Why does Rahul Gandhi behave immaturely?

The dramaturgy of the Indian film



Thematic determination

Notes on contemporary culture in India

On the history of mainstream Indian film

About the peculiarities of Indian film and cinema culture

A word about censorship

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - a brief synopsis

About the typical structure of an Indian mainstream film

Typical dramaturgical elements

Excursus: The Sanskrit drama in the example

Other dramaturgical elements

Singing and dancing

Background music

The "rasas"


The connectedness in the spirit

The wedding

The religious ritual



Dramaturgical function and concept

Traditional roles

"Family" action space

Character names as character stereotypes

The figure of the mother

The adopted child

Classic dramatic structure

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - Preliminary Remarks

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - Scenes and Commentaries

Basic constellation

1 opening credits (00:00:55 - 00:04:20)

2 London, Manor House College (00:04:20 - 00:07:31)

Notes (scenes 01 and 02)

3 hardware, in a temple (00:07:31 - 00:13:05)

Notes (scene 03)

4 Flashback: The Festival of Lights (00:13:06 - 00:20:29)

Notes (scene 04)

5 Family Life / The Promise (00:20:30 - 00:26:30)

Notes (scene 05)

6 Anjali (00:26:30 - 00:30:36)

Notes (scene 06)

7 Rahul and Naina / A first dispute (00:30:37 - 00:33:16)

Notes (scene 07)

8 Anjali and Rahul (00:33:17 - 00:40:59)

Notes (scene 08)

9 The 50th birthday (00:41:00 - 00:51:57)

10 The Apology (00:51:58 - 00:54:46)

11 School stress (00:54:47 - 00:55:42)

12 The Reconciliation (00:55:43 - 00:58:14)

13 Folk festival in Egypt (00:58:15 - 01:10:14)

Notes (scene 13)

14 dissonances (01:10:14 - 01:14:15)

15 The Wedding (01:14:16 - 01:20:41)

16 Naina releases Rahul (01:20:42 - 01:23:27)

17 Love or Obedience (01:23:28 - 01:24:52)

18 Love and Death (01:24:53 - 01:27:28)

Notes (scenes 14 to 18)

19 offenses (01:27:29 - 01:37:25)

Notes (scene 19)

20 Farewell to Rohan (01:37:26 - 01:38:47)

Notes (scene 20)

21 Back in the present (01:38:48 - 01:39:06)

22 The decision (01:39:07 - 01:40:59)

Notes (scene 22)

23 changes (01:41:03 - 01:41:50)

24 inquiries (01:41:51 - 01:43:55)

25 Farewell (01:43:45 - 01:46:34)

26 London (01:46:34 - 01:49:01)

27 Rahul's New Life (01:49:02 - 01:54:35)

28 The reunion (01:54:36 - 02:04:52)

29 The Stranger (02:04:53 - 02:11:49)

30 Approach (02:11:50 - 02:17:51)

31 King’s College Party (02:17:52 -: 02:27: 40)

32 Father (02:27:41 - 02:32:21)

33 Karwa Chauth (02:32:21 - 02:36:43)

34 The Feast (02:36:44 - 02:42:20)

35 School Festival (02:42:21 - 02:57:01)

36 Brother (02:57:02 - 03:00:28)

37 The Decoy (03:00:28 - 03:01:50)

38 Bluewater Mall (03:01:50 - 03:07:12)

39 Stubbornness (03:07:13 - 03:11:45)

40 Force Majeure (03:11:45 - 03:13:31)

41 Settlement (03:13:32 - 03:19:30)

42 Happy Ending (03:19:31 - 03:28:05)

43 credits (03:28:06 - 03:30:04)

Final consideration and outlook


Media directory


Anyone who has seen a modern film from Indian popular cinema only once - by chance or on purpose - will have a strange experience. This experience consists of several competing impressions: First, when you leave the cinema, you notice that you have just spent a good three hours in it without really realizing it. In addition, one has the feeling of having seen a film for which at first only negative connotations of descriptive formulas want to come up: “Schmonzette”, dance film, homeland film, love story, “soap opera” - and yet to have amused yourself in the process. Salman Rushdie once called it the "epic-mythical-tragic-funny-super sexy-high-masala art"[1].

There is currently a trend to increasingly incorporate “Indian elements” in western film and theater productions [2]. This tendency, known as “Bollywood chic”, developed in the course of the orientalism of the 19th century or, to put it simply: If you polish the exotic of a foreign culture to a high gloss for Western viewing habits, it becomes for a society that is tired of its own cultural mainstream , really interesting.

What makes this peculiar fascination of a so-called Indian mainstream film? What is so appealing about a film in which “the protagonists suddenly start singing and dancing without need or direct cause”, as the Swiss film scholar Dr. Alexandra Schneider prints it out[3] ? This work tries to trace this phenomenon and, in particular, to shed light on the dramaturgy, the tension that binds this conglomerate of stylistic means together into a receptive experience that captivates the viewer for a good three hours and leaves a lasting impression afterwards.

