Tag Archive for 'Bollywood'

Mallika Sherawat talks “Dirty Politics”

Bertrand Russell in Bollywood

In Open Culture (via 3quarksdaily):

Here’s one for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not: Bertrand Russell, the eminent mathematician and philosopher, once made a cameo appearance in a Bollywood movie.

The year was 1967. Russell was by then a very frail 95-year-old man. Besides finishing work on his three-volume autobiography, Russell was devoting much of his remaining time to the struggle for peace and nuclear disarmament. To that end, he sometimes made himself available to people he thought could help the cause.

Bombay dreams

Carl Bromley in National Geographic:

In my basement lie the remnants of an obsession with a city: novels, histories, ethnographies, journals, films, shopping bags, listing magazines, boarding cards, foot creams, CDs, film posters, postcards, video and super 8 footage. There’s also a cancelled passport with the name of the city stamped into it, Bombay, and a date—December 18, 1987.

There were 18 of us, touring India that Christmas and New Year, with a production of Romeo and Juliet. As soon as I boarded the bus from the airport, which took us to St. Xavier’s College, the city seemed to emerge, almost atonally, in short bursts of light, like flashbulb explosions. I was mesmerised by this otherworldly city, a city whose neon light breathed life back into me after a long, motionless day on a plane. I should have felt out of place. But I didn’t. I thought: If I had to be a city, I would be Bombay.

I was a maniacal teenage cineaste. I would make journeys to London and spend days at the Scala cinema in King Cross’s red-light district watching exploitation movies from all over the world. My identity was saturated by cinema then; it was my reference point for everything. During that first hour in Bombay, I thought I was experiencing the real life equivalent of the opening frames of Blade Runner with its belching flames rising from a vast industrial plain. I had, by chance, been thrilled by the Amitabh Bachchan film Amar Akbar Anthony one Sunday morning on BBC television. I fell in love with Amitabh when he burst out of the giant Easter egg and sang, “My Name is Anthony Gonsalves.” This playful, cheeky badmaash was the kind of hero I had always wanted to be. More:

In which a man is reincarnated as a housefly

In Open, a review of the Bollywood movie Makkhi:

The villain enjoys firing his rifle to loud screechy guitar riffs instead of attending business conferences. Sometimes, to challenge himself, he spins himself while shooting at projectiles, and sometimes he holds the rifle with just a single hand. Occasionally, he uses the shooting range for another kind of target practice— seducing women. The heroine, a social worker with an NGO (what else), likes to create miniature artworks at night. Her hobby suffers power failures. So the hero brings the moon for her—he harnesses its light by using a dish antenna and some silver foil of a cereal packet.

What follows is familiar. Hero and heroine fall in love. Villain kills hero. And the hero, to avenge his death, takes rebirth. Another Southern action flick in this season of South-inspired cinema.

Except that the hero is reborn as a fly.

Thefilm in question is Makkhi, the Hindi version of a film released earlier in Telugu as Eega, in Tamil as Naa Eee and in Malayalam as Eecha. It was one of the biggest crowdpullers of the south this year, having grossed over Rs 130 crore since hitting theatres in July. It was also a contender for India’s entry to the Oscars (that is, before Big Brother Bollywood flexed its muscle). Billed as one of the most ‘inventive’ and ‘entertaining’ films of the year, at least one interpretation suggests that it is an allegory on the superstar cult of South Indian cinema. More

 

‘Saifeena’ wedding follows a trend

Rupa Subramanya in India RealtimeWSJ:

The gossip pages of Indian newspapers and magazines are predictably focusing on the glitz and glamour of the event, but it is noteworthy that there’s a 10-year age gap between the new bride and groom. Mr. Khan will join the club of successful older men marrying attractive and accomplished younger women, rather like Hollywood icon Humphrey Bogart marrying the much younger Lauren Bacall (they had a quarter century age difference.)

Ironically enough, Mr. Khan has also been on the other side of the aisle, as it were, in his previous marriage. His partner then was Amrita Singh, a former Bollywood actor, who was 12 years his senior (he was only 21 at that time.) In popular parlance, Mr. Khan has gone from being “cradle robbed” to becoming the proverbial “sugar daddy.” A less kind interpretation would deem Ms. Singh to have been a “cougar,” along the lines of Hollywood actor Demi Moore who popularized in the Western imagination the trend of older women marrying younger men, when she got together with actor Ashton Kutcher.

Seriously though, the nuptials of Mr. Khan and Ms. Kapoor represent a well established and accepted cultural fact in India and indeed in most other societies: men tend to marry women younger than themselves. According to data collected by the United Nations the largest gap for first marriages in the Middle East and Asia is Bangladesh at 7.2 years, with Pakistan at 5.1 and India at 4.7. In the U.S., the majority of women have husbands who are no more than three years older than them, according to census data.

