees this and orders the servants to close the gates. Devdas sees a blurred image of Paro running to him, but the gates close before she can reach him and Devdas dies. At the same time, the lamp that Paro had lit for him flickers out. The screen goes black as Devdas lies dead in front of the mansion as Paro sobs, heartbroken.</blockquote>



*Telugu film industry, also called Tollywood, is one of the 5/6 major centers of film making in India (refereed by one commenter above). Others are Tamil(Kollywood), Bengali and Malayalam language industries. Tamil and Telugu industries tend to produce as many as the Bollywood movies in number. Bengali and Malayalam industries produce arty-type/independent films more. World renowned Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray was a Bengali who is known for his Apu Trilogy films( finds place in the Times 100 films of the 20th century).

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Thanks very much. Now I see why KITES did not make it with Indian audiences. The Mermaid-went-back-to-the-sea final scene must have annoyed Indians as much as it annoyed me.
--Rayf

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I'm an American married to an Indian, so I've probably seen more Indian films than the average American.

Bollywood should not be used to describe any and all movies that come out of India, nor movies about India.

Slumdog Millionaire is not at all a Bollywood film. It was a British/Scottish crew and company that made that film.

Not all movies that come out of India are song and dance, cheese-fests. Mr. and Mrs. Ayer, Water, Fire, etc. are all non-Bollywood Indian movies. I personally think that Mr. and Mrs. Ayer is the best Indian movie that I have seen.

Much to my wife's dismay, I don't care for very many Bollywood films or their talent. I find the majority of the movies ridiculous with silly plots and even sillier dialogue. So many of the movies borderline on the fantastical. I also really dislike the "borrowing" from Western films. Not all Bollywood movies are terrible, but if I have to see another 3 1/2 hr long song and dance bore-fest, it will be too soon.

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I don't care for very many Bollywood films or their talent. I find the majority of the movies ridiculous with silly plots and even sillier dialogue. So many of the movies borderline on the fantastical. I also really dislike the "borrowing" from Western films.


I agree, most bollywood movies are pretty awful. It does not deserve to be called "Indian cinema" since it does not represent the real India, just a fantasy India which they created. However, they are not intended for us. They are not even made for the NRI's or Indians born in the west. They are made for the masses of India, which includes many with low literacy rates and income. That's why they are so simplistic and fantastical, as those people do not want to see realistic cinema which may depress them. They want to fanatsize that they are the kids of rich businessmen with endless cash to spend and alot of time to globe-trot around the world.

When a new bollywood film is released, you have to wonder not if it's gonna be good, but if it's not as crappy as the last.

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