The film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which was shot in 2001 and is the first film from “Bollywood” - the Indian film industry, corrupted as the “Hollywood” of Bombay, should serve as an example[4] - came to the German art house cinemas. After the film was only shown there with German subtitles, a private broadcaster brought a now fully dubbed version with the German title "In good as in difficult days" on television in 2004[5]. This allowed "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham", which translates correctly as "Sometimes happy, sometimes sad", to be the most internationally successful Indian film to date, which incidentally also became a "hit" in India itself with its enormous star line-up.

At the end of February 2005, on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Indian film, “arte” also broadcast a whole series of newer Indian films and also several documentaries, which are also taken into account in this work.

Thematic determination

As already indicated in the introduction, the dramaturgical elements of the modern Indian cinema film should be the focus of consideration. In order not only to recognize these, but also to define them according to their function, at least a brief look at the diverse origins of these elements is required.

In the dramaturgy of modern Hindi cinema, it is not only ancient Indian literature, the Indian Sanskrit theater or the classical drama of Greek art that have left their mark. There are also influences from the popular American and European film, from the own Indian film history and last but not least from the cultural and religious tradition of India, a country in which well over a billion people live, with the most diverse languages, religions and local Cultures. Contemporary Indian culture also plays a major role in the dramaturgy of modern films.

Thus, this work cannot be limited to a cultural or media studies perspective if it wants to do justice to its thematic orientation. Your major challenge is to work out the aspects that are important for the dramaturgy of modern Indian mainstream film and to present them in their context without getting lost in the diverse subject matter.

It would be entirely possible, in addition, to shed light on, for example, the production conditions of Indian studios, the influence of state and politics on film production or its religious and cultural aspects in detail, but that would go beyond the scope of this work inappropriately. The compact book Bollywood - a guidebook to popular Hindi cinema by Tejaswini Ganti is particularly recommended for further study of the subject.

Notes on contemporary culture in India

For the approach to Indian film and its peculiarities, a brief look at the culture of this country, populated by over a billion people, is useful. Indian culture is undoubtedly strongly influenced by the history of the country and its multireligious society.

Until 1947 the Indian subcontinent was a colony of Great Britain and was called British India. When the country was given independence that year, it split into the states of Pakistan and India, causing mass exodus in both directions as Pakistan established itself as a Muslim state and India as a Hindu state. About seven million Muslims and five million Hindus lost their ancestral homes; around one million people lost their lives in the accompanying civil war-like unrest. The two new states have not come to a really peaceful neighborhood to this day, as the repeatedly flaring up conflicts over the Kashmir region, which has been claimed by both sides, show.

In India, the population is currently about 82 to 86% Hindus, but there are also around 100 million Muslims in the country, making it the largest Muslim population in any country in the world[6]. In the last two decades, a strengthening of fundamentalist tendencies could be observed, as a result of which there were repeatedly religiously motivated unrest, for example in 1993 in Bombay[7]. According to an estimate, there have been around 12,000 religiously motivated communal riots and massacres since India's independence[8].

A defining element of Hindu society is the caste system, closely connected with the belief in rebirth: Depending on the merits in the previous life, one is rewarded or punished in the next life, depending on which caste, ie social class, one is " is born into it. This understanding of faith, which is detrimental to the lower social classes, has temporarily led disadvantaged Hindus to migrate to other religions - Buddhism and Christianity[9].

While this information gives the impression that India could find itself in a kind of “religious time warp”, which prevents a development towards modernity according to western standards, a look at politics, culture and economy shows that there is also another side of India : that of the up-and-coming industrial state, politically a democracy with pluralistic characteristics, in which the Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs, Jains, Parsees, Christians and Buddhist people stand for a cultural wealth that is unparalleled in the world.

In economic terms, the Indian population is divided into three strata: the ^ Business Class Economy ", the" Motorcycle Economy "and the" Ox-Wagon Economy ". Around 2% of the population, around 25 million people, belong to the business class, which also includes the upper class, while the bourgeois middle class is characterized by the widespread means of transport of the moped or motorcycle. The middle class is made up of around 250 million people who can afford a television, radio, telephone and a gas connection. Most of the rest, almost a billion people, still do their transports by ox cart, just like in ancient times. The caste system is particularly important for this rural population. The more developed and modern the economy is, the less the influence of religion on everyday life and thinking.

The regional distribution of economic power is very different. While in the northwest around the centers of Bombay and Delhi and in the south with the up-and-coming Hyderabad[10] and the boom in “Indian Silicon Valley” Bangalore is clearly noticeable, the rural regions in the north and east are stagnating[11].

Daily life in India is shaped by religion; The same applies to the culture and also to the cultural products of the country, such as films. The film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham examined in this work, for example, deals with social class differences that are gradually losing importance in modern Indian society, especially among the many Indians living abroad, and rather represent an antiquated India. Although modern film can deal critically with contemporary Indian society, films in particular are also subject to a kind of moral, cultural and religious censorship, as will be seen below[12]. This is not even a question of censorship imposed by the state, but rather, to a certain extent, a predominantly self-imposed compliance with cultural and religious standards of value and moral concepts[13]. Corresponding to the importance of religion in everyday Indian life, it also has an indispensable place in films[14].

