Imtiaz Ali’s film, Highway, shot across six states — namely Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh is also an attempt to co-opt the life and culture of these states in its narrative. Kai Po Che did some of that for the city of Ahmedabad, where the story was set in. Uttar Pradesh, especially the ravines of Chambal, have been making a comeback of sorts too in the stories of outlaws and bandits, while our cities especially Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi and Lucknow are gaining ground once again, often as well-defined characters that influence the storytelling.
This yen for setting stories in lands far and near is resurfacing now, be it the badlands of Wasseypur, decadent havelis in Uttar Pradesh or any other. In a welcome change of sorts, geography, is no longer history in Bollywood films.
Hindi movies for a while now have carried with them a sense of wanderlust. Whether it was exploring the romantic seduction of An Evening In Paris, the charm of the chinars in the vale of Kashmir, the lush verdant hills in Kerala, song shoots in far-flung icy Antarctica, it would be safe to say that Hindi films have been there and done that.
It’s but a natural corollary that with all the crossing over in our movies, not to mention people from different parts of the country and even outside of it coming in, the topic of biases and ethnic stereotyping is being brought out in the open. Ethnic bias, as anyone who has lived away from their place of birth, is fairly common around the world in general and India in particular. Why, the most recent incident that showed the ugly side of such prejudice when a young student from Arunachal Pradesh was beaten to death by locals in a Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. They got into an altercation and then a bout ofl violence, when he protested against them making fun of his attire and hairstyle, resulting in a tragic death. This is an emerging reality that has not been talked about too much.
Quite a few Hindi films have touched upon gender and communal issues; homophobia is coming out of the closet and given the scenario around us, fortunately issues of ethnic identity and stereotyping are coming to the fore too.
Tackling the subject of cultural differences albeit in a lighter vein are two films namely 2 States and Total Siyapaa that will soon be in our neighbourhood theatres. While the former touches upon prejudices that North Indians and South Indians bear towards each other, the latter is a romcom with similar biases that Indians and Pakistanis hold. Apparently, love triumphs in the end and in the process these steadfast opinions do too.
Humour, as they say, is often the best way to make a serious point. Hopefully the two films mentioned above will go some distance in sensitising people against regional/ethnic chauvinism and do their bit in narrowing the gaps.