When you parse the Indian data more closely, a striking picture emerges. In India, according to the 2006 National Family Health Survey, the most recent survey from which data are available, the percentage of women married to men 10-years or more their elder is 16.4%, against 17.9% in NFHS-2 (1998-1999) and also 17.9% in NFHS-1 (1992-93). More:

 

I Want Fakht You

“I Want Fakht You” is a musical number in the new Hindi comedy/fantasy film “Joker”:

How do you solve a problem like Sunny Leone?

Nandini Ramnath in Mint:

Do you, as a director, get coy about the fact that you have cast a pornstar who has featured in lad mags such as Hustler and Penthouse, and who has won awards for such things as “Favorite Breasts” and “Best All-Girl Group Sex Scene”? Or do you flaunt her credentials, which may work nicely for Internet trawlers, but might just harm the box-office chances of a film that will release across single screens and multiplexes in the country?

Pooja Bhatt, who has directed Leone in the forthcoming Jism 2, says she has found a middle path that aligns Leone’s pornographic past with her Bollywood present. Jism 2 is about “emotionally damaged characters” in search of sexual fulfilment, said Bhatt. Leone plays Izna, an adult movie actor who is used as a honey trap to draw out an assassin, Kabir (played by Randeep Hooda). The film’s pre-release campaign, accordingly, mimics various stages of erotic pleasure, from intense arousal to extended foreplay, toa climactic release of emotions—timed with the actual theatrical release on 3 August.

Jism 2 has a small window to win its box-office battle before Salman Khan carpet-bombs every screen in sight with Ek Tha Tiger on 15 August. The main weapon in its armoury is Leone, the Canadian adult film actor and director of Sikh origin who first grabbed eyeballs across India as a contestant on last year’s season of the reality television show Bigg Boss. Jism 2’s writer and Pooja’s father, Mahesh Bhatt, signed up Leone in a well-publicized gesture—he dropped into the venue of the Bigg Boss show to offer Leone the lead in the sequel to the 2003 movie Jism. More:

Rajesh Khanna: The man you could take home to your mother

The BBC made a film on him, titled Bombay Superstar, in 1974. Above, part 1, and below part 2.The other seven parts are on YouTube.

Sidharth Bhatia in Mint:

To anyone younger than 35, it would be very difficult to explain that the gaunt, bearded figure appearing in an advertisement had once captivated the entire nation. The ad, somewhat tackily, puns on the word “fans” to evoke memories of a time when Rajesh Khanna was the darling of film goers. That is actually an understatement—he had a fanatic fan following, the likes of which has never been seen before or since.

Khanna, who died in Mumbai on Wednesday after a prolonged illness, was the undisputed king of Hindi cinema through the early to mid-1970s. It was not just the kind of fandom that follows a film star but something over and beyond. He was mobbed wherever he went, women wrote letters to him in blood and then “married” his picture and every gesture and outfit he wore was copied. Rumours routinely floated about that he was suffering from a life-threatening disease, mainly because of his on-screen roles in several films (Andaz, Safar, Anand, Namak Haraam), where he died in the end.

Khanna (real name Jatin) was the son of a middle-class business family. He won a Filmfare contest in 1965, which got him a role in a G.P. Sippy film, Raaz (though Aakhri Khat was released earlier, in 1966). The film was not a hit, though he got noticed enough to be offered some more films like Baharon ke Sapne and Khamoshi.

In 1969, his film Aradhana, in which he had a double role, opened to an ecstatic reception. It had a story replete with emotion and drama, lovely locations and great music. The songs became huge hits and a new screen pair—Khanna and Sharmila Tagore—was born. More:

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is the latest victim of postnatal body fascism

Barbara Ellen In The Observer:

Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, once called “the most beautiful woman in the world” by Julia Roberts, has caused outrage in India by not losing her baby weight quickly enough. A website, Desimad.com, produced a feature depicting Bachchan with elephant sound-effects in the background. Many are raging that she is a disgrace to Indian womanhood and should set an example, “like Victoria Beckham,” by getting back into shape.

When did Bachchan give birth? Seven months ago. What is her reason for not focusing all her energies on “snapping straight back into those pre-pregnancy jeans!”, as the parlance goes? Bachchan says she just wants to “enjoy motherhood”. What kind of lame excuse is that? Except it isn’t. Rather, it’s a nod to a saner time, before post-pregnancy was turned into another torture zone for the modern female.

People are forgetting that this used to be the norm. The aftermath of pregnancy was a time when women were freed from “looking sexy” in the conventional way. A sainted space when women could tell lookist society to take a hike – they were busy, OK? They needed to concentrate on their baby.

