Art and Life and Imitation.


I wrote this rather long back. I’m just clearing old drafts now. Deleting the ones that led nowhere, publishing the rest. Bear with me.

I watched Nadodigal a few weeks back. I don’t recommend it. Painful to watch. Even worse music.

But everyone seemed to be lauding it for its ‘realism’. Yeah, I was one of them, too, while watching the movie.

The language they use seems authentic. The smallTown-ness seems so too. The character sketches seem so too somewhat, at some level.

But what bothered me a bit was the clothes.

One of the two leading ladies wears quite uh… realistic salwar-kameezes in the scenes when she’s at college. And in the scenes at home, she wears loose striped tshirts with skirts.

Which made me wonder… how much should art imitate life and how much should be vice versa?

It’s fine when Sadhna cut became a trend, when Yuva skirts were the latest, even SRK’s ‘Cool’ chain is fine… but when art imitates life, which life promptly imitates back, doesn’t it make things bleaker than it already is?

Like what would life be if the loose striped older-and-much-bigger bro’s tshirts and mismatched skirts became a trend? Sure, it might have a chic avatar which would quickly be adopted everywhere, like Boyfriend Jeans, but heck, at the end of the day, it’s just bad taste.

There’d be no sparkle, no break from the mundaneness of reality. Now NITK Lingo, if shown in a film, would probably appeal to folks from other corners of the country where they talk proper. But to us, it’s just “Eww man, he can’t even put DASA lingo properly”. And god save the country if everyone started adding -ax and -esh to phrases. It’s okay in college. Tolerable. But if magnified on a large-enough scale, it can easily be painmax.

This sort of life-imitates-art-imitates-life thing can work well if the stuff imitated in the first place is different enough, diverse enough, cool enough. Like Denim… it was just workers’ clothes to begin with. But as we become more and more homogenized, and can know enough about any culture we want at the click of a button, like just look at any damn college blog for NIT and IIT lingo, there’s not much novelty value. Everything’s just another stereotype. We’re so inundated with information these days that we cannot get back the wonder we had at anything new… like how speaking Mumbaiyya suddenly became cool after RGV’s Satya came out. Plus, our lives and thoughts are so influenced by the Media these days that there’s nothing to imitate that isn’t already there in some form in public memory.

Like once upon a time, MTV with their superstar lookalikes was so cool. These guys who looked like Dev Anand, Hrithik, SRK, Ganguly, and parodied every damn thing. But now they are part of our er.. ‘culture’, and now we can as easily have a parody of people who parody superstars. And subsequent levels of indirection. While there can be innovation in these subsequent levels, like you see in re-re-remixes, it can’t be as good as coming up with original stuff.

Move over Madhur Bhandarkar. We want Manmohan Desai.

PS: I just wanted an alliteration. I don’t think Mr. Bhandarkar is all about realism… it strikes me more as a weird voyeurism.

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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One Response to Art and Life and Imitation.

  1. Shreevatsa says:

    I don’t understand most of this, but from what I gather, it seems to say: it’s bad for contemporary art to be realistic, because we’ll run out of things to imitate. If this is in fact what it’s saying, I find the implicit assumptions terrible and even scary. 🙂

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