February 16, 2020
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To The Movies

To The Movies
I'LL admit one thing right away. I have stars in my eyes. I love films, filmmaking and film people. In London, my friends sneer at my simple pleasure in all things related to movies, and movie stars. In Mumbai, I have plenty of company. I went to the city of dreams to do serious journalism about the very real problems of Indian cinema, with funding, with the underworld, and with audiences increasingly indifferent to the traditional, Bollywood blockbuster. Any schmoozing with the stars was strictly business. Honestly.Film City, the government-run film facility outside Mumbai proper, is the place to start any investigation into what's afoot in the Indian movie business. In many other countries, such a magical place would be a major tourist attraction like Universal Studios in Hollywood or the "Coronation Street" soap opera set in Manchester. But not Film City. Just getting permission to get past the police at the gate can take ages. Even once you are inside, officials come up and demand to know your business as soon as you get your camera out. This was the visit that I cracked the code. It's all to do with transport. Usually, I travel around Mumbai by cab but in a burst of extravagance I hired a black Cielo with dark tinted windows. (Eat your hearts out Dilli-wallas.) We were waved through gates, security barriers and road blocks like VVIPs. Wonderful. The results will be on television this week. As for my star gazing, well I'm no name dropper. So I'll keep all that to myself for now. But I'd like to thank Javed, Shabana, Shyam, Amitabh, Amir, Twinkle and all the rest for being so kind, cooperative and helpful. Thank you, darlings.
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