Then arrived the concept of the Yummy Mummy. Suddenly, body fascism crept into the postnatal experience, hunkering down among the nipple pads and Pampers, like some evil, squawking cuckoo. Women had to worry about not only shedding weight, but also shedding it quickly enough. What had always been viewed as a becalmed, no-pressure marathon transformed into a self-loathing sprint. From now on, the ideal would be to look as though, physically, the pregnancy never happened – that one’s children were magically discovered beneath the Slimming World gooseberry bush or delivered by the Dukan stork. More:

Poutine Masala

The Protagonist: Irrfan Khan interview

His portrayal of the army man-turned-steeplechase runner-turned-bandit in Paan Singh Tomar has achieved both critical appreciation and commercial success. In July, he plays Spiderman’s nemesis, the villainous Proto Goblin in The Amazing Spiderman. Come Christmas, he’ll slip into the shoes of the Older Pi in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. Between all these, he manages to squeeze in a film like Thank You. Harneet Singh interviews actor Irrfan Khan:

Irrfan Khan

What has been your toughest role till date?

It would be HBO’s In Treatment and Life of Pi. I felt claustrophobic while acting in the In Treatment segment. The show required me to be naked emotionally, I felt as if I was being squeezed and strangulated and pushed in one corner, and I had to keep feeling that way for quite a while.

And why do you say Life of Pi?

Because it’s such a difficult, intelligent and clever book. To be on top of that and to be directed by Ang Lee has been an experience unlike anything else. The film opened a new world for me. The themes the film deals with required me to absorb everything. It can be a small thing, the character can be speaking about “karma”, but when I say the line I should come across as someone who understands the vastness of karma. Life of Pi required me to constantly understand, so that I don’t become disconnected. More:

Joy Mukherjee (1939 – 2012)

Remembering Anthony Gonsalves

By Naresh Fernandes

Midway through Manmohan Desai’s classic 1977 film about three brothers separated at birth, a man in a top hat and a Saturday Night Fever suit leaps out of a giant Easter egg to inform the assemblage, ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves.’

The significance of the announcement was lost under the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s sartorial exuberance. But decades later, the memory of that moment still sends shivers down the spines of scores of ageing men scattered across Bombay and Goa. By invoking the name of his violin teacher in that tune in Amar Akbar Anthony, the composer Pyarelal had finally validated the lives of scores of Goan Catholic musicians whose working years had been illuminated by the flicker of images dancing across white screens in airless sound studios, even as acknowledgement of their talent whizzed by in the flash of small-type credit titles.

The arc of their stories – determined by the intersection of passion and pragmatism, of empire and exigency – originated in church-run schools in Portuguese Goa and darted through royal courts in Rajasthan, jazz clubs in Calcutta and army cantonments in Muree. Those lines eventually converged on Bombay’s film studios, where the Goan Catholic arrangers worked with Hindu music composers and Muslim lyricists in an era of intense creativity that would soon come to be recognised as the golden age of Hindi film song. More:

In love with a dirty girl

In The Asian Age, Suparna Sharma reviews The Dirty Picture:

The Dirty Picture is Adults Only, so is this review. Having sorted that out, let’s go. Ms Vidya Balan, and I say this with respect and not a hint of misogyny, has balls of steel. Not any ordinary steel balls. No. Hers are lipstick-red, clanging, solid, shiny balls, hard to dent and impossible to ignore.

It takes guts to take on a role inspired by the sleazy and tragic life of an extra whose magazine cut-outs and images were mostly conjured up in the privacy of bathrooms to assist ejaculation. Few actresses in Bollywood would have said yes to portraying Silk Smitha, the two-bit “item bomb” from south, and turned it into a career-defining concerto. And fewer still would have delivered it with the dazzling chutzpah and high jinx that the retelling of Smitha’s life demanded, and added their own generous sprinkling of sauce, salt and red pepper. Ms Balan lets it all hang out, metaphorically and literally, and deserves a loud and ecstatic standing ovation.

