8 Things About Bollywood You May Not Know

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[Note: the following post is a kind of indirect response to Turbanhead, from a couple of days ago]

Writing about Bollywood is incredibly difficult for an amateur fan. Many people are mainly interested in the latest filmi news and gossip, and watch current films to see whether they liked the heroine’s outfits. Rani Mukherji’s colorful outfits are scrutinized closely, but the quality of the film in which the outfits appear is somehow overlooked.

Then you have the retro-hipsters and nostalgists, who note the decline of the industry from its golden era in the 1960s and 70s, when both actresses and actors were impressively plump, and everything was fabulous, in that kind of “Amitabh’s pants are way too tight, but the sequins on his orange vest are oh so bright!” kind of way. Yes, I concur: dishoom, dishoom.

Some retro-bollywood fans will even argue that in the old days the films were actually objectively better, which doesn’t seem terribly plausible to me. There were of course some things that were better in the high-class productions from the old days. In particular there were beautiful song lyrics (many of the writers were professional Urdu poets) and the language -– one thinks especially of ‘courtesan’ movies like Pakeezah — but often it was just as bad as it is today, and for the same reasons it is often bad today: very low budgets, hurried shooting, and the privileging of star-power and profit over artistic integrity.

That said, there have been some interesting changes in the Indian film industry in the last 10-15 years, which are in my opinion worth noting and appreciating. The industry is still far from perfect, but it is evolving. If you can’t please everyone with your opinions, you can at least offer some information. Here, I’m going from Tejaswini Ganti’s excellent Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema, which was just published last year on Routledge Press. Ganti is by training an anthropologist, who teaches at a university in the U.S. When she researched this book, she did extensive interviews with many people in Bollywood, including producers, stars, art directors, screenwriters, choreographers, etc. In large part, the interviews are what guide her description of the industry, not so much other people’s books. (Incidentally, excerpts from her interviews with people like Ramesh Sippy, Aamir Khan, Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, screenwriter Anjum Rabali, Pooja Bhatt, and Subhash Ghai, to name just a few, are included in the final chapter of the book.) The opening chapters of Bollywood set up the industry in general terms (history, general themes, important facts), while the later chapters get into the impact of key films and key figures (especially actors and directors). The book as a whole is quite readable, in contrast to many other recent books of “film theory” on Hindi cinema that have been coming out.

Here, then, are eight things I picked up in Tejaswini Ganti’s Bollywood:

1.”Bollywood” vs. “India”. You hear again and again that Bollywood is the biggest film industry in the world, producing 800-1000 films a year. Actually this isn’t strictly correct. It’s the Indian film industry that produces that many films; Bollywood -– defined as commercial Hindi films produced in or around Bombay -– produces only about 150-200 films a year. According to Ganti, both the Telegu Telugu and Tamil film industries produce equal numbers of films (though I suspect budgets and audiences are probably smaller).

2.Taxation. Unlike in the U.S., where the film industry has always been treated by the government as a legitimate business, in India for many years, the film industry was treated as a vice, and taxed egregiously, at rates between 25 and 75 percent. This is so despite the fact that the film industry is the second largest in the country in terms of capital investment, and the fifth largest in terms of people employed.

Moreover, the tax is not just one tax, but a whole series of them, affecting the producers, distributors, and exhibitors of films. States use taxes to protect local language cinemas, and the Indian government waives taxes on films that are deemed to be especially patriotic (recently, films like Lakshya and LOC: Kargil were ‘tax-free’. So the next time you see some uber-patriotic war film and wonder how Bollywood got so patriotic all of a sudden, keep in mind that there’s a profit-margin in there.)

The tax situation has improved somewhat since May 1998, when the government finally granted the film industry the status of an actual “industry,” which means some alleviation of taxes, as well as smaller perks like reduced rates for electricity. However, taxes on films are still pretty high.

With all the tax, it’s a wonder that the industry survived at all, especially during the deep recession in the early 1970s, when the government imposed a 250 percent tariff on imported film stock.

