“The appeal of the film must be its total familiarity. No ingredient is new, nothing disturbs. Its reassuring ethos is seductive and soothing, reversing the effects of the global invasion of our culture though not of our economy, implicitly asserting the permanence and stability of all the institutions that are at this moment under pressure: joint family, patriarchy, religion and the nation.”
Times of India (Mumbai) on Hum Aapke Hai Kaun
In Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, Nisha’s (Madhuri Dixit) room displayed jellies, toffees; ice-cream (not a single indigenous sweet) in a country where farmer suicides are on a rise how familiar is the vision of excess. The western sweets, the family business of manufacturing automobiles all represented globalization in Hum Aapke Hai Kaun but the values were strongly Indian. Bluffmaster tells you that the affluence has not left your moral fabric untouched, that economic growth does bring social change with it. Eleven years post-Hum Aapke Hai Kaun we know that the notions of joint family, patriarchy, religion and the nation have undergone a major change, joint family is replaced by
Live-in relationships (think Salaam Namaste) and the idea of a nation has made way for an Americanized global village sort of reality as films about Indians abroad and their cultural conflicts hook the multiplex audience. The reality of Bluff master lies in the here and now of globalize Indian society. Bluffmaster gives us a new hero, a new reality and a more honest version of urban life.
“How do we create a character? We take the morality and aspirations of society and personify them. That becomes a character who is idealized, and then some actor or some actress plays that role and they become big stars.” Explains Javed Akhtar who created the persona of angry young man through blockbusters like Deewar, Trishul. This explains why the trend of films centered on the theme of conmen and criminals has caught the fancy of Bollywood filmmakers.
About fifteen years into globalization and having seen how it translates into everyday reality. We, as a society have seen the Gross Domestic Product grow and the country ‘prosper’ but we as individuals have neither been a part of this progress nor have we benefited from it. This has made us feel deprived of what we feel we rightly deserve. The current films are no more as simplistic as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge where western way of earning money leaves the family values, untouched. Whenever any society is in state of flux, the social norms and values are constantly changing. As a result there are no clear demarcations of what is good and what bad. The line, if any, is extremely blurred. Finally the film industry is sitting up and taking notice of a changing norm less society. It therefore comes as no surprise that films like Bunty aur Babli, Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina, Kaante are getting made and becoming box office hits.
Bluffmaster is the story of Roy, a conman, his protégé Dittu and his love interest Simmi. Simmi walks out on Roy when she realizes that he is a conman and stands her ground as he tries to win her back. Roy needless to say wins her back after numerous twists and turns in the tales. It’s not the story that is told, but the way it is told that makes all the difference to this film.
One of the first lessons that Roy gives Dittu is that the world is a sea and every socio-economic strata corresponds to various varieties of fish .he goes on to explain how the big fish eats small fish and that’s the rule of survival. The common man is shown in the train, crowded streets and decide not to dupe the common man cause it is simply not worth it. The beautiful Mumbai skyline that bears resemblance to the Manhattan skyline and people hanging out precariously makes a strong comment on urbanization.
Roy is the archetypal marginal man, "lives in two worlds, in both of which he is more or less of a stranger." (Robert Park) he straddles two worlds, one with traditional Indian values where another man touching his woman angers him no end and the other one is the product of a changing globalize society. Marginal man is a result of a culture of poverty juxtaposed by affluence marked by political apathy, the splitting of families, passivity to economical obligations, and a tendency to seek immediate pleasures (Oscar Lewis, 1961) sounds a lot like our current social milieu and explains why the marginal man resorts to crime a having preference for short-term goals and having witnessed so much of social upheaval he has no faith in tomorrow and to him its all about the present.
The celebration of marginality has never been this grand as in Bluffmaster, for instance the use of Hip Hop, music that largely originated in the Harlem neighborhood and clothes that go with the music. The mix of Hip Hop and rap further accentuate the Ghettoism that is an integral part of the marginality of the marginal man. The dancers dressed as show girls make a statement about the time when a rocky desert turned into Las Vegas , and the greed and the flashy lifestyle it brought in its wake.
Not too long ago we saw Helen do the cabaret with a blonde wig and had no problems with it but Mandakini under a waterfall raised the ire of numerous women’s groups. We as a society like to believe that erotica is an ‘imported’ concept. Sex and sexuality is something that the Bhartiya Nari does not talk about. Its easier for men to ogle at Helen and not feel guilty about it because she is not a Bhartiya Nari and she is not someone’s sister, mother and daughter. Somehow a naked European doesn’t upset our values as much as a naked Indian woman can. Besides how can the heroine be ogled at, she is after all the hero’s property and he will not be a hero if he lets others infringe upon his property. Bluffmaster has numerous scantily clad white models dance in its title track ‘sabse bada rupaiya’ the writing on the wall is clear the hero and the social set up may have changed but the role of the woman remains the same.
Watching the film in the stalls in Eros, where one could hear people clap and cheer as Roy conned people, he clearly was a hero they connected with. When they saw Malik (Company 2002) they threw coins at the screen, when they see Roy or Bunty (Bunty aur Babli 2005) they clap. The marginal man had announced his arrival and Bluffmaster proves that he is here to stay.