Cinema and film have a very high recreational value for the Indian population, not least because they offer variety and diversion in the midst of a rough, stressful everyday life.

On the history of mainstream Indian film

In the context of this work it would be inappropriate to want to capture or represent the history of Indian film in its entirety. With regard to the thematic setting, the focus should therefore be on the popular Hindi film since the early 1990s.

Around the beginning to the middle of the 80s, the media presence in India changed permanently. Until then, television played a very subordinate role in the Indian media landscape. A state-run television channel, Doordarshan, had existed since 1976, but it was only available to a limited extent. That only changed with the organization of the "Asiad Games"[15] 1982. The increased public interest led to a greater spread of color television, shortwave transmitters and satellite systems[16].

From 1983 television was also sponsored by the private sector, and from 1984 the private cable network spread, starting from tourist hotels. In May 1990 there were around 3,450 independent cable networks in India, mainly in the cities of Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras. In these small cable networks, which are difficult to control, the private operators usually supply a manageable number of households with content via connected video recorders and DVD players. In doing so, pirated copies of Indian mainstream films are often fed in, often while these films are still being seen in Indian cinemas, and sometimes even before they are shown in cinemas for the first time[17].

From 1991 onwards, cable networks were more and more frequently connected to supra-regional providers via satellite and now also broadcast programs from STAR TV, BBC and CNN[18].

The increasing spread of home entertainment, especially in the big cities, also had to influence the film industry. Due to the increasing piracy of films, the film industry initially viewed television as a danger, but it also began to use television as an advertising medium for its films and finally to develop a further source of income through the sale of secondary exploitation rights through the legal commercial broadcasters.

At the same time, however, television also became a strong competitor in terms of content and finance, because for the average Indian family with a normal income, television was now much cheaper entertainment than going to the cinema. That is one of the reasons why the cinema now simply had to do more than television could.

In addition, the marketing channels were constantly expanded. For example, Indian films have been advertised very intensively on the Internet since 1997[19]. In addition, the music for the film is generally released three months before the film starts, so that the audience is curious about the film and has already internalized the songs when it comes to the cinemas[20].

On TV there are now countless talk shows and magazines such as Filmfare, Stardust or Screen that provide information about the films and the stars[21].

With the increased competition and the professionalization of the marketing channels, the demands on the technical and content-related implementation of the films increased, so that since the mid-1990s the popular Hindi films with digital sound, the best picture quality, locations abroad and of course extravagant dance and singing - passages can come up[22] Accordingly, the cost of the productions increased enormously. The salaries of the stars also almost assumed Hollywood proportions.

The Indian film companies are currently making increased efforts to position their films internationally. Many companies have already set up offices in New York, London or New Jersey. In addition, the films are increasingly being provided with international subtitles or even dubbed by partner companies in order to be able to appeal to a wider audience all over the world. The positioning of Indian films at the famous film festivals in Cannes, Venice and Toronto has also increased the popularity of the Indian mainstream[23].

In the meantime, echo effects can be observed more and more: Lately, due to the influence of the Indian mainstream, song and dance have again gained more prominence in European film, as have several newer productions, such as Baz Lurmann's Moulin Rouge, Ghost World (director: Terry Zwigoff) or Dancer in the Dark (Director: Lars von Trier), prove it.

Conversely, so-called "Hinglish productions" are increasingly appearing, ie films with a mixture of Hindi and English that were not shot in India, but were made in locations in "diaspora cities" such as London or New York[24]. In these films, the changed way of life of the Diaspora Indians is increasingly thematized - so Western culture also influences Indian films. A good example is Indian Love Story (Kal Ho Naa Ho). Singing and dancing still appear in this film, which is set in New York, but these are sometimes more reminiscent of popular western musicals, such as Hair.

About the peculiarities of Indian film and cinema culture

India is a country in which the distribution of mass media has not yet been adequately proportioned to the size of the population - albeit with impressive growth rates. By the year 2000, around one billion people in India had fewer than 800,000 Internet connections.By 2003 this number rose to 8 million, and by 2008 it should be 35 million[25]. The relation to population growth has to be taken into account: India has a birth rate of around 24 million new inhabitants of the earth every year. For comparison: in Germany there are only slightly more than 700,000 per year[26].

Comparable figures on the spread of television sets are not available, but it is understandable why cinema culture is so important in India. The cinema is considered to be the number one leisure activity[27]. In addition to the aforementioned under-spread of home entertainment, this has a number of other causes.

For example, it is pleasantly cool in the large cinemas. Cooling units ensure that people can escape the shimmering heat and hectic pace of the day in a darkened, comfortable room. Just entering the cinema is the beginning of a conscious “escape from reality”. The large cinemas on average can hold around 500 to 600 visitors, while the large cinemas can hold up to 1,000 people at each performance[28]. Most of the old buildings date from the colonial era.

The box offices in the cinemas are regularly rushed. Mostly patiently, the visitors wait a good half an hour before they have their tickets and can go into the hall. Well-off Indians send their domestic workers to the cash register to save themselves the queuing.