  1. Flops. The success rate for Bollywood films is 15-20 percent a year. The vast majority of films are ‘flops’. The industry survives because there is always some rich sap ready to invest in another film (see #6 below).

  2. Number of Prints. The number of prints made for even big films is no more than 500 or so, including prints to be sent abroad. Compare to Hollywood, which releases big films on 3000 or more screens at once in the U.S. alone. One has to keep in mind, of course, that normal (i.e., non-multiplex) movie theaters in India are much larger than in America. A big movie theater in India can seat up to 2500 people.

  3. Box Office totals. I’ve often wondered why we don’t get precise box office totals for Bollywood releases the way we do in Hollywood. According to Ganti, while theaters at the main urban centers give quite specific box office numbers, the smaller centers (which also sometimes get films a little later) don’t report their earnings accurately or consistently.

  4. Financing. Bollywood movies are produced and financed in a completely chaotic way. Here are two paragraphs from Ganti on the decentralized, flexible Bollywood system:

The industry is neither vertically nor horizontally integrated in the manner of the major Hollywood studios or multinational entertainment conglomerates. ‘Studios’ within the Indian context are merely shooting spaces and not production and distribution concerns. Though there has been a move toward integration and points of convergence . . . these instances are not systemic and do not preclude others from entering the business. Essentially, the ‘industry’ is a very diffuse and chaotic place where anyone with large sums of money and the right contacts can make a film. Although both the Western and the Indian press use the metaphors of factories and assembly-line production to characterize the Bombay film industry, i.e., ‘Bombay’s dream factories churn out hundreds of films a year,’ in reality the industry is extremely decentralized and flexible and a more apt comparison would be to a start-up company financed with venture capital. Each Hindi film is made by a team of people who operate as independent contractors or freelancers and work together on a particular project rather than being permanent employees of a particular production company. Films are often financed simply on the basis of a star-cast, the germ of a story idea and a director’s reputation. . . . Power resides in the stars, directors, and producers. The industry contains very few non-value-added people such as executives, lawyers, agents, professional managers, i.e., the ‘suits,’ who do not contribute to the actual filmmaking process. There are also no intermediaries such as casting agents, talent scouts, or agencies like ICA and William Morris.

In the absence of lawyers, Ganti notes (and Suketa Mehta corroborates much of this in his book Maximum City, which is also largely based on personal experience with prominent figures in the industry), large deals are often sealed on the basis of verbal agreements between trusted partners. The informal nature of the system also makes it a convenient haven for ‘black money’ –- cash investments by gangsters, who need to hide their earnings from tax collectors.

  1. English. These days, many Bollywood screenplays are written in English originally. The reasons for this are many and overlapping. Here is how Ganti explains it:
While the narration of a [Bollywood] script is in Hindi or ‘Hinglish’ – a mix of Hindi and English prevalent among urban elites, many contemporary screenwriters first write their scripts in English and then translate the dialogues themselves into Hindi or work with a dialogue writer who is more proficient in the language. The specifics of a screenplay such as location, time of day, scene descriptions, and camera movement are always in English. The presence of English as a language of production may surprise readers, but is testament of the cosmopolitan nature of the Bombay film industry where people come from every linguistic region of India, and are not necessarily native Hindi speakers. . . . This reliance on English by screenwriters is a recent phenomenon and also signals a shift in [the screenwriters'] background. In the earlier decades of Hindi cinema, screenwriters were often Hindi or Urdu poets, playwrights, or novelists who supported their literary endeavors by working in the film industry. Today, the majority of screenwriters come not from such literary backgrounds, but from a wide range of professional as well as film industry backgrounds. (69)

The change in the kinds of people who write the films might explain why some people feel the films today are not up to the par set by the 1950s and 60s. It also explains how the Hindi dialogue in more ‘urban’ themed films (like Dil Chahta Hai) sometimes seems a little forced, as if everyone would be more comfortable doing the whole thing in English.

