The Producers Guild of India has developed a “new working protocol” as film and TV crews prepare to go on set after the lockdown is lifted. It is dreadfully sterile — no hugging, kissing or sharing bad habits, always wear masks and gloves and keep away from anyone aged over 60. This is what will happen behind the scenes. But what if the sanitary and distancing norms we now live by were to be extended to the cast? The immediate consequence would be the abolition of sex and violence, the two plot elements on which the entire edifice of popular cinema rests. For both activities, actors must get really close up and personal. The censor board would silently become extinct, too, but it would not be missed except by historians of cinema and insecure neighbourhood uncles.
However, masks and gloves would be in character in boxing films, to an unsatisfying degree. Imagine watching Raging Bull with only the training bits — in real bouts, it’s just gloves and no padded headgear. Superhero films could prosper, too, since lead characters and their sidekicks are masked by design. But it would be hard to tell them apart from stock characters like thugs, flatties, subhuman judges, corrupt politicians and innocent bystanders if they’re also masked. Frustratingly, the superheroes would be robbed of physical agency by distancing norms. The plot would suck. The movie would bomb.
What of love? After decades of struggle to get a kiss past the censors, must we regress to the callow device of displaying two luridly Technicolor flowers suggestively intertwined, or butterflies flitting and sipping in richly florescent gardens? And the injunction to spurn people over 60? Does it mean that an era has ended without our knowledge, because we had already seen our last Amitabh Bachchan movie, before the lockdown?
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