Strangely, Bollywood is so like the Democratic Party in the U.S.|
Both Bollywood and the Democratic Party have huge numbers of committed followers numbering in the tens of millions. Fans of both comprise mainly the middle- and lower-class (In any case, the Rich in the U.S. have the Republican Party to coddle them with tax breaks and estate tax repeals while the Rich in India gambol on jaunts abroad or are busy hunting endangered deer).
But one of the surprising oddities of our times is that both Bollywood and the Democratic Party seem to have a serious difficulty in telling their faithful base a stirring and gripping story,
Indeed, that failure has caused both Bollywood and the Democrats enormous grief.
That failure to convey to fans a gripping story causes most Bollywood films to flop badly (with a few recent exceptions) and most Democrats to lose elections (the coming November 2006 Congressional polls might well be different) despite considerable public disaffection with the Republicans.
In its essence, Bollywood is two things - the triumph of quantity over quality and large-scale theft.
Most Bollywood directors steal, and steal unabashedly on a horrific scale, mostly from Hollywood. Even as top Bollywood stars scream about piracy, they turn a blind eye to the massive theft going on day in and day out, year after year and movie after movie in their own backyard. English movies are shamelessly plagiarized with a zeal that'd make Kaavya Vishwanathan blanch.
Foreign movies that have reappeared in Bollywood include Out of Time, Man on Fire, Analyze This, Disclosure, When Harry met Sally, Nueve Reinas (Spanish), On the Waterfront and Collateral.
In A Short History of the Movies, Gerald Mast and Brude Kawin write about Bollywood that, "The pressure on the studios to provide film after entertaining film for a huge, uneducated audience has led to a consistent mediocrity, a devotion to formula and convention, and a fear of experimentation."
It's hardly surprising that constrained by the tight framework of repetitive love stories, plagiarism and the five songs-three dances-two fights formula, most Bollywood films fail and fail badly. Very few films - Fanaa, Bobby, Sholay, Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Aradhana - have become notable successes in the last three decades.
The tragic failure of the Democrats in the U.S. mirrors that of Bollywood - the failure to articulate a strong, stirring storyline or message.
Like Bollywood, the U.S. Democratic Party is completely adrift with shopworn shibboleths and uninspiring leadership.
The Democratic Party is essentially the party of the less privileged - African-Americans, Latinos and other immigrants, blue collar workers and teachers in contrast to the Republican party, which is the handmaiden of the rich and big business interests.
But increasingly over the last few years, the Democratic party has been "Swiftboated" and "OutFoxed" by masterful Republican storytellers, who know how to tell a clever story and stay on message.
Indeed so total has been the failure of the Democratic Party that in the last Presidential elections, millions of middle- and lower-class voters in Middle America voted sheep-like for the Republican Party, which immediately "rewarded" them with a law that made declaring bankruptcy very difficult and cuts in social service programs.
Until Bollywood and the U.S. Democrats can learn to tell a gripping story to their fans, their success will just be a crapshoot - a sheer gamble.