  1. Synch-sound. The vast majority of Bollywood films are still dubbed. The industry is still generally using older cameras, which produce camera noise, and has never invested in creating sound-proof shooting conditions in their studios. As a result, it’s still easier and more efficient for actors to dub their voices in studio after shooting. This state of affairs is unfortunate, as dubbing is sometimes adversely affects the quality of the acting and the ‘production values’ more generally.

This set-up also helps non-Hindi speaking actors (like the Tamilian superstar Kamal Haasan) to enter into the Hindi film industry. Conversely, it allows Hindi film actors to get into non-Hindi film industries, even if they don’t speak the language. The weirdness is that in some cases, if the actors concerned can’t quite get their lips around the language in question, other actors’ voices might be over-dubbed for their lines. Thus, the actor who is physically on screen may have his lines vocalized by someone else, while the songs in the film are sung by yet a third person!

43 thoughts on “8 Things About Bollywood You May Not Know

  1. Some of those were fascinating, I had no idea about the taxation and number of prints. The sound, ugh the sound – as per the other thread, you can see how much that bugs me. It’s so woefully unprofessional to get Lisa Ray in to mouth her lines just cos “she’s got a totally hot bod yaar.”

    In fact, I think professionalism is the one word which sums up what Bollywood needs to work on. I’ll expound a bit more if a discussion gets going. I’m also very glad you made the first point – which is one I should hope all mutineers should know, but many people often forget – that Bollywood and Indian Cinema are not synonymous. I keep an eye on most Hindi-language (Bolly and not) and Bengali films, I occasionally hear about some noteworthy Sri Lankan or south Indian flicks, but whilst a growing number are promising, praise-worthy, interesting, bold and other such adjectives, few are top banana. (Sorry, British idiot. Idiom, I mean idiom.)

  2. Great post, thanks Amardeep!

    I had no idea about point #1– Here I’d been thinking Bollywood was churning away, when in fact it’s only a piece of the machine. Glad to have the clarification.

    I may have to pick up this book!

    As for the playback singers, I remember when Footloose came out and I argued aggressively that Kevin Bacon had to be the one singing, since he was the one in dancing and acting. (I mean, duh!) I lost that fight, but I guess then playback singers in Bollywood weren’t such a shock for me ;)

  3. Pretty basic stuff for those who follow the industry, I guess. However, I think that you (mis)underestimate the possible validity of the ‘the old films were better’ argument. I guess you might not have seen much of the really good, yet commercially sucessful Hindi cinema of the 1950s and 1960s – the early films of Raj Kapoor (Awara, Shree 420, Barsaat), Guru Dutt (Pyaasa etc.), Mehboob Khan (I think his Andaaz, with Nargis, RK, and Dilip Kumar, is one of the most stylishly esecuted films the Bombay industry had ever produced) and other notable films like Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam (possibly ghost-directed by GD), which are superlatively well-written (many of these were written by members of the Progressive Theatre movement, including K.A. Abbas), well-thought-out, and intelligently directed films that work within the parameters of the overall aesthetic and commercial of Hindi cinema but are also serious works of art. The kind of melding of folk culture, poetry, literature and popular culture that these films and directors achieved has not really been repeated in the industry since. So to an extent, if that is what is meant by ‘old films’, the argument has a lot of weight. Technically, too ,many of these were comparable to what Western film studios were producing, because many of the technicians were German Jewish refugees from the berlin studios, which were at the forefront of technical advances at the time. Of course, the greatness of the music was a huge factor in their success, but I’m saying that it really was a period when some artistic heights were reached, and I’m not sure those have been recaptured.

  4. SoG,

    You’re right — I haven’t seen as many of those films as I’d like (though I have seen some of the ones you name).

    Two thoughts. One is, judging from the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema there was an immense amount of detritus produced in those years along with the good stuff. Most of it — thousands and thousands of films — has never been converted to DVD, and exists mainly in people’s memories. Only a few really standout films– then, as now.

    1. This isn’t really so much a ‘quality’ point as it is a ‘culture’ point, but I recently taught an intro level class at Lehigh called “Modern India: Literature and Film.” It was a mixed course, and I only had time for about 10 films.