In India, around 10 to 15 million people visit the around 13,000 public cinemas every day. Given this crude interest, it is not surprising that India also has an enormously productive film industry. In the film studios all over the country around 800 to 1000 films are made each year, which clearly surpasses the production of other countries worldwide[29]. It often comes to the generalization that “Bollywood” produces so many films, but in fact only about 150 to 200 Hindi films are shot in the studios in Bombay each year, which roughly corresponds to the production loss of the gross Hollywood films. Studios corresponds[30]. Most of the films are made in South India in the Tamil language[31]. Nevertheless, Hindi film production from Bombay is more important nationwide, because these films are broadcast and received in almost all parts of the country. The Indian photographer Dayanita Singh put it in her essay “Cinema is our second religion”: “The reason why Hindi has become so popular as a language in this multilingual country is because of the cinema. Besides that, there was absolutely no reason for a Bengali to understand Hindi. "[32]

In addition to the domestic productions, the cinemas also run international productions, mostly from Hollywood, in English-language versions. The home share of Indian films in Indian cinema is an overwhelming 95%[33].

The demand for cinema tickets is great enough to establish a black market on which the tickets are traded for partly moderate, partly heavy surcharges. From a local point of view, at least, the cinema is a rather cheap pleasure[34]. In the older movie theaters, tickets for domestic productions usually cost between 25 and 60 rupees, which was around 50 cents to a little more than a euro. It only gets more expensive for Hollywood productions and in the dozen or so modern multiplex cinemas, where a ticket can cost 100 to 150 rupees, or around two to three euros[35]. Accordingly, most Indians can afford to visit the cinema regularly[36].

In the case of Indian films, the first screening of the day usually starts around 12 noon; The following shows are usually around 4pm and 8pm, as the films are rarely less than three hours long.

Before the main film begins, there is some commercial and a government-required documentary; In addition, there are often so-called “newsreels” that provide information about current events[37]. Advance announcements of new films follow - then comes the main film.

What happens now depends a lot on whether the film is brand new or whether it has been around for a while. First performances are particularly popular with younger audiences, because this way you will be the first to know what the film is about, know the actors, the songs, etc. - an invaluable advantage when talking to your peers[38].

In the case of first performances, the audience generally follows the action with excitement so as not to miss anything and to internalize all the details. The “knowledge” acquired in this way comes into play when you see the film a second or third time in the cinema. With such a performance, the situation in the cinema is completely different: the “initiated” speak quietly to the dialogues of the people and raise their voices to sing along with the songs. When a leading actor comes into the picture for the first time in a film, this is buried with applause - a fact that the directors of the films are well aware of, which is why they sometimes construct such scenes in an almost cathartic way.

With their knowledge of the film, viewers increasingly see themselves as critics and comment on the film scenes. For example, if a protagonist recites a poem or a song, an appreciative “wahwah” can often be heard in the cinema, which in Hindi means “great”.

In this way, going to the cinema turns from an originally receptive event into an interactive matter. That makes up a large part of the pleasure of going to the cinema. What you can only occasionally experience in Germany with so-called “cult films”[39], is the norm in Indian cinemas. This also has a considerable influence on the dramaturgical elements of a film: the more unusual the dialogues, the more catchy the music and the lyrics, the more likely a film will leave lasting impressions on the audience that extend into their everyday world[40].

This is roughly how the cinema experiences and events take place in the rougher cities of India. There is also a not exactly known number - one assumes maybe 3,000 - “traveling cinemas”. These are small cinema entrepreneurs who are only equipped with a projector and screen and travel to more than 600,000 Indian villages to show films there[41].

A word about censorship

There is a censorship agency in India that monitors compliance with legal requirements in film production. According to the law, excessive love scenes are forbidden in films, as well as sexual acts and incidents that suggest immoral behavior[42].

From the point of view of western viewers, this would not be a reason to forego kissing scenes in a film, but in India it is different. In public, all physical contact other than hugging and holding hands is viewed as a violation of public order. Although kissing on the mouth is not explicitly forbidden in the film, the filmmakers mostly adhere to this practice that comes from public life and do not show any such scenes in the film either.

The director Nikhil Advani (e.g. Kal Ho Naa Ho) sees the censorship agency as a normal part of Indian life[43]. The Indian directors adhere to the conventions that have been imposed without any particular circumstances.

The commercial success of Indian productions, especially in Muslim countries, is closely related to this self-limitation, because here traditional values ​​are preserved even in modern times, and the limits of decency are not exceeded, even for Muslims.

In addition, Indians can go to the movies with the whole family without fear of moral abuse to their children. This effect is financially factored into the productions.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - a brief synopsis

Since in the later remarks about the typical structure of Indian mainstream films and the dramaturgical elements, the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which is the main basis of this work, has to be referred to, a brief summary should be put in front of it to facilitate understanding:

The wealthy industrialist Yashovardan Raichand and his wife Nandini roughly raise two sons, the adoptive son Rahul and the younger biological son Rohan. "Yash" wants Rahul to take over his company soon and then marry the young Naina, a woman from a good, rich family, but by chance Rahul falls in love with poor Anjali from a poor district of Delhi, who is with a domestic servant of the Raichands Is related. There is a dispute between father and son. Rahul wants to give in at first, but when he visits Anjali to inform her of his father's decision, he ends up in her father's funeral ceremony. Out of an impulse, he marries the now self-sufficient Anjali on the spot. When the father found out about this, he disinherited Rahul and passed away from the family. Rahul moves to London with his wife and disappears from the family's life.

