[FoRK] NYTimes.com Article: Op-Ed Contributor: Hurray for Bollywood

khare at alumni.caltech.edu khare at alumni.caltech.edu
Sat Feb 28 17:27:10 PST 2004

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by khare at alumni.caltech.edu.

Yeah, and *none* of the four awards shows are as useful as the Oscars -- they're all people's-choice or sponsor-related shows, not votes by other artists. There isn't, AFAIK, anything like AMPAS over there... which shows, since I actually had the luck of attending one of them last month ("the sansui/sony awards"). 

Let's just say that I never appreciated how many things have to go right to make even the most banal of 'awards shows' function smoothly. I never got to catch the final telecast, but there was at least a week of postproduction in there...


PS. Go see Club Dread!! Jay Chandrasekhar deserves our box-office-opening numbers to fight off the only-slightly-bloodier, but definitely-less-funny Mel-man...

khare at alumni.caltech.edu

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Op-Ed Contributor: Hurray for Bollywood

February 28, 2004


BOMBAY — Last week this city's film industry, called
Bollywood, held its own version of the Oscars. There were
well-rehearsed jokes and solemn speeches, and somewhat more
spontaneous hugs and tears. Soon after it ended, most of
the prize winners left for Dubai to attend yet another
awards ceremony, their fourth in less than a month.
Bollywood tends to congratulate itself even more frequently
and fulsomely than Hollywood. And, perhaps, it has good
reasons for doing so: India makes around 800 films each
year, more than any country in the world. Bollywood
produces up to 200 films in Hindi and Urdu alone. 

Little of what comes out of this $1.3 billion-a-year
industry is of much quality, and few films make a profit.
Yet India, where approximately 12 million people go to the
movies every day, remains culturally a world unto itself,
immune to the films emerging from Hollywood, which have
captured only 6 percent of the largest domestic movie
market in the world. 

Moreover, Bollywood's films reach up to 3.6 billion people
around the world - a billion more than the audience for
Hollywood. Egyptians, South Africans and Fijians joined
Indians in electing Amitabh Bachchan - a name unknown to
most people in Europe and America - as the "actor of the
millennium" in a BBC online poll. 

Mr. Bachchan gained his reputation by repeatedly playing
the role of the poor, resentful young man who makes it in
the big city - often through crime and violence. But
Bollywood films do more than sell garish dreams of a better
life to the poor. To people struggling for emotional and
material security within their increasingly modern and
fragmented societies, they offer the consolations of
tradition, especially of family values. Mr. Bachchan's
angry young man usually dies in the arms of his mother or
father, having realized the folly of his ways. 

In this sense, an absurdly melodramatic extravaganza from
Bollywood may speak more directly to a third-world audience
than even the most politically sensitive Hollywood film.
Bollywood films are popular even in countries like Egypt
and Indonesia that have strong cultures that resist the
American barrage. It is not uncommon for Iraqis and Afghans
to greet the Indian aid workers and technical consultants
helping rebuild their nations with snatches of
half-remembered Hindi songs and names of Bollywood stars
from the 1970's. 

And now, after decades of recycling the same melodramatic
plots and extravagant dance numbers, Bollywood is having a
youth movement. A new generation of filmmakers is appealing
not just to the traditional lower-middle class and poor
audience. It is also reaching members of the educated urban
elite who had looked down on Bollywood films, and also to
the millions of Indians living in Britain and America. 

The highest-profile effort is "Kal Ho Na Ho" ("Tomorrow May
Never Come") by Karan Johar. The movie is set entirely in
New York, yet it doesn't stray far from Bollywood's usual
version of the romantic triangle. It does bring a new
slickness to Bollywood dreams of affluence and style -
while singing, the characters combine Hindi lyrics with the
rhythms of disco, rap and gospel - but it simultaneously
reaffirms family through a gregarious cast of brothers,
sisters, parents, grandmothers and grandfathers. Mr.
Johar's films, along with more realistic and sober movies
by young directors like Ram Gopal Varma, are becoming the
echo chamber of middle-class India as it tries to bend -
without breaking - its old, austere culture of

Some Bollywood directors see a great opportunity to score
over Hollywood. Certainly, the global village seems to need
a more complex moral code than that offered by Rambo and
the Terminator, and Bollywood, even with all its apparently
absurd sentimentality, may be better placed to provide it
than the cynically, if slickly, retailed violence of

Pankaj Mishra is the author of "The Romantics," a novel.



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