Like the old Chinese saying goes, "Sometimes, a beaver is just a squirrel with big teeth." Don't ask me which Chinese person actually said that because there are a lot of them and I can't be bothered to provide every single detail. The event that reminded me of this popular Chinese rodent-canine maxim was a seemingly innocuous outing to the movie theatre. I saw a flick that had advertised itself as a comedy thriller but turned out to be one that belongs to a niche genre that i often refer to as 'equestrian excreta'.
On one Tuesday that felt a lot like a Thursday, I stumbled upon the answer to one of life's biggest philosophical conundrums. No, not the 'Is Bruce Lee still alive?' question but the other one which is, 'What's going on with the movie world?' And the answer to that is that every movie, despite its nationality and language, is actually the same. I'm well accustomed to three movie industries: Hollywood, Bollywood and Zollywood (that's the collective name I've given for south Indian movies) and I'm going to try and explain here what the differences and similarities of these three 'woods' are.
When it comes to the Hollywood hero, he has impeccable looks; is self-made and well-to-do but not super-rich; finds the time to come up with hilarious one-liners even in the middle of dangerous crises; is often the only man in the world who can save the world.
The Bollywood hero is fair-skinned; has a rich father who doesn't hug him enough; craves true love and has no interest in the dozens of super-hot ladies throwing themselves at him; has no problem crying uncontrollably when delivering moving dialogues; is capable of fighting off at least 8-10 villains single-handedly.
The Zollywood hero is above retirement age but still in his 30s; a misunderstood thug with a heart of gold; has a secret tragic family background (revealed only to the heroine) with one bed-ridden father, one paraplegic brother, two nubile sisters and one mother who cries at the drop of a coin; can jump over buildings; can punch police officers right in the mouth and get away with it; is capable of fighting at least 45-48 villains single-handedly.
As for heroines, the Hollywood variety is drop-dead gorgeous but still can't find a guy or a job; has totally unattractive best friends; keeps picking fights with the hero throughout the movie but realises she loves him 10 minutes before the movie ends; has impromptu make-out sessions with the hero mostly after arguments.
The Bollywood heroine is drop-dead gorgeous and as kind as Mother Teresa; has an abusive fiance who makes her realise how great the hero is; is extremely innocent but does at least one steamy song where she tries to seduce the hero but he keeps walking away.
And the Zollywood heroine is portrayed by an actress barely out of school; doesn't seem to mind that her grandfather is a few years younger to the hero; is rich and posh but falls for the thug; has a demonic power-hungry father; is extremely innocent but has at least three songs where she tries to explicitly seduce the hero but he keeps walking away.
The Hollywood villain is scorned by society, turned evil for a reason but has a brilliant mind and is just as good-looking as the hero while the Bollywood villain wears a tuxedo, has terribly bad aim when it comes to shooting and has the hots for the heroine. And the Zollywood type has a thick beard, is a rival thug or a high-profile politician and is often played by an unsuccessful Bollywood actor.
The Hollywood story? The girl and the world are in danger. The Bollywood story is that the girl is in danger, and as for Zollywood, the girl and south Indian commoners are in danger.