Friday, May 20, 2011

Movies - Fact or Fiction

Yeah yeah. I know… haven’t posted anything to my blog for a while. I had nothing to say, but here I am trying…..

I will refer to movies, some old and some very old. If you, the reader has not watched the movies that I will speak of, then watching them may make more sense of this post. I must warn you though, that this is my opinion and I have no arguments for those that feel otherwise.

Many people tell me that we need realistic movies. Movies should depict reality. That, in my opinion, is not a possibility. Skew lines never meet, never fall on a single plane. Likewise, movies and reality cannot fall into a same plane.

Of course I am not speaking of documentaries that we see on BBC, Discovery Channel or the National Geographic Channel. They are movies as well. Here I speak of Movies as in entertainment, that we all see… grrrr…. You know what I mean. So, lets move on.

There is constant debate. Why can’t we have realistic films?? We need facts and not fiction some say. Let’s take a look.

Fiction: Mandakini bathing under the waterfall amidst snow peaked mountains.
Fact: Any girl will get Pneumonia and no one does that.

Fiction: Sunny Paaji pulls out a pump, that cannot be there in the first place and beats up a hundred people.
Fact: No one can pull that off.

Fiction: Boy and girl run around trees singing songs.
Fact: I have never seen that happen in real life

Fiction: Superman flies off to fight Lax Luthor.
Fact: Even Wright Brothers cannot do that.

Fiction: No matter how realistic a setting we hear background music in a film.
Fact: In real life John Williams does not conduct an orchestra when there is a domestic row.


It is the fantasy element of each story that draws the audience into the theater. No one really wants to see a movie truly realistic. There are movies that seem grounded in reality, or that are based on true stories. Even these stories examine what happens when everyday people are thrust into an out-of-the-ordinary, bigger than life situation.

So even REALISTIC Movies are fantasies.

It isn’t the fantasy element of a story that is interesting, exciting, romantic or funny. It’s the reaction of the everyday world to that fantastic situation. Therefore you will notice that most of the times only one fantasy element is allowed to introduce that single incredible element into your story; everything else must be logical and believable.

For example, in Lagaan, Aamir Khan has to decide to accept the bet from the British Officer. That is the fantasy. The movie explores what might really happen after the fantasy situation occurred. Every single conflict that Aamir faces after the fantasy is logical, believable, and grounded in reality.

The FANTASY of accepting the bet is what draws the audience and sets up the series of events.

Now imagine the same movie if Aamir gets super powers, can fly, see through walls and even makes a neutron bomb to win the match???? There we go we have lost the audience. This new scenario would fail to capture the emotion of the audience. The whole conflict would become meaningless.

In movies, it is the hero’s desire that drives the story forward. But it’s the conflict the hero faces that elicits the emotion in the audience. If the Hero becomes a person who can do anything and becomes too powerful, then, there’s nothing difficult to overcome, and the audience feels no real tension, worry or fear. The audience will simply observe the action, rather than becoming a part of it.

Now that we know that all movies are fantasies, how do we insure that our story remains believable?

We ask…. “Do our characters behave the way people with their backgrounds would normally behave in this situation?”

We ask…. “Is this what I would do if I were in this situation?”

Don’t forcibly infuse documented reality. One of the weakest arguments we can make in support of our characters’ actions is, “But that really did happen.”

Lots of unusual things happen in real life, and people often behave in strange ways. But in our screenplay, even if we are portraying real events, the characters’ actions must seem logical, and the events believable, within the context of the story.

Always maintain the suspension of disbelief (to suspend audience’s disbelief). Superman is REAL while I am watching the film. Only after the film gets over I say, “ah it was a film”. Just like a dream, while I am dreaming it is reality, till I wake up.

Openly admit the incredibility of a character’s behavior. If, Sunny Paaji pursues his wife who is captive in another country, have someone close to him say to him, “Are you nuts? How can you possibly get her from the other country?” Then Sunny Paaji can explain his actions in a way that is consistent with the personality and background that has been given to him.

Subconsciously the audience is being told, “Look, We know this seems unbelievable, but let us tell you why it isn’t.”

People go to the movies for emotions, and if the visuals are captivating enough, if the action moves fast enough, or if the humor is hilarious enough, audiences will sometimes forego the pleasure of a great screenplay with great characters.

No matter how big and exciting movies can be, all they really do is plunge everyday characters into extraordinary situations without ever losing the reality of those characters' humanity.

All they ever do it tell you a fictional tale. Hence….

Movies are all FICTION.