Bollywood the World’s #1 Filmmaking System history of bollywood



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BOLLYWOOD

The World’s #1 Filmmaking System

HISTORY OF BOLLYWOOD

  • “Bollywood” (Bombay + Hollywood) is a term coined by the news media, not the filmmakers
    • (Bombay is now Mumbai, of course….)
    • First applied in the 1970s, when India became #1 feature filmmaking country
  • See 17-minute excerpt from Mark Cousins’ essay/documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011):
    • Development of commercial cinema in India in the 1960s and 1970s
    • Amitabh Bachchan and Sholay (1975)…trying to capture the “traumatic” times
    • The “angry young man” motif

CHARACTERISTICS OF “CLASSICAL” BOLLYWOOD

  • The system:
    • A “Studio System” modeled somewhat on old Hollywood
    • A powerful star system
      • e.g., Amitabh Bachchan
      • e.g., Shah Rukh Khan (SRK)
    • Much nepotism—pretty much institutionalized
      • Includes what the book calls the “Bollywood Brat Pack”
      • See “List of Hindi Film Clans”!
      • e.g., Kareena Kapoor
      • e.g., Abhishek Bachchan
      • e.g., Hrithik Roshan

CHARACTERISTICS OF “CLASSICAL” BOLLYWOOD

  • The style:
    • Essentially all are musicals—integrated musicals in which song and dance propel the plot
      • MTV-inspired visual style
      • Such dance has been adopted by other art/entertainment forms around the world
      • e.g., Bollywood number in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001)
      • e.g., Broadway and West End productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bollywood Dreams (2002)
      • e.g., Bollywood dance clubs in NYC
    • An open acknowledgement of “playback singers”—supporting a related music recording industry
    • Most films are about three hours long…with an intermission
      • Indian audiences want quantity for their money

CHARACTERISTICS OF “CLASSICAL” BOLLYWOOD

  • The content:
    • Intergenerational families
    • “Wholesome” family entertainment
    • Many arranged marriages examined
    • Not sexually explicit…but very sensual
    • Stories with their origins in traditional Indian epic tales, myth, and theater, but also:
    • Imitation of American (and other) genres—many remakes of classical Hollywood films!
    • “Masala”—a mixture of everything
    • Endings are not open—moral lessons are made clear!
    • Increasingly in the 21st century, a focus on the Indian diaspora; also, the use of “Hinglish”

MASALA—A Mixture of Everything… GENRE AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY

  • Example:
  • 3 Idiots:  This 2009 "comedy" was the all-time box office hit of India. The film is described in its marketing thus:  "In the tradition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off comes this refreshing comedy about a rebellious prankster with a crafty mind and a heart of gold."  Yet, there are many moments of pathos, family drama, fantasy, and romance.  These three clips show mostly the comedy, which itself seems to draw from multiple comic roots and types of humor: 1.  Freshman hazing at the Engineering College (5 min.) 2.  Musical number "Aal Izz Well" (5 min.) 3.  Musical number "Zoobi Doobi" (4 min.)

MASALA—A Mixture of Everything… GENRE AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY

  • Example:
  • Dhoom:2 (Back in Action): A  2006 heist film, Dhoom:2 stars Hrithik Roshan (from K3G) (and also Abhishek Bachchan, son of Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, and his wife Aishwarya Rai). This clip from the film's opening sequence exemplifies an alternating pattern between action scenes and musical numbers.  1.  A hold-up in disguise...then Hrithik dances (10 min.)

MASALA—A Mixture of Everything… GENRE AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY

  • Example:
  • Koi. . . Mil Gaya: This 2003 science fiction film stars Hrithik Roshan, and is directed by his father, Rakesh Roshan. Hrithik Roshan plays Rohit, a developmentally disabled young man who accidentally signals aliens.  One of the "cute" aliens, Jadoo, befriends Rohit and is able to increase Rohit's mental and physical capabilities in the extreme. 1.  Rohit inadvertently calls the aliens on his late father's old computer (8 min.) 2.  Rohit and his friend Nisha meet Jadoo. . . followed by a song, of course (15 min.)

MASALA—A Mixture of Everything… GENRE AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY

  • Example:
  • Ra.One: This 2011 film is a highly popular action/superhero film.  Shah Rukh Khan stars as both a game designer and the superpowered manifestation of one of the game's characters, brought to life in the real world to fight the evil Ra.One.  I haven't seen this film, and couldn't find a better clip than the trailer.  The trailer does not have subtitles, but I think you will get the idea. 1.  Ra.One trailer (1 min.)

MASALA—A Mixture of Everything… GENRE AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY

  • Example:
  • Karthik Calling Karthik:
  • The trailer for this engaging 2010 psychological thriller doesn't have English subtitles, but I think with the code-switching and visuals you can certainly get the idea:

    1. Karthik Calling Karthik (2010) trailer (2 min.)

MASALA—A Mixture of Everything… GENRE AND CULTURAL HYBRIDITY

  • Example:
  • Phoonk 2:
  • This trailer is a little harder to understand, but you can see that Bollywood films have embraced the horror genre as well.

