Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004



Cinema In General


Pans & Tilts…Hello Bollywood, Namastey London, Naughty Katrina, Salman in soup…

Bollywood is buzzing beyond Bombay. From Morocco in Africa to the shores of the Malay Peninsula, from Canada in North America to Auckland in New Zealand, the melodramatic Hindi film has been increasingly seducing the whites, the browns and the blacks with its foot-tapping music, its rhythmic gyrations, its sumptuous sets, crazy costumes and garishly painted faces. Well, there is little doubt that Bollywood is India’s soft power, enamouring the world in an unbelievable sort of way.

What is more, Mumbai’s Bollywood has begun to cast its charm in one too many mediums. The just launched Indian edition of Hello! magazine (April 2007) is filled with Bollywood news. The cover is on the Elizabeth Hurley-Arun Nayar Mumbai-masala wedding, whose exclusive rights were sold to this journal for an undisclosed sum of money. There are some fascinating photographs of Liz and Arun as they go through their church wedding in Britain, and later, traditional Indian ceremonies. Particularly captivating are the images of Arun in a silver sherwani-aligari, and Liz in a ghagra-choli dancing away the night against the backdrop of a regal palace.

Besides this, Hello! traces the split of Saif Ali Khan and his Italian girlfriend, Rosa, as well as the parting of Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan. Of course, the magazine could not have ignored the Aishwarya Rai-Abhishek Bachchan romance, titling the article, “Behind the Fairytale”. We then have Shilpa Shetty and how she got out of her own B-grade existence through the Big Brother incarceration. The Hello! Hall of Fame begins with Big B, who is described as “radiating the sexuality of a Connery, the intensity of a Brando and the acting prowess of a Nicholson”. King Khan’s rise from relative obscurity to fame, and the New York night of Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” serve as the edition’s dessert.

All I can say is, Bollywood Zindabad.


This seems like the season of celebrity unions. Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is set to marry his Israeli model girlfriend Bar Rafaeli. The “Titanic” star went down on his knees and proposed to Bar at a party, and the pair would possibly get married at the end of this year. "They'll probably have a private ceremony in Israel, then a big ring ceremony and party in the US towards the end of the year," a source said. After the Liz-Arun bash and, hopefully, the Ash-Abhi wedding, the Leonardo-Bar affair may seem listless. Or, who knows, this couple too may decide to liven up their nuptials by giving it a Bollywood touch.


Namastey London
One of the movies to open last week (March 2007) was Vipul Shah’s “Namastey London”. I was curious to find out how Shah had handled the theme, which is oft-beaten. Manoj Kumar’s preachy “Purab aur Paschim” made a point at a time when India was not part of the global village, and, in any case, the concept of globalisation was virtually unknown then. Well, “Namastey London” has its “bhashan” parts, where, in one such, Akshay Kumar tells an English prude what India really is. “We have a Catholic who let a Sikh become the country’s Prime Minister, who, in turn, allowed a Muslim to take over as President…” Kumar quips. Beyond this, the film has little to offer by way of originality. I could see in Shah’s work liberal traces of “Chotisi Mulaquat”, “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenga”, “Hum Di De Chuke Hai Sanam” and “Mouna Ragam” (Tamil). And the story could not have been more clichéd: Katrina Kaif plays a London-bred girl, who believes in shocking for the sake of shock. She guzzles vodka, wears silly micro-mini skirts, and yet refuses to kiss her English boyfriend because she is already married to Akshay! What is even more absurd is that she does not, in the first place, believe that it was marriage at all. To top it all, just about everybody in the theatre where I watched “Namastey London” knew what the end would be. There was this little boy next to me, who answered “No” for Katrina, when the English priest asks her at the altar whether she would accept the British guy as her husband. So much so for the script, and when I saw Katrina running out of the church, I was reminded of the last scene in Dustin Hoffman’s “The Graduate”. Mr Shah, how boring can you get!


However, for Katrina, “Namastey London” turned out to be a shopping picnic on London’s Bond Street. The movie’s producer paid her £17,000, when she said she was not happy with the costumes. Katrina shopped till she could no more, and fell so much in love with her dresses that she continued wearing them after Shah had called pack up. Shah had no heart to take the clothes back from her, and Katrina did not think it was necessary to reimburse the producer. Unfortunately, this is where a large part of a film budget goes: paying actors vulgar amounts and catering to their fancies, while other essentials are left wanting. We end up compromising on quality. And, wonder why we do not make world class cinema.


Tailpiece: Bollywood’s bad boy is back into the black bowl. The other day, the actor was fined for speeding in Jodhpur, when he was on his way to appear in court for the 1998 blackbuck poaching case. Khan faces two jail terms for shooting endangered deer, and together they can run up to five years. He is also facing trial in a hit-and-run case in Mumbai where he drove his vehicle over sleeping pavement dwellers. One died. Some men never learn. Or, they do not want to. Will Katrina, Salman’s latest sweetheart, rein him in? We live in hope.

(Webposted March 282007)