Barring the last 20-25 minutes, The Dirty Picture is an inspired piece of work. For producer Ekta Kapoor to zero in on Smitha (I am completely ignoring her oscillating stand on it is-it isn’t about Smitha) was obviously a commercial decision more than a feminist schema — you’ll be hard pressed to find a script on which the cliché “exposing is necessary because the script demands it” sits more happily. But to put together a team that not only tells the story with skill and cheekiness, but also comes together to create the naughty Eighties, is an act of mad genius. More:

My own private Bollywood

After the Slumdog boom, Bollywood has become more Hollywood—and looks like it’s in America to stay. What does that mean for people who grew up with it? Sarah Khan in The Atlantic:

Pre-”Bollywood” Bollywood was a simpler time, with simpler titles like Beta (Son) and Maine Pyar Kiya (I Have Fallen in Love) and Hum (Us). Today, nonsensical spectacles with monstrous appellations like Jab Kabhi Kabhi Kuch Kuch Ho Na Ho to Dhoom Machake Alvida Na Kehna (JK4HNHTDMANK for short) generally struggle to make up for what they lack in storylines by serving up extra helpings of vulgarities. Even the music is rapidly spiraling downhill. “Sheila Ki Jawaani” (Sheila’s Sexiness) and “Character Dheela” (Loose Character) might get the frontbenchers excited for all the wrong reasons, but it was during the smash “Mehndi Lagake Rakhna” (Keep Yourself Adorned with Henna) in the ’90s classic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The Good Hearted Will Take the Bride) at a theater in Hyderabad that I witnessed crowds express their sincerest appreciation by exuberantly flinging rubber chappals (flip-flops) high into the air.

Today’s Bollywood is a different animal. Bye-bye, dhamakedaar (action-packed) plot twists; hello, remakes of remakes of remakes. Sylvester Stallone and Rob Lowe share screen space with Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, and Akon and Snoop Dogg collaborate with Mumbai’s top music directors—even singing lyrics in accented but admirable Hindi. The arrival last week of Royal Couple Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan’s baby made headlines on E! News; superstar Priyanka Chopra signed on with Lady Gaga’s manager and is currently joining forces with the likes of Pete Wentz on an album; and one of India’s most celebrated production houses, YRF Films, announced this past Tuesday that it’ll be adding a touch of masala to a romantic comedy it’s producing starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, and Billy Crudup. Gone is the innocence of yore, replaced instead by X-rated dance moves that put the Pussycat Dolls to shame—in fact, when that very girl group joined music maestro A.R. Rahman for an English version of his Slumdog hit “Jai Ho,” it seemed all too natural.

Perhaps it’s easy to romanticize the past; after all, when do I ever sit down to watch an ’80s romance-revenge mash-up in my Manhattan apartment? Maybe if I actually revisit the favored films of my bachpan (childhood)—I saw Dil (Heart) a mind-numbing 93 times—I’ll cringe at the gaudy clothes, over-the-top histrionics, and voluminous tresses (on both the heroines and heroes). Glorified in the enchanted recesses of my memory, these movies will always have a special place in my own dil. More:

Senorita

A nice song in the Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara:

Why the Khans can

In the Indian Express Sunday magazine Eye, Shubhra Gupta on Bollywood’s three superstars: Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan:

It’s not like there haven’t been others, some who have held their own, some who have retired hurt but only temporarily, some who are coming up so fast that they could be serious challengers to the Khandom. Kyonki har ek star zaroori hota hai. Amitabh Bachchan is the formidable carryover from the era before theirs, but is clearly a senior statesman. Saif Ali Khan has charm, and the rare ability to be both star and actor. Akshay Kumar is biding his time, to forget his bad run, and to get into a fresh sprint to the top. Hrithik Roshan is clear superstar material, whose presence in a pretty road movie makes it top drawer. Ajay Devgn has all three crucial sectors — comedy-drama-action — under his belt. And Ranbir Kapoor is fast reaching that stage where he’s slated to become the stickiest youth magnet.

So what is it about the Khans that sets them on top of the A-list? In the last five years, the Salman-Shah Rukh-Aamir trio has battered all opposition into submission. They no longer just act. They produce. They control almost every aspect of their films. When they come to the table, and that in itself is a prize they bestow like visiting deity upon waiting masses, they bring with them the triple-barrelled power of influential star, all-pervasive brand, and industry maven. They are to the left of you, to the right of you, all around you. There is no escape. As a young SRK once sang: jaata hai tu kahaan?

A true-blue industry maven himself, with his 42 years in the trenches as lyricist and filmmaker, now chairman of Reliance Entertainment, Amit Khanna has a calming yet definitive perspective. “We’ve always had superstars,” he says, “right from Ashok Kumar to Dev-Dilip-Raj, Rajesh, Amitabh, and now the three Khans — they all have had the ability to endear and endure.” More:

[Image: Eye magazine cover]

What Bollywood thinks of you

…and why that should make you gnash your teeth. Rahul Bhatia in Open:

Bajirao Singham is an upright cop gifted with earthen values and a natural tendency to whoop ass. The hardcore antisocial elements of Singham have got nothing on him, but we learn that love and its admission reduce him to a stuttering wreck. This film is a celebration of his virtues, which, though rare here, were virtually a contractual requirement in every such movie three decades ago.

