Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bollywood - finally a force to reckon with

Bollywood is different things to different people. It can be Madhubala’s perfect face in black-and-white, Madhuri’s jhatkas in ‘Humko aajkal hai’ in ‘Sailaab’, Amjad Khan menacingly saying ‘Thakurrr’ in the classic ‘Sholay’, Shah Rukh Khan hamming ‘K-k-k-kiran’ in ‘Darr’, Kajol at her effervescent best in DDLJ, Amitabh Bachchan in his Angry Young Man avatar in ‘Agneepath’ – oh hell, I’m not even going to try to continue this very futile exercise. What I want to say is this – there is no other film industry the world over, apart from Hollywood of course, where the sheer number of films, and the revenue they generate, is as big as India’s. The heightened fascination of the Western population for movies made in or about India is evidenced by the growing number and popularity of diaspora film-makers, whether it is Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta and Gurinder Chadha or the more mainstream Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Karan Johar and Yash Chopra.

Most of the films they make are captured on a canvas that is larger than life. Think ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘Bride and Prejudice’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Munnabhai MBBS’, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’, ‘Chandni’. To some, there isn’t much common between these films. But to me, they are all pulsating with Indianness, whether it is tradition, costumes, politics, romance or day-to-day life. I remember watching Bhansali’s ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ sitting in one of the first few rows of the theatre in one of the first few days of its release in India. The colours were what overwhelmed me first and foremost, the sheer brilliance and glory of it. At the end of the day, those are things that stick in a movie-goer’s mind. What a sensible director should do is capture these Indian sensibilities in a sensible story (like Nagesh Kukunoor’s ‘Dor’, for example), but even if they don’t, even if it is just Govinda and Sanjay Dutt pairing up to make the masses weep with laughter in one of David Dhawan’s nonsensical laugh-riots, the Indian movie-goer is a willing audience.

Hollywood has finally understood this simple fact. Of course, with business in mind, because they know the kind of receipts Indian films generate. Nevertheless, cinephile that I am, I was impressed and extremely happy to read that Sony Pictures Entertainment will be the first American studio to produce an Indian mainstream film with eight of our acclaimed song-and-dance routines – Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Saawariya’, scheduled for release this November. Walt Disney has also partnered with Yash Raj Films to make an animated film called ‘Roadside Romeo’, and Paramount and Warner Brothers will be in the fray soon.

This is the true coming-of-age of Indian cinema. Indian movie lovers of the world, rejoice!!

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