Ten years later, the younger brother Rohan, who had meanwhile grown up, learned by chance of the circumstances under which his brother Rahul suddenly disappeared. He makes a decision to bring the family back together. He persuades his father to let him study in London, where he soon makes contact with his brother's young family, incognito. Finally, Rohan brings the parents and Rahul and Anjali together in a fictitious encounter in London. The father, who has remained tough over the years, does not want to give in. It was only when his mother died in India while he was in London that father and son came together again at their funeral. The father collapses under the impression of loss and confesses to his false narrow-mindedness; the family is reconciled again.

In addition to this main storyline, there are several small subplots, for example about the developing love between the younger brother Rahuls and the younger sister Anjalis, which completes the emerging generation conflict and ultimately leads to a wedding.

About the typical structure of an Indian mainstream film

The mainstream always aims to appeal to the masses - this is not so easy in India when you consider that there are 17 state-recognized "official" languages ​​in this country alone. The greatest common denominator is the Hindi language, which is spoken by around 40% of the population. Accordingly, mainstream films are produced in this language. The largest production location for Hindi cinema is “Bollywood”.

However, these so-called mainstream films have more in common than just the language, because the Indian film producers and marketers have tried to determine analytically what makes Indian films so successful in order to be able to "copy" the recipe for success they have won over and over again. This approach may not be dissimilar to the way western film producers work[44], but the ingredients of the Indian recipe are significantly different.

If you wanted to put the modern Indian mainstream film in a genre drawer, it would most likely be that of melodrama, but you also had to open the musical drawer, because no Indian mainstream film can do without dance and singing[45]. In addition, most Indian films value a clear moral message.

The Indian anthropologist Tejaswini Ganti aptly points out that the content of Hindi films has changed considerably since the introduction of satellite television: class differences are rarely discussed; the content focus is on social prosperity. References to poverty, economic struggle for survival or religious struggles have disappeared from the films. The protagonists no longer come from the lower class or the working class, but are often incredibly rich - it is not uncommon for the younger protagonists to be the sons and daughters of millionaires. When working-class characters do show up, they usually provide the problem for the plot or create tension.

Furthermore, unlike in the films before 1990, practically no representatives of the state appear in modern Hindi productions, neither police officers, nor judges or administrative officials. There is also apparently no more white-collar crime, as it was discussed before in the context of the rich and skinny. Now the millionaires are loving, courteous, kind, and mostly patient fathers[46].

For this thematic change, too, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham is a very apt example, which is also well suited to distinguishing the mainstream from films that are more marginal or out of the ordinary.

In the West, for example, the film Monsoon Wedding (2001), after being awarded the “Golden Lion” for the best film at the 2001 Venice Biennale, is considered a prime example of Indian film - but this is not a “ Bollywood ”product and by no means a mainstream film. It is true that this is also about a topic that is widespread in Indian film, namely the marriage arranged by the parents, but the US-based director Mira Nair, who began her career as a documentary filmmaker, tried very hard to avoid everyday life in India to display the light color customary in the mainstream. In the film shot in Delhi there are no choreographed dance scenes, no playback songs and hardly any background music. All actors are practically "nobodies" - there are no stars who are indispensable for the mainstream[47]. Conversely, there is a more realistic representation of physicality and sexuality, for example in the form of kissing the mouth, which is otherwise taboo. In addition, the subject of incest is dealt with in this film, which would also be hardly conceivable for a Bollywood film. In this respect, Monsoon Wedding is everything that is not mainstream without revealing its Indian identity - and yet it has been hugely successful.

Another example of an exception is the film Dil Se, which was shown in Germany under the title From Whole Heart. Here the unhappy love of a radio journalist for a resistance fighter in Kashmir is discussed. In a way, this film is something like an illegitimate child of the mainstream, because it makes use of the stylistic devices of the mainstream without submitting to its thematic restrictions[48]. On the other hand, the content borrows from Good Morning, Vietnam (USA, 1988), paired with the typical, but at least for the most part unusually staged dance and singing scenes[49]. Shah Rukh Khan casts the leading role in typical mainstream fashion and the obligatory wedding theme is not lacking either - but unlike the typical mainstream, this film mostly exudes a gloomy trepidation. Here it is teeming with soldiers, the possibility of arbitrary violence is always noticeable; and even the rape of women and children by Indian soldiers during the Kashmir conflict (which, however, is not explicitly named as a framework for action) is not too hot for the director. The unreflective patriotism of the Indians demonstrated in films such as Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham or Kal Ho Naa Ho finds an unmasking mirror in the deadly patriotism of the resistance fighters shown in Dil Se.

The typical colourfulness of Indian mainstream films is here very reduced in favor of the printing effect, as all stylistic means have been adapted to the conveyed mood. Logically, the plot does not lead to the otherwise obligatory happy ending, but to a tragic ending.

