They say cinema reflects our changing world

So what does 2013 tell us?

Take a look at the top five grossers from Bollywood: Dhoom 3, Chennai Express, Krrish 3, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Ram Leela-Goliyon Ki Raasleela. Add to this, the fact that an outrageously bad, sex-starved film like Grand Masti made that 100 crore list!

What does this tell about us — we the people — who made these films super successful?

The answer lies in what these films are trying to say. Nothing.

Try listening.

Dhoom 3: Vrooom vrooom... Never mind. Look, two Aamirs.

Chennai Express: Shah Rukh and Deepika speak Tamil... All the Rajni fans, don’t you miss the chance. Look, SRK is Rajni fan in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ) done Rohit Shetty style.

Krrish 3: Want to see Hrithik play a superhero in scenes from Hollywood films? Kids, buy Krrish bands.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: There’s so much to see in the world. Travel light. Look, Ranbir is SRK fan in DDLJ first half set in India.

Ram Leela-Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Romeo and Juliet is just the excuse for Sanjay Leela Bhansali to show his flair for colour, chemistry, costume and choreography.

To sum up, the net learning from Bollywood is that we are still hung up over Dilwale Dulhaniya or looking towards Hollywood or age old classics for inspiration. All escapist entertainers and/or films packing in nostalgia. Probably because stories of today do not excite us. We still need cinema to fill the void in our lives. Maybe because our lives have become about nothing.

What commercial films only indicate, arthouse films substantiate. Look at the two biggest indie hits of the year. The Lunchbox and Ship of Theseus. The Lunchbox was a heart-warming love story that was the result of dysfunctional relationships in an increasingly alienated urban world here life has become about being in a box. The other indie tried to explore the meaning of all this using a paradox. But, its protagonists realise that everything we stand for could change one day and change the very essence of who we are. Nothing lasts. So we look back fondly and try to hold on, like Saajan. Or the photographer or the monk in Ship of Theseus.

Exactly the sentiments in at least three of the very best internationally acclaimed films this year — Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past and Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight.

The Great Beauty, like La Dolce Vita, as the filmmaker himself admits, “tries to understand the meaning of life in a world that is losing this meaning”. “I read many things about Flaubert and his idea to write a book about nothing. All the things I had collected about Rome were exactly about this: it’s life, but it’s nothing.”

Or as the voice of Farhadi speaks through Shahryar in The Past: “Don’t get sucked back into this. Cut... Life goes on without you and me.”

Nothing lasts. Even the romance of Jesse and Celine from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

As Jesse tells Celine: “You’re just like the little girls and everybody else — you want to live in some fairy tale... This is real life. It’s not perfect but it’s real.”