    1. Phoonk 2 (2010) trailer (2 min.)

IMPORTANCE OF THE STAR SYSTEM IN BOLLYWOOD

  • Perhaps the most popular movie star in the world today is Shah Rukh Khan:
    • 1. The Inner World of Shahrukh Khan--a documentary by British-based director Nasreen Munni Kabir, the piece follows the star on a 2004 tour.

INDIAN CINEMA DIASPORA

  • Gurinder Chadha is a British filmmaker of Sikh Indian origin. She has developed a respected and popular film career by focusing on issues of the Indian diaspora, particularly in the U.K. (e.g., Bhaji on the Beach, 1993, Bend it Like Beckham, 2002). Examine this musical number from Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004) to see a range of typical Bollywood tropes for such musical sequences. Listen to the lyrics (in English) to detect what is essentially a parody—or an homage—to these extravagant production numbers.
  • 1. Bride and Prejudice – “A Marriage Has Come to Town”

INDIAN CINEMA DIASPORA

  • To gain a better understanding of the issues related to the Indian diaspora and film, watch this interview with Mira Nair, an Indian filmmaker based in New York.  Like Gurinder Chadha, Nair often focuses on the Indian diaspora and its implications for those living in India and abroad, in film such as Mississippi Masala (1991) and Monsoon Wedding (2001).
  • 1. Mira Nair discussion on "Cinema Diaspora," U.C. Davis, 2007, 57 min.

INDIAN CINEMA DIASPORA

  • A unique take regarding reactions to 9/11 by diasporic Indian Muslims living in the U.S. can be found in My Name is Khan.  This 2010 release stars Bollywood favorites Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol as a couple dealing with significant loss due to anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. in the 2000s.  SRK plays Rizwan Khan, an NRI man with Asperger's Syndrome whose stepson is accidentally killed by schoolyard bullies. In order to appease his grieving wife, Khan embarks on a quest to meet the U.S. president and deliver the message, "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist."  Along the way, he meets various characters, both sympathetic and problematic. 1.  Meeting Khan on his quest (5 min.) 2.  Flashback to the tragic death (3 min.) 3.  Confrontation in the mosque (4 min.) 4.  Khan and the president (5 min.)

INTERTEXTUALITY IN BOLLYWOOD

  • The 2006 drama Dor (String) is in general a "Parallel Cinema" study of a serious topic, based on true events--an Indian man working in Saudi Arabia dies at the hands of another Indian worker, who is convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  According to Saudi law, if the widow of the murdered man formally pardons the convicted killer, he can be exonerated and set free.  This film follows the journey of the convicted man's wife to find the widow and convince her that the death was an accident.  Here, though, I've chosen clips that show intertextuality with other Indian films and music.  Beyond just an intertextual "nod" by director Nagesh Kukunoor to other film fans and scholars, these clips also show the real investment that Indian citizens have in the Bollywood culture--they sing, they dance, they quote from their beloved films. 

INTERTEXTUALITY IN BOLLYWOOD

  • Clips from Dor (2006):
  • 1. Clip 1:  The widow, dressed in mourning clothes, on her dead husband's birthday hears villagers playing on the radio one of her and her husband's favorite songs--"You Are My Soniya" from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...see what happens. (1 min.)
  • 2. Clip 2: The two women celebrate the dead man's birthday by doing one of his favorite things...watching a classic Bollywood film, Hero (1983). (1 min.)
  • 3. Clip 3: Yet another favorite thing--a camel ride. Here all three characters are carried away by the radio playing the song "Kajrare" from the film Bunty Aur Babli (2005)...check out the gorgeous true Bollywood-style staging and filming. (2 min.)
  • 4. Clip 4: A vagabond con artist charms the convicted man's wife by quoting from at least six famous Bollywood films, including Sholay (1975), Padosam (1968), Border (1971), Ghayal (1990), Munna Bhai (2003), and Saajan (1991). (2 min.)

AND: SATYAJIT RAY: FATHER OF “PARALLEL CINEMA” IN INDIA

  • To gain a better understanding of the style of the late, great Bengali auteur, Satyajit Ray, the father of “Parallel Cinema” in India, you can do a little viewing.  A number of Ray's films seem to be available on YouTube in their entireties!  Check them out: 1. Pather Panchali (1955, 119 min.)--This is the first film of Ray's famous Apu Trilogy, depicting the childhood of protagonist Apu in the countryside of the region/state of Bengal in the 1920s. 2.  Nayak (The Hero) (1966, 115 min.)--In this film, written and directed by Ray, a famous film star reluctantly travels across country by train, resulting in a variety of dramatic encounters. 3.  There are also various interviews with Ray available online.  For example--Satyajit Ray: Introspections (1983) Part 1 (14 min.)

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