With the outline of the exceptions, some standard elements of the Indian mainstream become clear:

- the arranged marriage
- Love to fight for
- Gentle coloring of everyday life
- People's patriotism
- religiosity
- Choreographed dance and singing[50]
- Stars in the lead roles
- Happy ending (usually with a wedding)[51]

In addition, this consideration can already be used to determine which elements are taboo or at least very atypical for the Indian mainstream:

- Addressing social or political conflicts
- Openly shown sexuality, problems with sexuality
- The state and its representatives
- violence

In addition to the basic elements, there are a number of other “standards” that are combined with one another as in a modular system in order to create a film that always looks slightly different but always promises success from the same ingredients[52]. The principle is not unknown in Hollywood or in the European studios, there it is called "High Concept" film or simply "Blockbuster"[53].

However, there are differences in the narrative structure of the films. While the better Hollywood productions try above all to “plaster up” the conceptual substructure with a stringent narrative superstructure, the Indian blockbuster is more characterized by the detailed elaboration of the individual segments[54]. Of course, there is also a narrative cohesion here, but it moves into the background compared to the scenic obsession with detail, which is initially very irritating for the Western recipient with his Hollywood-conditioned viewing habits and makes access more difficult. In this respect, the assertion that mainstream Indian films are more of a “cinema of attractions”, in which one highlight is ranked after the other, rather than following a classic, dramatic plot curve, may be correct[55]. As a result, the Indian film sometimes appears less linear and tends to expand into subplot strangers.

Accordingly, Indian mainstream films for their potpourri of love, action, comedy, song and dance are not satisfied with the 90 to 100 minute long arc of suspense that is usual for us. In India, cinema is not fast food, but a social event and personal experience. Anyone who goes to the cinema in India wants to be entertained for at least three hours[56]. This is why the directors take their time to develop the plot and gain so many opportunities to integrate attractive sequences into the film. There is plenty of room for romantic love, friendship between men (or women), fateful events or encounters, upholding and humiliating traditions and the heroic struggle with injustice in life and society.

The film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which will be examined in more detail below, can be regarded as a family melodrama in terms of its genre classification, although it affects various subgenres. Depending on your perspective, you could also view the film as a love story or as a colorfully packaged social drama. In any case, however, the film skilfully serves a whole range of target groups and thus fulfills a basic requirement as a "blockbuster"[57].

Typical dramaturgical elements

As already mentioned, Indian scriptwriters and directors like to use a modular system in which standard elements such as love scenes, song and dance, friendship, tradition, etc. are mandatory.

Even modern Bollywood films cannot deny their origins in Indian tradition, because the elements used are predominantly traditions from Sanskrit drama and Sanskrit theater, which UNESCO counts as one of the “47 masterpieces of world culture”[58]. The Sanskrit drama is one of the classic Indian Sanskrit literature. The heyday of this theatrical literature reached from 1500 BC. until 1100 AD - which is more than enough time to achieve a complex and highly artistic form. The first critical treatise Na ya-sastra on Sanskrit drama dates back to 200 AD.[59] and comes from the legendary Bharata, whose works are considered indispensable for understanding India's literary past[60], especially since only a few of the original Sanskrit dramas have survived. The dramas, which were mainly performed in palaces, were marked by a strong stylization, with extensive costumes and stage equipment, but also in the depiction of facial expressions and gestures. Music and dance already play an important role here. In addition, the Sanskrit drama seems downright overloaded with religious and supernatural elements to the western observer. Nevertheless, the plot of the dramas always takes place in the "real" world.

The religious influence on the design of the drama is also responsible for the fact that all known Sanskrit dramas have a “happy end” - a significant difference to the history of Western drama. Love and heroism are the essential elements of the content of the Sanskrit drama, but “miracles” through the influence of the supernatural also play a role. The materials can deal completely with the supernatural (as in Vikramorvasi from Kalidasa) or deal with political and historical events (as in Malavikagnimitra, also from Kalidasa). There is also the type of highly melodramatic material such as in Mrcchakatika, which is about the legendary King Sudakra.

Between 1909 and 1912 Ganapathi Shastri discovered manuscripts of 13 Sanskrit dramas at Trivandrum in Kerala (South India), which he attributed to the legendary Kalidasa forerunner Bhasa[61].

Excursus: The Sanskrit drama in the example

The drama Sakuntala, composed more than 1600 years ago from the pen of the famous Sanskrit playwright Kalidasa (he probably lived in the period between 315 and 415 AD in the so-called Gupta Classic), is in seven acts about the love of the ruler Dusyanta to Sakuntala, the adopted daughter of a respected hermit[62].

One day the fate takes its course without warning: Sakuntala, absent in thought, fails to show a great seer the respect he deserves after saying goodbye to her lover. The angry man then curses them.

A curse now separates the lovers from one another, even before they have savored their love: the king, struck by the loss of his memory, no longer remembers his chosen heart. Sakuntala loses his ring, the only sign and proof of the encounter, while bathing in the river. In deep distress and shame, she has to leave the king's court again. The ring of memory seems to be gone forever. The king's longing for his beloved is now forgotten.