Like his predecessors, Singham is not ambivalent about dealing with crime—watch the pussycat ‘claw’ move in the film’s opening item song—and matters are usually resolved with: a) a belting right out of Ralegan Siddhi, and b) a bullet. Singham, which poses the wholly reasonable question of how to deal with a corrupt administration, finds an answer filed under Rang De Basanti. But here’s the thing: although the story is the stuff between fights, like plaque between teeth, Singham holds up well in comparison with Bodyguard, which has somehow become this year’s monster hit.

While the story arc of both movies have nothing in common, they could have been designed by committee. For the superstars who wrap these films around themselves, duty, love, humility and justice come above all else. Both open with songs that glorify their legend, and both songs contain a trademark move: Singham gets to claw, and Salman Khan’s character gets to flex his biceps. Both heroines come under attack. Both heroes destroy these attackers with moves that require a blue screen. Both heroines fall instantly in love. More:

Bollywood takes some style cues

Gayatri Rangachari Shah in NYT:

A hit Hindi film this summer had a very unusual character: Bagwati, an Hermès Kelly bag in orange ostrich, complete with a hat and sunglasses.

The handbag appeared in “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,” or “You Only Live Once,” the story of three friends on a road trip across Spain. Purchased as a wedding gift, the Kelly begins to take on anthropomorphic qualities — and prompts some giggles.

Bagwati’s cinematic appearance is part of a Bollywood revolution. Traditionally a medium where vibrant color and sparkle always trumped taste, costume and art direction in the country’s movies are starting to reflect the growth of fashion consciousness across urban India.

“We’ve gone from no information, no aesthetic, no awareness of fashion to a place where we thrive on fashion,” said Karan Johar, one of the most successful producer-directors in Hindi cinema. More:

‘Bol’ gets Indians talking

Rawinder Bawa from Delhi in Dawn:

Facing stiff competition from Salman Khan’s Bodyguard on Eid, Pakistani film Bol is managing to hold its own thanks to the word of mouth publicity.

Dealing with multiple issues ranging from misogyny to prostitution to fanaticism, Bol is director Shoaib Mansoor’s second offering after Khuda Ke Liye. Bol was released alongside mega blockbuster Bodyguard, ‘That girl in yellow boots’ and ‘Mummy Punjabi’. Unlike Khan’s masala movie, Bol offers a riveting storyline and great acting, with people publicising the film more than the PR agencies.

For starters, there is actress Vidya Balan who says, “Loved Bol! Love the performance of the father. The boy who played Saifuddin was cute. My heart went out to him.”

As one of the audience members, Tushar Pahwa, walking out after a show puts it, “Bol is a ubiquitous film- whether a Muslim family in Lahore or a Hindu family in Bihar, everyone can relate to it. Women and transgenders are disrespected in India and Pakistan both. I just hope people start to speak up after watching the movie. It was a good gift for Eid.”

Many have given the tickets to family and friends in beautiful gift envelopes as eidi. “This was my eidi to my sister The film’s message has been well received and I felt my sister must see this movie as an example,” says Shahnawaz Siddique, a shop keeper. More:

See trailer here in AW

What foreign films should Bollywood remake?

Farah Khan formally procured the rights to remake ‘After the Fox’ into last year’s hit ‘Tees Maar Khan.’

Beth Watkins in The Wall Street Journal. [Beth Watkins has been blogging for more than five years at Beth Loves Bollywood. She is an expert on Bollywood history and lore as well as contemporary movies and actors]:

It can be difficult to ignore the similarities between certain Bollywood films and earlier offerings from elsewhere in the world. Sometimes Mumbai borrows from Hollywood films that sank without a trace, as in the case of “Aap Ki Khatir” (2006), which met a similar fate to its source material “The Wedding Date” (2005). Of course, a dud in English does not guarantee a flop in Hindi. Director Farah Khan formally procured the rights to remake the 1966 British-Italian comedy “After the Fox” into last year’s hit “Tees Maar Khan,” turning a film that was panned on its release over 40 years ago into one of the biggest grossers of 2010 and demonstrating the crossover appeal of a Neil Simon script. Other remakes choose more obvious subjects, such as the thoughtfully adapted “Partner” (2007), pairing lovable comic stalwart Govinda and smooth-talker Salman Khan in an Indian take on “Hitch” (2005).

