Picture Abhi Baaki Hai is Rachel Dwyer’s investigative study on how mainstream Bollywood films since 1991 (this being the year of India’s economic liberalization) have in some way corresponded to India’s changing dreams, aspirations, fears and anxieties. Cinema is a medium that has always managed to find a diverse audience, one with multiple interpretations. And when a book comes along with the tagline “Bollywood as a guide to Modern India,” you can’t be but intrigued with the ideas and suppositions that the book might present, and this very fascination had me pick up this book.
The book calls in for an immersive read, and there’s so much thought put into the chapters one ends each chapter having gained a different perspective. This work could open up quite a few avenues for an intelligent debate, if someone just decides to come up and cross Rachel’s points, which have been quite convincingly delivered. No matter how strongly you disagree with Rachel’s research, you just can’t help but admire her look at things.
The many chapters in the book cover across sections – Unity, Diversity, Religion, Emotions, and the World – where several key issues and topics are brought up, and the political richness across all these sections is studied.There’s caste and class divisions, presence of Hindu Nationalism in cinema, how it’s mostly Muslims that are being depicted as terrorists, etc. The importance of language employed in these films is also studied upon, and this study covers some regional films as well. Here she points out how Rajini, who mostly does Tamil films, is considered a symbol for superstardom even in North India.
The in-depth study offered in the book not only makes us revisit some old Bollywood classics, but even makes up travel a few places of cinematic importance. The book even focuses on the food, drinks and other forms of intoxication, detailing the many nicknames and lines used in cinema to describe vegetarians and non-vegetarians. It finally brings us home, where it delves upon how family units and relationships have evolved, how nuclear families were created, and how children-parents-grandparents maintained association.
Her work, in one way, is a tribute to the mainstream Indian cinema, which the author in her own words has found rewarding, insightful and alarming at the same time, what with the many views being offered in an imaginary world. Se further hopes that with her understandings presented in the book, no one else shall come up and say that Hindi films are all the same, ‘unrealistic’, and just some ‘escapist entertainment’. Well, we hope the same too.