    With the older films, I did Pather Panchali (World of Apu and Aparajito were optional/extra credit), Shree 420, Mother India (optional/extra credit), and Silsila. The students respected the Ray, though they seemed miserable/bored while watching the film. But they hated both Shree 420 and Silsila.

    I can see it with Silsila, which despite its beautiful, memorable songs, and interesting gossip angle (i.e., adultery, Jaya, Amitabh, etc.), is not a very good film.

    With Indians knowledgeable about Hindi cinema, you can carry off “Silsila” because of the historical value. But with my students (about half of whom were of Indian descent), it didn’t work.

    They also didn’t care much for Shree 420, which was to me shocking at first. But then… but then… you can kind of see where they’re coming from: the structure of the story is really loose — much more episodic than linear. A lot of things are in the movie that could be cut out. Some of the songs toward the end are pretty boring (and all of the songs go are seem a little long and repetitive by today’s standards).

    It’s not that I would ever say that Shree 420 is not a great film. But it’s a great film for people familiar with the culture of Indian cinema.

    The reason I mention all this is to suggest that the debate between the old days and today can never be resolved, because the films simply speak a different language. It is impossible to compare their quality objectively, because there is no one cinematic language by which to do so.

    We are left with preference. I respect the older films, and want to see more of them. But I don’t think it’s productive to measure the newer generation of filmmakers against the best films of the 1950s.

    (Incidentally, my students’ favorite film in the course — by far — was “Swades.”)

  5. “Some retro-bollywood fans will even argue that in the old days the films were actually objectively better, which doesn’t seem terribly plausible to me.”

    Pyaasa, Do Bigha Zameen, Tere Ghar Ke Samne…I could go on and on and on. Granted what old school fans ignore is the chaff. No one remembers the bad films. But if you compare the best versus the best the older films are better.

    I think the audience has changed drastically, with the changing demographic profile. Hindi films were what dads watched, now they are geared to fourteen year olds.

    You know, the invention of the “teenager” in post agriculutral society and then you have the disposable income of teenagers in modern society, which leads to all the summer blockbuster crap here in America. Punks ruin things everything everywhere.

    Btw, Telegu should be spelled Telugu. It is quite often misspelled. Mere oversight or some unspoken hegemonistic… : ))

  6. (Incidentally, my students’ favorite film in the course — by far — was “Swades.”)

    I’m not entirely surprised by this. It seemed Gen X and Y kids really took to this movie. I think for many it was far more realistic than the way Yash Raj films likes to paint the stereotypical NRI. Swades showed how that NRI maybe lives, which is of little interest to the villages, but hits home more so with the under 40 set who may feel attachment to both India and the West.

    Several friends & cousins were deeply moved by this movie and inspired to pursue NGO work, because of it… It’s far more motivating than another love-dance in the alps or a fountain.

    (not that that isn’t all good, too)

  7. I know for a fact that in practically every single Telugu movie, the actress is dubbed by another lady. One of the more popular dubbin artist is named Sunita. The voice is getting more recognizable than the new actresses that show up! By the way some of the Telugu films’ biggest heroines are named Sonali Bendre and Aarti Agarwal. Definitely not Telugu:).

  8. I’ve often wondered why we don’t get precise box office totals for Bollywood releases the way we do in Hollywood.

    This is a BIG problem, probably the biggest problem facing Bollywood today (other than its identity crisis), and goes to your earlier comment about niche markets. Box office totals are incorrectly reported or are subject to corrupt agendas of Bollywood rivals. It’s fair to say that in general the urban press favored by most upper class Indians (i.e the garbage churned out by the Times of India, Hindustan Times, et. al.) is utterly servile to the Johars and Chopras. So you have a film like Kal Ho Na Ho, which is declared a “smash hit” in the first week of its release despite its bloated budget (one would have to wait a couple of weeks to see if those big movies can recover their money), and the second week crash is inevitably never reported.

