Indians Who Made It Big Abroad
A few years back, a screening of Mehboob Khan’s 1957 classic Mother India was laid on for British critics in London, to mark its re-release there. This took place in a small theatre in the Twentieth Century Fox building in the South-West corner of Soho Square; it’s a building in which I seem to have spent a great deal of my life in the last decade or so. We sat down to this mighty popular classic with a good deal of enjoyment—I did anyway. On the way out, I said breezily to my colleague, Derek Malcolm: “Well, they don’t make ’em like....” I was half-way through the old cliche when the words died on my lips. With a smile, Derek appeared to read my mind, and said: “Actually, they make ’em like that all the time!”
And it’s true. The Bollywood genre has survived and prospered mightily over the decades, offering its audience a genuine, thriving musical cinema long after Hollywood gave up on the idea. One thing the Indian film industry has had no difficulty surviving is the ignorance and condescension of the British reviewers: and I’m sorry and embarrassed to say that I could have done a lot more to reverse this situation in my case. And of course Indian cinema means more than just Bollywood. One of the first films I reviewed professionally was Santosh Sivan’s The Terrorist, in many ways a remarkable premonition of the global nightmare of 9/11. But here again I have had to defer to the great passion of my colleague Derek Malcolm, from whom I first heard the names of Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram, Ritwik Ghatak, and latterly Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
Just after I started on The Guardian in 1999, I made my first visit to South Asia: a trip to Dhaka, and then Delhi and Rajasthan in India. It was while I was there that I fell into conversation about the great master, Satyajit Ray. “You know The Music Room, of course?” I was asked. Numbly, I shook my head. More education was needed—I made a start on rectifying that, and before I left India I bought a copy of Ray’s fascinating short stories, a collection called Indigo, which is now on my desk as I write.
Aishwarya: ‘The most beautiful, glamorous star I’ve seen in the flesh’
Indian cinema has a lowish profile in the British press currently. A while ago, distributors like Eros made a big effort to put on early screenings of their films for the press. When Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (2001) came out, it was a big event: the first mainstream Bollywood picture to feature British actors in the cast. I loved it. It had brashness, energy and life. There was a touch of Kurosawa in it, and Kipling too. Bollywood continues to be a mighty force in the UK, but it still functions below the media radar. Bollywood films are rarely reviewed—but the industry is so prosperous it does not need press attention. The colossal success of Danny Boyle’s Indian-set film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 further popularised the Bollywood aesthetic and made it a media trope, but again Indian commercial cinema itself was not absorbed into the mainstream Anglophone movie business here. And again, I think that is evidence of the muscular independence and prosperity of an industry which simply dwarfs ours.
What happened is we woke up to the existence of massive stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. Now, I myself have written rather ungallantly about Aishwarya, calling her performances wishy-washy. But I have to put on record that she is easily the most beautiful and glamorous star I have ever seen in the flesh: far more hypnotic than people like, say, Nicole Kidman or George Clooney, whom I have also stood near at various premieres. I once found myself standing near Aishwarya at a dinner at the Cannes Film Festival, and she was like an impossibly gorgeous creature from another planet, with a benign aura. I found myself standing there in a slack-jawed daze. Like everyone else.
Santosh Sivan’s Terrorist
Again and again, watching Bollywood movies I have been struck by their emphasis on bittersweet fantasy, and again and again I scribble the same words in the notebook on my lap: “Shakespeare”, or specifically “late Shakespeare”, the Shakespeare of Pericles, The Tempest and Cymbeline. However broad they are, the films have, for me, a connection with something dreamlike and gentle and escapist, which reminds me of Shakespeare—there’s simply no other way to describe it, although I know of no other writer who feels it as strongly as I do.
Now that brings me back to Satyajit Ray’s 1969 film, Days And Nights In The Forest: a wonderful film, which is a perfect example of Ray’s almost miraculous, unforced, untutored cinematic style. When the four bachelors encounter the two women from a well-to-do family in an elegant country estate, it conjures the sublimely Arcadian world of Shakespeare: the world of As You Like It or A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I found myself re-reading Ray’s short story, Patol Babu, Film Star, about a middle-aged guy, quite the amateur thespian in his youth, who becomes wildly excited to be offered a walk-on part in a movie. All he has to do is bump into the leading man in the street and say the single word: “Oh!” And so, as he waits around for his scene, he frantically starts thinking about he can endow this monosyllable with meaning. This is a lovely, gentle, funny story, building up to something quite different from the embarrassing catastrophe I had been expecting. It’s a reminder of the energy, sophistication, and sheer enjoyment to be had from Ray, and Indian pictures generally.