The mist between memory and present caused by the curse obscures the king's love of the heart. He is blind to everything he has experienced so far. Sakuntala, frightened and sad, realizes the futility of her love and speaks angrily to the king: “You judge as your own bad heart allows you. You are truly not a role model: you wrap yourself in the armor of the right and are a deep pit covered with grass! "

As Sakuntala moves away, the king does not have an exact memory, but from now on he is lost in thought of her. He asks himself whether he has taken this ascetic daughter as his wife, and continues: “The memory tells me no / but my heart / in its turmoil / punishes me.” One day the said ring appears again in the hands of a fisherman on and with him the images of love in the memory of the king. The ruler's mind now strives towards equilibrium. His shame grows bigger and bigger, but also his tenderness. He realizes his lack of conscience. The stone heart will soon be a thing of the past. The one who scolded himself “monster” had forgotten the source of love.

The gods are now kind to the king. No curse or darkness can numb him anymore. So the ruler Dusyanta, embraced by happiness, sings a song of praise to the fate: "After the blood follows the fruit /, after the clouds the rain. / First the cause, / then the effect."

The traditional type of theatrical performance always embeds the play in a religious context: the play is only opened by a prologue after the invocation of God, usually Shiva. The stucco is basically designed as a dance theater.

Although the play itself does not have any particular complexity in terms of content, it is still moving in an astonishingly simple way, as did the writer Marica Bodrozic in a review of the play[63] states: “As if a book of mankind, written long in advance, was being read, a strong, present-day memory flows from this timeless work; it teaches us that love is only unconditionally true and that there is nothing outside of the principle of love. It is “everything that is”. Through this drama we see time beyond time. This is what humans are, initially, caught up in. He is locked in himself. When he regains his true memory, leaving sorrow and suffering behind, he is certain of victory. There is also false memory, but it is precisely it that should be overcome. The longing for knowledge and light is only then redeemed. "


[1] Quoted from Schneider, op. Cit. (Masala is an Indian mixture of spices, including pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and coriander, sometimes also with bay leaf and nutmeg, and is the basis of curry; author's note)

[2] For example, in the musical Bombay Dreams by Andrew Lloyd Webber, in which Indian specialists in dance and choreography participated, or in the current film adaptation of Vanity Fair, an English novel by WM Thackerey directed by the Indian Mira Nair, who became famous through Monsoon Wedding (cf. . E.g. Knorer, loc. cit.).

[3] See Schneider, op. Cit.

[4] Officially, Bombay (Portuguese: Bom Bahia = good harbor) was renamed back to its original name Mumbai, after the Indian goddess Mumbadevi. Since then, this name has been used in the West, while the locals still call the city Bombay out of habit.

[5] In November 2004 around 1.82 million viewers saw “In good as in difficult days” on RTL II as a German premiere in a dubbed version. That corresponded to a market share of 6.9%. Among the 14 to 49 year olds, the proportion was 11.9%. Source: RTL 2.

[6] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 125 f.

[7] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 133

[8] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 134

[9] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 137

[10] In recent years, a film industry that competes with Bombay has developed in Hyderabad. The films from this region are shot in the Telugu language (see Munchmeyer, op. Cit.).

[11] Source: www.globaldefence.net/deutsch/asien/lösungen/dossier.htm

[12] This type of cultural and religious censorship is one of the reasons for the success of Indian films, which can be exported to China, East Asia and the entire Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia, because no kisses on the mouth, no explicit sexuality or nude scenes can be seen (cf. Kruger, p. 4).

[13] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 129ff.

[14] A vivid description of everyday Indian culture, its differences to Western culture and the relevant significance of religion can be found in Wagner (see bibliography).

[15] A kind of Asian Olympics held in Delhi in 1982.

[16] See Ganti, p. 35

[17] See Ganti, p. 36f.

[18] Rupert Murdoch's STAR TV has been broadcasting in India since 1992. In the same year ZEE TV started work, meanwhile the most popular Hindi private broadcaster (cf. Ganti, p. 35).

[19] See Ganti, p. 37

[20] See Munchmeyer, loc. Cit.

[21] See Wenner, op.

[22] See Ganti, p. 36f.

[23] See Ganti, p. 37f.

[24] The language mix does not even reduce sales opportunities in India itself, because even there over 60 million people, especially from the urban middle class, primarily speak English, apart from the fact that the films can also be subtitled in any language. Often film scripts are first written in English and then translated into Hindi. (cf. Krill, op. cit .; Ganti, p. 69).

[25] Source: www.globaldefence.net/deutsch/asien/lösungen/dossier.htm

[26] Source: www.welt-in-zahlen.de

[27] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 11

[28] Cf. Uhl / Kumar, p. 11. According to Ganti (p. 231, note 18), a cinema can accommodate up to 2,500 seats.

[29] From 1988 to 1998, an average of 839 films were produced annually in India (see also Ganti, p. 228, note 3). This puts India alone at the top of the world, followed by China / Hong Kong with 469 films. The USA ranks fourth with an average of 385 films per year. Source: UNESCO statistics, quoted from Hepp, Andreas, op. Cit. (Video production on the African continent, e.g. from Nigeria)

[30] See Schneider, op. Cit .; Ganti, p. 3

[31] See Schneider, op. Cit. According to other information (cf. Munchmeyer, op. Cit.), Most of the films in Hyderabad are made in the Telugu language.