However, it’s a lot more fun—and constructive—to focus on Hindi cinema’s unique strengths and think how they might enhance and improve some foreign films. There are several classics from the U.S. and elsewhere that seem like such a good fit with filmi conventions that it’s a mystery they haven’t been turned into Bollywood hits. More:

Prakash Jha on ‘Aarakshan’

Prakash Jha’s latest movie “Aarakshan,” which tackles affirmative action in India’s universities, releases on August 12. In WSJ:

The build-up to the release has seen plenty of controversy, after some groups suggested the film was biased against Dalits, as members of India’s most discriminated caste groups are known. The state of Uttar Pradesh, which is run by the Bahujan Samaj Party, which has a Dalit support base, said late Wednesday that it won’t allow the film to screen there on the grounds that it could cause social unrest. The state of Punjab also followed suit on Thursday, news channel NDTV reported. Mr. Jha did not immediately comment on the developments when reached on Thursday.

Excerpt from the interview:

When did you get the idea for ‘Aarakshan’? Is it based on a true story?

Mr. Jha: I thought of the story around seven years ago. The characters are loosely based on several real-life characters. We’ve all come across these characters – I’ve had teachers who never bothered about money. They would teach underprivileged students until the early hours of the morning without expecting anything in return. I’ve tried to highlight that aspect here.

What interests me is the societal changes that follow any kind of government policy. Ever since the Mandal Commission report, the issue of reservation keeps coming up. I’ve been taking note of the changes in the education system because of this policy. [The Mandal Commission recommended in the late 1980s that India expand educational affirmative action—IRT]

‘Aarakshan’ is about a very principled and compassionate character who’s the principal of a private college where there’s no reservation policy. I narrated the story to Amitabh Bachchan [who plays that character] quite a few years ago and he liked it.

Full interview here:

A Hindi film 20 years in the making

The characters in “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Only Live Once),” directed by Zoya Akhtar, are the finished products of reforms begun when Manmohan Singh, now prime minister, was the finance minister. Manu Joseph in IHT:

In the hit Hindi film of this season, three Indian bachelors and a Hermès handbag, which they have named Bagwati, go on a road trip in Spain. Their objective is to endure three extreme adventure sports. On the way they meet a beautiful Indian-British diving instructor, a Spanish girl who apparently will let any man into her bath as long as he asks “May I enter?” in Spanish and the artist father of one of the bachelors who had abandoned the boy when he was still in the womb.

Directed by Zoya Akhtar, this joyous film, titled “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Only Live Once),” is set against a backdrop of affluence, easy sex and relentless reminders that life is meant to be fun. Such ideas and protagonists in a mainstream commercial Hindi film would have been unthinkable in an earlier time. Which is one reason the film was 20 years in the making, almost exactly 20 years.

Ms. Akhtar might view such a statement as an outrageous factual error.

But it’s true.

Her film had its beginnings in a moment in Indian history whose 20th anniversary went by a few days ago, unobserved by an ungrateful nation. On July 24, 1991, when Manmohan Singh, now prime minister, then finance minister, rose to present the national budget, India was in deep financial trouble. It did not have enough foreign currency to import supplies and had to pledge its gold reserves to secure an emergency loan.

It was not hard for Mr. Singh to convince Parliament and the people of India that the country had no choice but to initiate far-reaching economic reforms, to privatize, to liberate itself from socialism and the philosophies of obsolete men.

The characters in Ms. Akhtar’s film are the finished products of Mr. Singh’s reforms. More:

In conversation with Amitabh Bachchan

Image: bigb.bigadda.com

In The Economic Times:

“At this age, I feel I am going to have a problem signing my cheques very soon. Really, you can forget how to do your own signature and that’s a problem. At this age, your hands are not steady….your handwriting deteriorates, that is already noticeable now with me…” He smiles, and then, for a moment, looks at his hands calmly resting on the table. Hands that wave at cheering crowds; helping hands that reach out to Rahim Chacha in Deewar; big, long hands that many beautiful women once hoped to hold. “So, I deliberately do as much as I can, if I can, with the pen and not use computers,” he smiles again. It’s Tuesday evening at Janak, the new bungalow behind Jalsa, his home.

There is a buzz outside the room in the office of AB Corp, where officials of the entertainment firm and its partner are covering the last mile before the release of Rs Buddhah Hoga Tera Baap. The firm is the new avatar of ABCL, the first effort at corporatisation in Bollywood; a firm whose name evokes images of a near bankrupt superstar, messy legal tangles, damaging controversies and bitter lessons that its founder will never forget. Few could sense back then how it was to become the harbinger of a spectacular turnaround story – of hard work and brand power, and not stuff like financial engineering that most corporate case studies are made of.

