New Delhi: To the arty, snooty, superior, culturally-driven creature, Bollywood is a dirty word – something symptomatic of all that is crass, dedicated to pander and cater to the lowest common denominator. However, seeing its gigantic popularity in the farthest corners of the globe, it has to be agreed that those guys must be doing something right, huh?
Forget the sizzling porn queen Sunny Leone and dazzlers Amy Jackson and Nargis Fakhri gracing the marquee and seriously taking lessons in learning Hindi to enhance their brand equity in B-town, the question that seems to zonk most of the arty crowd is, “Why are kids from all over the globe so fixated on Bollywood that they are prepared to drop everything and zoom down to India’s masala-ville to chance their luck? What is so special, seductive, alluring and unique that they are willing to ignore, reject and overlook the cinema of India’s masters – Ray, Ghatak, Sen, Benegal, even today’s celebrated art-house film makers – and make a bee-line for the hard-core creators of chhamak-chhallo?”
For starters – say Bolly admirers – the Bollywood product is matchless and one-of-a-kind. “In no other cinema on planet earth will you find such a heady cocktail of song and dance, colour, passion, emotion, romance, melodrama – all presented on superbly over-the-top style. To the restrained, subdued and understated West, this is…overwhelming. It represents life, with all cylinders firing, full-on. It may not sweep too many votes in Cannes, Venice, Berlin or the Oscars, but it is increasingly winning friends and influencing people, everywhere.” No wonder the world’s ‘youngistan’ are frequent visitors and they include wide-eyed fans from Italy, Germany, Japan, Morocco and France. In fact, Mumbai’s Acting Schools have several of them as dedicated students.
There are other reasons too, driving this rush hour traffic from the West. The global reach of Bollywood and its influence is an important factor along with a change in signposts. For example, in a number of cases, casting, plot, concepts and storylines are in an exciting make-over mode, lending the product a more universal appeal with legitimate scope for foreign actors. Giselli Monteiro (Love Aaj Kal) and Moufid Aziz – both Imtiaz Ali discoveries – are excellent examples. Anupam Kher’s acting institute ‘Actor Prepares’ and Subhash Ghai’s ‘Whistling Woods’ are only two of the reputed institutes where these kids learn their trade and craft. The latest is New York’s legendary Stella Adler.
Let’s face it. In no other country on earth is cinema so insanely loved and followed, transforming stars to gods and movies to religion. No other cinema invests its wares with the vigour, vibrancy, colour, energy, emotion, spirit and passion that people – aspirants and fans – who have a lust for life. It may lack class, artistry, subtlety and nuance of the art-house cinema – but for a sheer, broad-based celebration of life, Bollywood rocks.
Little wonder that foreigners keep pouring in to the film capital, hoping that they make it to the silver screen. If Kat, Sunny, Amy and Nargis can step into the frame, why can’t they?
So, chalo Bollywood!