Friday, March 16, 2007

Shalini's article on Bollywood exhibition

from w
It was good to read an article by Shalini Akhil in today’s Age newspaper. It’s about the Bollywood exhibition at the Melbourne National Gallery. I really like some Bollywood movies and we occasionally catch them on TV. Peceli understands quite a bit of the language and I follow the subtitles but can still remember lots of Hindi words anyway.
Shalini’s site will give you a link to the whole article from the Melbourne Age.

Here is an excerpt from her article.

The all-singing, all-dancing film genre has shimmied its way into the NGV... Bollywood isn't just coming to the NGV - it's taken up residence in all kinds of places all over the nation.

Bollywood is the term used to describe the Indian mega-movie industry - I've oftensaid that it starts with a "B" because it's based in (the former) Bombay and ends with an "ollywood" because it's not too original. So, why the obsession on my part? I was brought up in Fiji in an age before television, and Indian cinema was popular, not just with the then-Indian majority but with the whole country (as it is to this day). The fuel of my imagination came in the form of videotapes layered thick with Bollywood stories - but, like any teen approaching adulthood, the obsessions of my childhood became the embarrassments of my youth. After a period of denial, I'm allowing myself to rediscover and re-examine the genre, and it seems my timing could not have been better.

Bollywood, when combined with other regional industries (namely Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam and Kannada), makes India the largest film producer in the world. Bollywood itself releases about a thousand movies a year; 14 million Indians go to the cinema every day, be it in the air-conditioned comfort of their local multiplex or in the travelling theatre tents set up near their villages. While there is a strong tradition of Indian new-wave or "art" cinema, the most enduring product of Bollywood is the "masala film" - so called because, like the mix of spices, it contains a bit of everything. Bollywood films are generally about 21/2 to three hours long, contain about six songs and combine elements of romance, action, drama and suspense. Most still contain characters recognisable from early filmic adaptations of the original epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana - the big-moustachioed villain, the chaste and loyal wife, the ever-suffering mother and the triumphant husband/son.

The ever-expanding Indian diaspora has helped the Bollywood phenomenon span oceans and borders, and all this travel through time and space has seen Bollywood morph and meld accordingly. Productions nowadays are more sophisticated and have a more international flavour - overseas locations are not just for song sequences any more. The Indian migrant experience dominates storylines, with the physical and metaphorical journey "home" a common theme - woven in with, of course, healthy doses of romance, action, drama and suspense.

(paras left out here)

The art on display at the NGV, a selection of more than 100 posters, costumes, and clips from key films, is an evocative audio-visual catalogue of India's shifting consciousness over the years and offers an intriguing insight into the Bollywood juggernaut from a different perspective - behind the glitz and glamour, the spontaneously appearing troupes of synchronised dancers, and the almost-kisses between bouffy-haired heroes and doe-eyed heroines.

Though you have to admit those bits can be quite fun, too.

Shalini Akhil's first novel, The Bollywood Beauty, was published by Penguin. She is currently working on a second.

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