The success of AB Corp will depend on the power of the Bachchans, their ability to attract other stars and directors, and what the future holds for Abhishek, who is battling through a rough patch. But there’s something more pervasive that worries Amitabh Bachchan , something that could swing the fortunes of not just his company but other corporates that dot the Bollywood landscape. “The Americans are here. They will buy us out…. They have very cleverly entered the Indian market. Everywhere they have gone, they have destroyed that market. They went to the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Hollywood destroyed their local industries. It’s fearsome,” he says. More:

Bollywood’s global push

Kalyani Vittala in The Christian Science Monitor:

Nabila Kanji was 7 years old when she fell for Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan. She vividly recalls watching him in “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” (“The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride”), the epic love story of two first-generation British Indians struggling to persuade their culturally conservative parents that they should be together.

“I remember thinking they were so hip and cool but I could still relate to them because they were like me, like my family,” says the second-generation South Asian who grew up in Markham, Ontario.

Ms. Kanji wasn’t alone in her love for “DDLJ,” as it is referred to by its millions of fans. Released in 1995, it was really the first Hindi film to present a story from the perspective of nonresident Indians. It went on to become the largest-grossing film in Bollywood history and the first to make a significant chunk of its earnings in Western markets.

Kanji has never lost her love of Bollywood or Mr. Khan, who she hopes will make an appearance at the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) being held in Toronto on June 23-25.

She snagged two $300 tickets for the glamorous awards show and has been offered up to a thousand dollars per ticket. For Bollywood fans, “it’s kind of like the royal wedding,” she says.

The Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai has had a global following among the South Asian diaspora and in other Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries since the 1950s. But over the past decade, the world’s most prolific film industry has been making inroads into mainstream North American and European consciousness and in so doing seems to be helping to burnish India’s global sheen or its “soft power,” to use the term coined by Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye. More:

The Bollywood lie

Cannes may have been awash in Hindi movie glamour, but the truth is that Bollywood is hardly a blip on the radar of world cinema and culture. Derek Malcolm in Mint Lounge:

The real influence of Bollywood on anyone other than the diaspora is practically nil. It’s thought to be a bit of a joke—a huge engine that spews out dozens upon dozens of films a year, some of which make large profits but most of which sink without a trace. A couple of years ago, the main companies distributing Bollywood in the UK organized press shows for British critics. They duly went along to the first two or three. But the reviews were short and often negative, and soon the idea of adding to the 10 or 12 new films opening in London each week with a slice of Bollywood was quietly dropped.

If the sheer gigantomania in India’s film factories has indeed attracted bemused attention in recent years, it is largely because of the omission of Indian cinema from most global histories. Dozens of books have been devoted to the history of Hollywood in the West. Very few have even tried to tackle Bollywood, which, until it realized that as much money could be made abroad as in India itself, frequently seemed to come from a vast, enclosed world nobody but Indians knew a great deal about.

The idea that Indian commercial cinema, whether from Mumbai or not, is made for the illiterate masses and seen by no one even slightly sophisticated, dies hard in the UK. It was always a view verging on sheer ignorance and, even today, when it could be claimed that India’s cinema has been technically strengthened but culturally weakened by Western influences, it’s not entirely true.

It certainly wasn’t so in the post-war decades that produced a whole series of film-makers, stars, musicians and playback singers worthy of anyone’s attention. I have soundtracks from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s that combine Indian classical, folk and traditional music with memorable skill. Would there were good-quality DVDs of some of the lost films. M0re:

Why India is part dysfunctional, fully functional

Aakar Patel in Mint Lounge:

Indian society functions as a whole. Observed in part, it’s dysfunctional. Let me explain. Without Gujaratis and Rajasthanis, India wouldn’t have an economy. Delete Tata/Birla/Ambani/Mittal/Premji and India begins to look like Bangladesh. The rest ofthe country—Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Kashmir, UP, etc.—will have lots of culture but little else.

That such a tiny community monopolizes the ability to raise and manage capital is frightening. However, it needs to be understood as part of a whole. There are things missing in Gujarat and Rajasthan as well, whole chunks, without which those states wouldn’t function properly.

Gujarat’s contribution to the Armed Forces, for instance, is instructive. In 2009, The Indian Express reported, Gujarat sent its highest ever number of recruits to the Indian Army. How many? A total of 719, in an army of over a million soldiers. Mind you, this was after a big awareness campaign. In the preceding two years the number of Gujarati recruits was 230. Gujarat has 55 million people but it depends on the rest of India to defend it.

