The role of the nine rasas in a Bollywood film

Bollywood film is great fun, and highly expressive. Very different to Western cinema, Bollywood depends on certain rules and criteria for it to work in the way that audiences demand. The inclusion of the nine rasas is fundamental to the way the films work.

What Are The Nine Rasas

Simply translated, rasas are emotions, feelings or moods, and there are nine of them. They signify different aspects of character and are an integral part of Bollywood film. The role of the nine rasas in a Bollywood film is to drive the plot and accentuate the behaviours of the characters, and is as important to the film as the basic storyline. Shringara signifies beauty, love and faithfulness or devotion and is always a strong trait of the lead female character, the innocent heroine. Veera, confidence and courage as well as pride is just as important for the leading male. He must be a proud man, filled with confidence and with the courage of a tiger. Bollywood film is highly dependent on the nine rasas, and they are signified in a variety of ways, the most common being sterotypical roles and exaggerated facial expressions and mannerisms. For example, the handsome and courageous hero will adopt arms crossed, chin lifted and head turned attitudes of indifference when confronted with lesser characters, such as the scheming mother-in-law complete with bobbing, hand wringing and wailing. The fluttering eyelashes of the innocent maiden are just as contrived and just as important a part of the shringara rasa.

Other Ways In Which Rasas Depict Character

The role of the nine rasas in a Bollywood film is to tell the story in a way which audiences empathise with and feel affinity to. All Bollywood films must show as many of the nine rasas as possible. These also include bhayanaka which denotes fear and worry, and this could be portrayed when the villain gets his raudra, or angry and fearful hands on the maiden. Hasya, or humour and joy is an important ingredient, and often the happy go lucky clown character will be vital, with his exaggerated thumb shaking ‘no, no’ and he can also show adbhuta, wonder and curiosity which no doubt will get him into trouble. Shanta, peace and calm will be the province of the wise man or woman, while vibshata or pity and self loathing will be shown when the character does something shameful, which of course must then be put right. Karuna, sadness and pity and compassion will of course be shown, and the wily character will eventually right his ways.

Bollywood film is formulaic, and musical segments are often used to get the different rasas across. There is a lot of flashback and forward and there’s also much referencing of other films or texts, so that everything is relative in the end.

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