[32] Quoted from Schneider, op. Cit., From: Schneider, Alexandra (ed.): Bollywood: Das Indian Kino und die Schweiz, Zurich 2002.

[33] See Schneider, op. Cit.

[34] However, the wage level in India is not nearly as high as in Germany, for example. For comparison: In Germany, wage costs in the machine industry averaged 33.8 US $ per hour in 2004, while in India it was 0.9 US $. Source: Economist Intelligence Unit survey, August-September 2004, Link: www.kpmg.de.

[35] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 12

[36] Cf. i.a. Krill, loc. Cit.

[37] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 13

[38] The film industry also makes use of this thirst for knowledge for marketing in the run-up to the film, for example by releasing the music three months in advance on CD and continuously listening to it on the radio (see Munchmeyer, op. Cit.)

[39] E.g. at the Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Life of Brian

[40] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 13f.

[41] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 15f.

[42] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 130

[43] See Suchsland, loc. Cit.

[44] There is also the term “Formula Film” for this, see Schneider, op.

[45] For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that there are also other (sub) genres, such as stunt film, historical film or - very importantly - religious-mythological film, but these genres take up comparatively little space or are partly superordinated Genres subsumed.

[46] See Ganti, p. 40

[47] If one compares the actors of Monsoon Wedding with those of typical mainstream films, it is immediately noticeable that no “film beauties” are presented here, but rather typical Indians - an obvious parallel to the difference between western art and mainstream cinema.

[48] However, according to the director Nikhil Advani, around 30 to 40 films on the subject of terrorism were made in India in 2003 alone, with the focus of most films on the action. Advani makes comparisons with Die Hard or S.W.A.T., i.e. films in which terrorist violence is combated with violence. In doing so, he also states that Dil Se has set standards for Bollywood in this regard (cf. Suchsland, op. Cit.)

[49] One notices in the film, however, that the director and screenwriter did not feel “at home” with the subject, because the characters' actions and motifs often do not seem conclusive.

[50] There are different statements about the commercially necessary number of songs and dance scenes. In general, five to six songs seem to be the standard (cf. Takhar, op. Cit.)

[51] Suchsland points out that there may be variations with regard to the ending of a film. So there is not always a happy ending according to the standard formula "male lead marries female lead" - there can also be tragic variations, for example, as in Kal Ho Naa Ho, when the lead actor who is doomed to die is a last will of the marriage between the female Leading role and the male co-star (cf. Suchsland, loc. Cit.)

[52] See Uhl / Kumar, p. 17f.

[53] The American media and cultural historian Neal Gabler sees the formulaic nature of entertainment: “Entertainment is relentlessly looking for a combination of elements that has foreseeably elicited a desired reaction in the past, on the assumption that the same combination is highly likely to occur again will cause the same reaction. "(cf. Gabler, p. 29)

[54] Dr. Alexandra Schneider aptly states in her lecture (see Schneider, op. Cit.): "Hollywood films make considerable efforts to avoid attracting the audience's attention as an artifact, i.e. as something made. The cinematic parameters and technical means - such as staging, camera guidance and editing - are subordinated as far as possible to the advancement of the narrative and the exposition of the causal relationships of the events, which also creates the realism typical at least for classic Hollywood. Bollywood films, on the other hand, like to work with exhibited artifact effects (...). Realism here implies its own subversion. Realism (...) plays a subordinate role in Bollywood films. "

[55] However, the authors Uhl / Kumar expressly point out that this should not be viewed as a deficiency in Indian cinema or Indian filmmakers as such, as there are artistic films that are definitely worthy of note that are stylistically rooted in Italian neorealism, see p 18.

[56] Against this background, Monsoon Wedding is a rather atypical film with just under two hours of running time.

[57] The director Nikhil Advani (Kal Ho Naa Ho) notes that Bollywood has frozen in its formulas. The complete focus on commercial success ensures that only those films are shown in the USA and Europe that are constructed according to the formula for success. Other films, such as horror films or action, which are also produced, were only intended to serve a niche audience (cf. Suchsland, loc. Cit.)

[58] Source: www.unesco.de. The only surviving classical Indian Kutiyattam Sanskrit theater has been recorded there since 2001, and the tradition of the Swedish spoken chant (sung verses from the religious Sanskrit poem Weda) from India since November 2003.

[59] The time of origin is given differently depending on the source and could also be around 200 BC. have been.

[60] Bharata described in his work, which is also variously referred to as Natyashastra, the type of correct staging of a Sanskrit theater piece. Among other things, he named the nine states of mind (rasas) that an actor must be able to express.

[61] A digitization of some Bhasa dramas can be found on the Internet at www.uni-wuerzburg.de/indologie/bhasa/. A multimedia database is currently being set up at the Institute for Indology in Wurzburg, which is intended to take account of the increasing interest of theater studies in the global development of post-modern theater forms.

[62] Table of contents according to Kalidasa, op.

[63] Source: www.hr-online.de. The photo shows a scene from the performance Shakuntala of the Mahabharata (2002).

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