India Uncut

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Melodrama and realism

There is a common impression that something that is melodramatic can't be realistic. Jai Arjun Singh points out in an excellent post that this isn't necessarily so.
[C]inematic “realism” is a chimerical thing at the best of times. A very basic example: a scene where a man beats his chest and wails loudly in the face of tragedy might seem melodramatic, even unrealistic, to a viewer who doesn’t believe in showy displays of emotion in public. But different people have different realities: what’s being depicted in that scene might be completely consistent with the way that character would react in that situation. All that matters is the consistency with which the film depicts a specific, self-contained world.
Indeed, I'm half-Bengali, and so much melodrama travelled in my genes that hardly anything else fit in. People of some countries do tend to express their emotions more than others -- you see this in a lot of Italian and Indian cinema, and hair-tearing, shriekacious Italian moms seem so much like Bong mas. If the cinema reflects this, that's realism.

Of course, there's nothing quite as grotesque as melodrama taken to an extreme: two films that showcase good and bad melodrama respectively are Parineeta and Devdas -- as I'd written here. That's subjective, of course, but if you disagree I'm going to wail and cry. So there.
amit varma, 3:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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