    Why does this matter? It matters because there is a marked identity crisis in Bollywood today and moviemakers manipulate trade figures to fit with their own agendas for what Bollywood should be or what Indian movie audiences want to see. For example, Mani Ratnam’s Yuva was dismissed a flop by so many reviewers in the first week itself that the filmmaker called an unprecedented press conference with his stars and film distributors to announce proper trade figures. Movies like Kal Ho Na Ho are held as the standard for pan-Bollywood success when in fact those films are hits only with niche audiences.

    It matters because increasingly, the urban “elite” of India is driving the movies that Bollywood makes (I dont know anything about the non-hindi cinema of India). Ticket prices in urban multiplexes can be as many as 5-6 times the price of a ticket in a rural cinema, with the result that Indian filmmakers no longer have to cater “to the masses” to make a profit. Gone are the days of the pan-Indian blockbuster or even the pan-Indian superstar for that matter. Stars like Shah Rukh Khan can make grandiose claims of being the “badshah of bollywood” when it’s clear that outside of urban movie audiences and NRIs, no one watches his movies. Movies with mass appeal, such as Gadar, which are undoubtedly seen by far more people than Kal Ho Na Ho, are automatically dismissed with no discussion of their merits, as if one can expect nothing more of the great unwashed. Bollywood’s Johar-led-English-speaking elite can barely conceal its sneer at Sunny Deol’s heartland appeal…it’s the ultimate victory of elitism really.

    P.S. The son also rises: it appears that Abhishek Bachchan is emerging as sole contender for the title of pan-Indian superstar (though some can argue convincingly that his dad still occupies that position). I’m hoping Bunty aur Babli (with its wink and nod for urban audiences) will signal to filmmakers that they needn’t ignore India’s unwashed millions to make a hit.

  9. Watching some of the Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor and also handful of other Indian director’s movies you sense a very sophisticated filmmaking and story telling that is timeless. They will keep you glued even if the movies are 30-40 years old. I would even put Sholay in that category. I would not necessarily say that in general “retro” movies were any better than today.

    Quite often, then new Bollywood movies are like breakfast, you forgot about them in few hours. They need to bring more creativity and originality. No doubt, the cinematography in Bollywood has improved quite a bit in last few years.

    The Chinese film industry has jumped leaps and bounds in last five years, and we havenÂ’t.

  10. This set-up also helps non-Hindi speaking actors (like the Tamilian superstar Kamal Haasan) to enter into the Hindi film industry

    Amardeep, I’m pretty sure Kamal Haasan used his own voice for his Hindi ventures, albeit with a pronounced Tamil accent. In fact, Kamal Haasan prides himself on knowing all four S.Indian languages & Hindi (and maybe even Bengali). Even Rajinikant used his own voice for his Hindi movies, again a fact made obvious by the accent.

  11. 77 thousand eh? That’s what I mean when I say it’s quite often misspelled. Telugus however do not spell it Telegu. (crosses fingers and hopes the google gods are with me). Anyway thanks for the change.

    I thought Swades was in need of a little trimming to. It would have been so nice if they just started with SRK showing up in the village in the RV. And then wrapped it up faster at the end. Why do they have to show everything. A little more courage by the editor/director would have been nice.

    They should recut the movies, I think they would find an audience beyond the NRI crowd.

    If they cut Satya a little bit here and there — it would make a nice little gangster flick.

  12. Wanna see a great “Bollywood” film?

    Check out BLACK by Sanjay Leela Bansali, starring Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachan.

    No song and dance routines.

    High drama.

    Not your usual Bollywood fare.

  13. Amardeep:

    I’m one of those unabashed retro hispters you speak of and yes – i prefer my women actors pleasantly plump and the male hirsute.

  14. I think that hindi movies have come a long way in recent years. Technicallly they have moved ahead by leaps and bounds. Though there is a lot of dubbing still being done, a few of the big banners spend enough money to have the sound proof cameras and live sound.

    The weakest area in hindi movies is the script. There are very few good screenplay writers in India, leading to most movies being based on American movies. It’s nice to see the rare “original” movie…..but I wish there were more of them.