(Bradshaw is film critic of The Guardian)
Peter Bradshaw is patronising in his piece Dance in the Glade. A typical Guardian liberal, like Derek Malcolm himself. It’s difficult to gauge where he can see the Kurosawa touch in a trashy film like Lagaan—a product of our colonial complex. Bollywood is a hybrid product mass producer, mind-numbing in its cacophonic item numbers. Truly far-fetched to see any Shakespeare in it.
Apropos Bradshaw’s piece, the production in Indian movies too is like a Shakespearean production: fast-paced, with a lot of laughs, tears, drama, action for the public. There’s music and dance, sometimes a moral to the story, and metaphoric language. The best movies in India, whether from Mumbai or elsewhere, have all these ingredients, which the West takes note of, unlike Shakespearean theatre which was ignored in France as it was considered too violent, too long, too emotional and too metaphoric, in short, too much! In fact, a lot of people in the West think even Indian cinema is too much. But when you watch a Bollywood movie, you watch it with all your emotions. You do not even need to understand the language. This emotion gives meaning to Indian movies. And it’s a joke to say that the only good thing in Indian cinema is Satyajit Ray.
Noella, Lorient, France
The production in indian movies are also like the Sakespeare's production too : fast made and a lot for a public who want's to laugh, drama, action, tears , luxe , and in a way a moral sometine and write to also the "stars", the actors !Music and dance could be exist too.And write in a metaphoric langage .
The best movies in India , in Mumbai or Chennai contain all of this ingredients , which aren't forgotten in West like the Shakespeare theater was ignored in France because is was too much violent, too much longer ,too much emotion,too much metaphoric too !Too much !
In a way , that 's the same for the indian cinema now .
It's always too much for a lot of people in the west .
They opposite a "deep movie" and the big entertaiment and they don't believe in the emotion, or the principal difference for me , it's the emotion which give's the meaning in a bollywood movie and the meaning giving in just an intellectual way .
And also to believe in the realistic way which does'nt exist and is the principal illusion .
When a movie in bollywood is really good , it 's much better than another movie cause the challenge is very difficult and isn't the problem of dance or not cause dance isn't an obligation.
Better cause you understand what you watch not only with your brain ,but with all your emotions, feelings and sensations too !And the meaning is always an humain beeing 's meaning and come reel like you ! And even is a foreign movie, you could understand .
But you must accept to be disturb in your emotions and to accept them ..to have the meaning.
Of course this isn't in all the movies but nowhere in the world you find only good movies and the most incredible comment ist to want that's this cinema would be only good or bad .I think is a post-colonialist though share always in the west and in India too.
And Ray or Nair would be the only good ? That's a joke because a lot of good movies and independant movies exist too since the twice .
But it's difficult to accept the Hollywood 's movies aren't the first or Bollywood give's also good entertainment and could give's more .
For children by exemple, RA.One propose to them all they like and they have never seen before : jokes for their age, actions,special effects, emotions , dance, music , story and a simple wish but their wish " the vilain is the winner" and in their world of video-game .. And for them in the west , what a surprise to discover that this kind of movie exist's and from the country of "slumdog millionaire" ! Them, girls an boys , white, they want to see Prateik again with G.One !And at the end , they don't want that the vilain win's !
But how could they watch this kind of movie if one part of the adult's think's that only Hollywood could do this kind of movie and the other part think 's is too much for children ?And ignore in what kind of world they live .And specially in India .
And most seriously what movie show's the disaster after the 11/9 ? In America but also in the world , the human beeing disaster , the racism wich touch all the "half dark" people, the indians arrested by the french police cause they are like "arabic" so like "muslim" now ? In all the world , the same paranoia now, like before the second war in Europe for jewish people ?The cost payed by a global population included children ?And specially during a gouvernement in USA wich did'nt care about the poor in this population , included the black people during Katrina ? You know the answer , that is an ambitious but very good movie :my name is Khan .
And clever too cause if Rizvan is a muslin , he is also like a lot of people , autistic in a way but not in a good way : a lot of people who could express their emotions, who would'nt be touch by the others and are afraid too, scared and could just support the world through a camera , in the TV or in the movie but not in real .
Like in this movie , people accept what they could'nt support in the name of the security , like in the airport and people accept they is no law for some suspects and also to give the cost of the death of children for the death of the others and where are the "good muslin" ? Nobody could be , just a "candid" could be show to pray, not a real person ?
And i finish cause this movie is tragic with comedie like a Sakespeare drama !
Bradshaw is patronising. A typical Guardian liberal, like Derek Malcolm himself. Difficult to know where the Kurosawa touch is there in a trashy film like Lagaan - a product of the colonial complex. Bollywood is a hybrid products mass producer, mind-numbing in its cacophonic item numbers. Truly far-fetched to see any Shakespeare in it.
What delights me is Ms.Noella's lovely letter, with its own variety of English! Worth reading several times to understand!
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT