By: Anuvab Pal
Movie endings fascinate me because they say so much about the creator. Shakespeare in Love, the big Hollywood movie from 1998 is one of my favorite endings because it does to romantic comedies what all romantic comedies should do — not end the romance. It predicts the end early on. Someone says, “There will be tears and a journey” — and there is. To me, that’s much more satisfying in a rom-com, not because I am a misanthrope and I like sad endings, (maybe I am) but because there’s hope, and a possibility that they might be together at some point, as opposed to the bland, “happily ever after” (which is nothing and never really happens).
Closer to home, as a kid, I remember being sad at any ending where Amitabh Bachchan died. Which is why Shaan was always better in my head than Sholay. I didn’t care if good won over evil, I just wanted Amitabh around at the end. There are super endings which we don’t do in Bollywood anymore. I remember one where monsters are unleashed by the villain on Dharmendra, bigger and bigger ones, till a point where he fights two giant bears (one polar) and the villain. In Mithun Chakraborty’s dance movies, the end climax was always a disco fight (disco dancing while fighting), which the world needs to bring back.
I remember how the Karan Johar endings in the 1990s reminded me of those Oscar Wilde or Shakespeare play endings. Always lovers reuniting, a marriage and everyone now at peace with the couple who’ve spent three hours convincing every distant uncle that they should be allowed to be together. By the end, there are never any dissenters, even though guns may have been pointed earlier in disapproval. I’d love to see one of those endings where one side character says, “This is crap. He should have married the other one. I hate her”, or “How slow is this train that allows Kajol to run and catch up with Shah Rukh Khan? I know India has slow trains but this is at another level. This movie says more about Indian Railways than it does about unrequited love.”
Nowadays, the blockbusters are the same. Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan pretty much did the same movie six times with different names like Kick, Jump, Go, Laundry, Singham Returns, Singham Never Left, Singham is Waiting Downstairs, Action Jackson, Decimal Fraction, whatever. The modus operandi seems similar. No shirt. Muscles. Hitting things and getting the girl. We know how those always end — and it’s never with the line, “I think an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. I trust the judicial process in the country to take over from here. Terribly sorry for punching you in the face.” No, they end with mother-of-all-thrashings imparted by a shirtless, oiled 50-year-old man pretending to be 30 and swinging nan-chucks. They fly, run, jump, thrash, love, scale walls, without any physical issues. An honest version of these movies would have the star throw a punch, pull a muscle or jump off a car then double over in back pain, demanding Iodex. That would be the real end. Fortunately, reality and our movies are on parallel highways.
Then there were the massive blockbusters like Bang Bang! and Happy New Year, which are never watched for plot. There is an ending, but it doesn’t matter. Someone plans to steal something somewhere (usually Europe or Dubai), and we are supposed to follow what happened to the stolen thing but, basically, it’s an excuse to show beautiful people do stuff (usually just lip synch) in beautiful locations. Those movies every year should be renamed “SRK In Dubai Doing Stuff”. Or “Hrithik Roshan in Spain, Shirtless, Serenading, Doing Stuff”.
Then there was a movie called Khoobsurat, which was technically about a sprightly Delhi physical trainer (Sonam Kapoor) who falls in love with a prince. It was supposed to end with them “happily ever after” but actually ended with women everywhere melting at the sight of the stylish Pakistani actor Fawad Khan (who played the prince) and thousands of housewives across India wanting to kidnap him and put him in their handbags for later use (no further details available).
The biggest film of the year, though, appeared in December. A story of an alien who comes down to earth and India, in particular, and finds us rather deceitful. I suppose one doesn’t need extraterrestrial intelligent life to tell us that we are, generally, cheats, life tells us that. Still, it’s nice to know that the storytellers, who are supposed to be the biggest hope of Bollywood, clearly signal at the end of their story that there is no hope — for us, or for visitors from other parts of the universe.
The movie everyone talked about, though, was Queen and it is easy to see why people identified with it. If a single Indian woman is given an option between a Paris holiday and spending the rest of her life with an Indian man, and if the end goal is happily ever after, her choice is quite clear.