    People in foreign countries watch these movies to keep in touch with their culture…..the latest fashion/trends/music…..all of this can be had in two and a half hours…..so you really can’t go wrong. I just wish there were better screenplays being writted. Enough with the…”Inspired by” stuff…….Mahesh Bhatt who is the king of the copycats….said that he doesn’t mind copying American movies, since most Indian audiences haven’t seen the originals…in his mind…it’s original to them. Hmmmmmm….I don’t know about that.

  15. Not to be rude, but Black is horrible. It is the worst direction in which Bollywood can go — ersatz Hollywood.

    Anyway, isn’t Black the Helen Keller story. I haven’t seen the Helen Keller movie. Perhaps I should see it as a penance for all the Helen Keller jokes.

  16. Rani Mukherjee was sublime and unrecognizable in Black, but Amitabh’s usual hamminess completely ruined it. This role did not call for that kind of swagger.

  17. tef, I agree that Swades was overlong, but I thought that the parts set in America were an important element of the story. (Maybe that’s just because i’m an abcd, though.) One aspect of the story that I liked was the fact that it shows (albeit in a sometimes stilted fashion) that this guy actually has some stake in staying in America. He’s launching a satellite (how cool is that?) that could (according to the movie) benefit people globally by improving agricultural methods. So in addition to the US vs. India choice, there is also the question of trying to tackle problems on a local vs. a global scale. If the movie didn’t show that SRK had legitimate reasons to return to the US, then there would have been no conflict in the movie. I thought that they could have trimmed down some of the boring Powerpoint presentation stuff, though, especially since it was fairly clear that the actors had no idea what they were saying.

  18. “No song and dance” doesn’t necessarily mean good, but I’ve noticed so many people use that as if it’s a big selling point. I like musicals as well as regular movies. Black was so over-hyped, you’re right tef it was just Helen Keller re-told. Sanjay Leela Bhansali can never make up for Devdas, he is forever consigned to the 9th level of hell. I’m glad I’m not a lone voice against Black, all my friends here think it’s the bee’s knees. I’m not saying it’s garbage, but a work of art it ain’t.

  19. saying “no songs/dances” is the opposite of a selling point, at least for me :) If there are no fun dance-breaks to break up another ridiculous Salman Khan Goes Shirtless feature, then hell, I could watch an American movie!

    The thing about Black is this– the story was unoriginal, yes. It was totally the Helen Keller story. Amitabh was overbearing and puffed up, yes. But Rani Mukherji was amazing, talented in ways we could never have imagined. And the little girl (forgive that I forget her name, as I follow it with this next part) was unbelievably brilliant. It was chilling, the performance that the little girl gave. For that reason alone, I’ll reduce Bhansali to the 8th plane of hell, not the 9th, because as a director if he was able to inspire such genius performances… well he can’t be all bad.

    Granted, I don’t know Bengali or the original novel Devdas, but Bhansali’s movie was visually breathtaking! Yes, SRK was a little…uh… bloated in his performance, but the music,dances and the costumes? And Madhuri?!? Wah wah wah!!!

    As for box office, IMDB often gives figures from US/UK and some in India, but it’s relatively impossible to track, what with the less-than-conventional methods often used to screen films in India, and black market tickets…

  20. Rani sublime? She of the splay-footed walk?

    The little kid was great. All the non-stars were better than the “stars”.

    And let us not forget Nandana Sen as the sister. Amartya Sen’s daughter and a Harvard grad but more importantly — Hot!

    I wonder if the book talks about the nepotism in the industry. I believe everyone in Yuva had a parent in the business.

  21. i’m old school to the bone, nothing compares to the movies of the 70s and 80s, and in some cases late 60s (haven’t seen any before that).

    I have a big problem w/ the direction of Bollywood cinema, these days, just like Hollywood, everyone is in a rush to put out the latest remake of some original idea, no one’s being creative anymore. Plus the fever of ‘teen/high school/college’ based movies is truly sickening in India. I agree w/ a previous poster that I am one of those who likes to watch Bollywood films to feel Indian again, to look at something across the world and see something totally different and unique, but i haven’t gotten that feeling in a very long time. Bollywood is in a rush to put out more shock value than anythign else as evidenced by the ever growing blatant use of sex, kissing and insinuations of other ‘taboo’ behaviors. It’s ridiculous.

    yes choreography has improved, filmmaking technique has improved but stories, songs and originality have severely declined. That’s why I maybe only see about 3 bollywood movies a year now, it’s just not worth the 3 hr time investment unless I know it’s going to be good.

