There are very few movies I loathe so much I quit watching them and never went back, and never regretted making that decision. Even if the film stars two favourites.
Ta Ra Rum Pum, a 2007 YRF family film by director Siddharth Anand, is one such film. This film is the grossest example of the problem Qalandari eloquently discusses Kurbaan but more modern Hindi cinema in general in this article of his on OutLook India. Instead of whinging as many do, about whatever happened to the heroes of yore, Big B type heroes, he zeroes in on problems of representation; rich, urban, young North-Indian Hindus (whose religion is barely visible with no temple iconography in sight) are the norm characters, and everybody else, be they South-Indian, Muslim, Sikh, poorer, rural is the Other.
But go read the article, because I'm not focusing on issues of representation. In the case of TRRP, the problem isn't so much that poor people are invisible, but that whoever wrote the script (IMDb gives this name: Habib Faisal) has obviously lived an incredibly isolated life among the elite, without a care in the world about what it might be like not to be super-rich, leading a luxurious lifestyle.
TRRP in short is about the economic downfall (and eventual rise) of race car driver played by Saif Ali Khan. He has a wife (Rani Mukherji) and kids and earns millions, but spends those millions carelessly and when he crashes during a race, he finds himself with no career, no house and his family knee-deep in debt. As the family lives in New York, they are forced to move into a semi-dingy apartment and live a middle class/lower middle class life on the American standards.
Stupid story, but not really a problem, if it wasn't for the way these events are portrayed in the movie. The children are distraught, crying! The palace of a home switched to a dusty, spider-webbed apartment! Saif has to work as a taxi driver! Rani has to work in the lowest tier of jobs as a pianist at private functions (ugh I think I'm going to be sick)! The angst! The woe! The pain!
No, wait a minute. They went from super-rich to middle class. They can still afford to eat. Both of the parents have jobs. The kids can still go to school. As far as I can tell, they're not really struggling to make the ends meet. I mean, sure, it sucks that anybody suffers rough economic downfall and has to reduce their standard of living. But even that doesn't make this supposed tragedy of a situation any less idiotic. Saif's character lost his fortunes because of his own stupidity (even if they sort of try to pin his downfall on the evilness of the white villain). Whoop-de-damn-doo. The angst portrayed of him earning a living in an ordinary profession and not a glamorous, privileged one is just mind-boggling.
I keep thinking how insulting this storyline is to viewers in India really struggling to make ends meet. Hell, it'd be insulting even if this wasn't a movie financed in India, a nation with a visible, horrible problem with poverty. It'd be disgusting if it was an American film. It'd be disgusting just about anywhere in the world. To encapsulate the problem here in three simple letters: WTF?!
Back to the topic of the usual whine; why don't we see heroes with ordinary professions, even lower class professions? TRRP is a terrible film that should be disregarded in most discussions, but in this case it's symptomatic of a larger problem. Why is working in a regular job painted as such an awful fate? Are the Bollywood elite really so out of touch with reality? Again: WTF?!
I should point out I don't necessarily oppose to super-rich characters in Bollywood; they have become a staple of the industry and I've come to accept that. But there is having rich characters and then there is portraying anything but richness as the most terrible thing ever. When it goes to that gross extreme, anybody who's ever worked a lower level job for a day in their lives is allowed to be and perhaps should be insulted.