Gujarat also needs another thing, though some might disagree. As a mercantile culture, Gujarati literature is quite poor. The shelves of Crossword stores in Ahmedabad (Surat has none) are lined with volumes of Bengali novels in translation. I wonder how many Gujarati novels have Bengali translations. Probably none, but Gujarat needs the literature of others and I only discovered Camus through his Gujarati translations. More:

Brand Baaja Baaraat

Punjab’s effervescent culture is Bollywood’s hottest beat and it’s also spreading its influence across India. Shefalee Vasudev in The Indian Express Sunday magazine Eye:

It could have been any night but it was a Punjabi-themed night at a many-splendorous wedding. It could have been any girl but it was Shruti Kakkar in Band Baajaa Baaraat who, with partner Bittoo Sharma, made a binness out of being cheeky. It could have been Rajasthani bangles but it is the Punjabi chooda that today’s Bengali brides want to wear for their honeymoon. Savouries could have been labelled Sindhi Curry or Rasam Ragaa, but they are called Dal Biji and Chilli Chataka instead. Across the country, coffee shops like Barista and fast-food stores like Subway include chicken tikka sandwiches in their menu, not jhaalmuri or upma. Hip-hop singer Hard Kaur and pop singers Mika and Punjabi MC, whose numbers keep gyms and pubs pulsating with excitement, are theth (pure) Punjabis. After Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Singh is Kingg and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, films like Rocket Singh, Band Baajaa Baaraat and Patiala House have made Punjabiyat a poster symbol of Hindi cinema.

It’s not just a collection of random anecdotes. Draw a matrix of Hindi cinema, Indipop music, cuisine, sangeet ceremonies at weddings, SMS lingo, college slang or fashion trends, and you notice a Punjabi takeover. Punjabiyat is the flavour of the moment. We may still associate it with golden mustard fields, the utopian backdrop of Aditya Chopra’s We Shall Overcome love story Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (DDLJ), but it has become much bigger. The popularity of Punjabi characters in Bollywood, the super success of Punjabi pop in dance clubs, the Big Fat Punjabi wedding as the propeller of the most commercially viable consumer market in India, the ‘sweety’ (ah, such a Punjabism) new avatar of the Patiala salwar as a trendy garment and the spurt of oye, virji, paaji and soniye in everyday vocabulary has made Punjab a leading character in the life of modern India. Not a Santa Banta caricature. More:

India faces a linguistic truth: English spoken here

Manu Joseph in the New York Times:

In a recent Hindi film, the actress Katrina Kaif holds a thin white bed sheet against her bare body and sings, in English: “I know you want it, but you’re never gonna get it.”

That what has become one of the country’s popular Hindi songs opens with an English sentence is unremarkable for Indians. So is the truth that Hindi films are now written in English — the instructions in the screenplays are in English, and even the Hindi dialogue is transcribed in the Latin alphabet. Mumbai’s film stars, like most educated Indians, find it easier to read Hindi if it is written this way.

Almost all advertising billboards in India are in English. There is not a single well-paying job in the country that does not require a good understanding of the language. Higher education here is conducted entirely in English. When Hindustan Pencils makes cheap pencils, which its sells to rural children for a rupee apiece (about 2 cents), the company prints the brand name, “Jobber,” in English. “A villager has more respect for a brand that is written in English,” said Dhruman Sanghvi, a company director.

English is the de facto national language of India. It is a bitter truth. More:

Vishal’s world

In Mint-Lounge, Neelesh Misra profiles movie director Vishal Bhardwaj:

Bhardwaj was born in Chandpur village near the small, uneventful town of Bijnor in western Uttar Pradesh. His father was a sugarcane inspector, a government official who oversaw quality and matters involving the licensing of sugarcane-related products. The senior Bhardwaj was often posted out as part of his job profile, and the family lived in the small sugar-trading town of Najibabad until Bhardwaj completed class V in school.

Najibabad was no place for creative churning. It had only two claims to fame: It was home to the Agarwal family that was one of the biggest bottlers of Thums-Up; and it had an All India Radio station.

Before the city began to dent his creative instincts, help arrived in the form of transfer orders for his father. They moved to Meerut, the city where Bhardwaj would lose his father but begin to reach out for his dream. When not supervising sugarcane licensing, Ram Bhardwaj wrote poetry and lyrics for Bollywood—the film industry was not called Bollywood then. The films he wrote for included lesser-known ones such as Ahimsa, Shuruaat, Kanoon Meri Mutthi Mein, Khoon ka Badla Khoon and Chhota Baap. Even though based in Meerut, Bhardwaj’s father worked with some leading names of the Hindi film industry then, such as music composers Kalyanji-Anandji, and singers Asha Bhonsle and Usha Khanna.

That had to rub off on the son, who grew up with notes of music wafting around him. His first dream was born—Vishal Bhardwaj was going to be a music composer.

When he was 17, Bhardwaj composed a song that caught the fancy of his father. Ram Bhardwaj discussed his son’s composition skills with Khanna, who asked to hear it. Soon after, she used it for the film Yaar Kasam. At 19, Bhardwaj recorded his first song with the playback icon Bhonsle—the same year he lost his father. More:

And a review of 7 Khoon Maaf here