  22. She of the splay-footed walk?

    like ballet-turnout or is there a more involved reference that I missed?

  23. desidancer,

    Lemme splain, there was no involved reference there. Rani walks kind of like Chaplin.

    I don’t know exactly what a “ballet-turnout” is, I think I can picture it though.

  24. Shree 420 and Silsila? Try showing Pyaasa to a about 20 white people who haven’t had their morning shot of hobo blood or frapaccino or whatever they snort up their nose to be so peppy in the morning. Isn’t 40% of Bollywood’s revenue now from NRI audiences? Don’t know why people hate govinda. His new movies aren’t good but he’s still the best dancer around (although hrithik may have stolen the title already).

  25. OT…

    Amardeep, does this book (or any other you know of) address the (mis)representation(s) of Indian-Americans/members of the Indian diaspora in mainstream Bollywood film, i.e. Kal Ho Na Ho, Aa Ab Laut Chale? That would be an interesting conversation.

  26. Don’t know why people hate govinda. His new movies aren’t good but he’s still the best dancer around

    blink you’re kidding, right?

  27. Even Rajinikant used his own voice for his Hindi movies, again a fact made obvious by the accent.

    Interesting thing is that apparently Rajanikant is NOT a South Indian. He is from Mahrashtra and his real name is Sivajirao Gaekwad. Hard to believe that when we hear him in Hindi movies….. he speaks with much more of a Tamil accent than Kamalhaasan.

    ANd yeah, I’ll probably get killed for saying this, but I think Amithabh hams way way too much. He’s a great star, but only a just-above-average actor. Of course, in Hindi cinema, anything other than hamming is “great acting”. These days even the National Film awards seem to subscribe to this philosophy – eg: Raveena’s award, or Devgan’s. Or take a look at this years best actor: Saif Ali Khan in “Hum Tum”. Lots of you would have watched it. Think about it – should we honestly think there were no better lead performances in the “800-1000 films” of last year?

    Of course, I grew up watching Mohanlal, Mammootty and KamalaHaasan at their best, so I AM smug. But seriously, I am horrfied at the difference of what is considered “good acting” in Hindi and, say, Kerala.

  28. Why should the bollywood industry be centralized ? Would it improve the quality of the movies ?

  29. I don’t think it should be centralized, but room should be made for independent labels instead of a closed system run by gangsters and horny producers. This would mean lobbying the distributors or creating successes like Bend it like Beckham or Monsoon Wedding (i’m not vouching for the films but their marketing and distribution approach). I think the Indian audience is ripe for change, but its certainly not going to happen from within the system. Look at Ramu and tell me he isn’t just another producer now trying to make films. yeah, I’m not kidding about govinda. I don’t know jack about dance choreography, but I know a good dancer when i see one (and WE ARE talking about bollywood actors who dance right?) Misrepresentation in the diaspora? How about misrepresentation in all of indian mainstream media. sikhs are idiots, gujaratis are worse than jews and bongs are intellectual a-holes etc. etc. the only community given overexposure is the punjabi community (non-turban wearing punjabis) which according to my research is due to artists from lahore migrating to bombay after partition. What’s ironic is that I saw a play a few days ago which dealt with social issues in india but seemed to have based its views on india and the diaspora solely on their portrayal in the media and in female magazines (sarita, femina etc.). the father was an overbearing misogynistic lout and the mother was the quiet type who took her beatings like a wo(man) and the children who pontificated at length about arranged marriages and their sense of confusion and loss of identity and it went on and on. Women may not be at the forefront when it comes to the image of the indian family, but I’ve never seen any ‘docile’ females in my commoonity. Wives can be likened to XO’s on a ship, the captain owns the ship, but its the XO who runs everything. Can we get over the identity crisis already? We get it, you’re confused. Move the F on. Lastly, anyone ever notice Gabbar dressed like Castro? Subtle hint…I think not. His beard was certainly inspired by castro, or it could’ve been the villain from A few dollars more. meh.

  30. Well, I thought the acting in Black was good, even by Amitabh, and I’m real critical of Indian actors.

    Devadas on the other hand I thought to be extremely boring. SRK is a bad actor (fake crying et al) and Aiswarya needs to just stay with the cat walk.

    It takes more than beautiful costumes and exotic scenery to make a good movie.

    For all of those who still like their heroines pleasantly plump (in all the right places), contact me.

  31. ‘Silsila…is not a very good film’…a somewhat ridiculous thing to say (sorry)! What makes one anyway?

    Btw, to repeat what I said on another blog…I’m surprised no one mentions films made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee (the real desis, I mean!). One hardly finds movies that revolve around middle-class lives these days. Also check out some of the movies made by Gulzaar (except Parichay), Basu Chatterji et al.

  32. Financing. Bollywood movies are produced and financed in a completely chaotic way.


    Yes – banks are not supposed to finance them, by policy.

    I suppose that’s where the gangsters come into the scene in Bombay and sharks in the south.

    GV – Director Maniratnam’s brother killed himself 2 years ago after a couple of flops. Interesting that he was a Chartered accountant and knew more than enough people to bail him out…

    1. Two brothers separated in childhood will always grow up on different sides of the law. The law-breaker, however, will suddenly turn over a new leaf before the end, bash up the villain (who is the real bad guy), and be pardoned for all his sins before the last-scene family reunion. (This is possible only if he has a heroine – see rule 2 below).

    2. If the number of heroes is not equal to the number of heroines, the excess heroes/heroines will a) die b) join the Red Cross and take off to Switzerland before the end of the movie.

    3. If there are 2 heroes in a movie, they will fight each other savagely for at least 5 minutes (10 if they are brothers).

    4. Any court scene will have the dialogue “Objection milord”. If it is said by the hero, or his lawyer, it will be overruled. Else, it will be sustained.

    5. The hero’s sister will usually marry the hero’s best friend (i.e. the second hero). Else, she will be raped by the villain within the 1st 30 minutes, and commit suicide.

    6. In a chase, the hero will always overtake the villain, even on a bullock-cart, or on foot.

    7.When the hero fires at the villain(s), he will never a) miss b) run out of bullets. When the villain fires at the hero, he will always miss (unless the hero is required to die, as in rule 2).

    1. Any fight sequence shall take place in the vicinity of a stack of a) pots b) barrels c) glass bottles, which will be smashed to pieces.

    2. Any movie involving lost and found brothers will have a song sung by a) the brothers b) their blind mother (but of course, she has to be blind in order to regain her sight in the climax) c) the family dog/cat.

    3. Police inspectors (when not played by the hero) come in two categories: a) Scrupulously honest, probably the hero’s father – killedby the villain before the titles.

    b) Honest, but always chasing the anti-hero (as in Rule 1), saying “Tum kanoon se bach nahin sakte”, only to pat him in the back in reel 23. Usually, this inspector’s daughter is in love with the anti-hero.

    c) The corrupt inspector, (usually the real villain’s sidekick) unceremoniously knocked about by the hero(s) in the climax.

  33. I would like to express my sheer disappointment with Bollywood as a whole. All they recently seem to do are adaptations, however vague they may be,of Western films. The plots seem to go on forever and for me, loose the audience completely. The once infectious and creative music is now just a nuisence. Even, actresses are dressing less and resemble those scantlily clad ho’s on MTV! The language has, unlike most other foreign films, disinteregrated into semi English, “kitchen Hindi”. And the worst is the stars are becoming more self conscious & fake.

    Such a pity that a country with so much to offer spiritually & creatively has to resort to this empty, insipid and quantitative form of entertainment to put our country on the map or as they call it reach a wider audience.