Much has been made about a possible link-up between Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan, two of Bollywood’s biggest stars of the moment. As I’ve mentioned before, Rani is on a hot streak, having had hits with Black (a remake of the Miracle Worker) and the recent Mangal Pandey, as well as lighter fare like Hum Tum. Until recently, Abhishek has really only been known as Amitabh Bachchan’s son. But, he too has become an actor in his own right, most notably (for me, at least) in Bunty aur Babli, a Bonnie and Clyde-type caper that paired him with Rani. Their on-screen chemistry is incredible, a fact that has tabloids squawking about an off-screen romance between the two. (They haven’t even admitted to dating and already the film rags are discussing their marriage. Ah..the world of Hindi cinema…in which the only goal in life is to get married.)
Until last week, visiting museums in this country has been a mostly unsatisfying experience. Luckily, we stumbled upon the last day of a week-long exhibit at the Jehangir Gallery entitled “Revisualising India.” Included in the show were pieces from the Osian’s Archive & Library of Cinema and Popular Arts, an auction house and archive center in New Delhi. On display were hundreds of vintage, painted Bollywood posters, photographs from film sets from the 1920s, Ravi Varma lithographs, political posters depicting Gandhi, Nehru, and other folk heroes, art deco style travel posters of Indian destinations, and – for some reason – several Communist-era film posters from Poland and expressive marionettes from Indonesia.
I can’t believe I’m even going to comment on this, as it’s a ridiculous tabloid issue. But the big media news around here for the last week or so has been the outrage over a celebrity kiss caught on a cell phone camera. Someone snapped a pic of actors Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapur in a liplock, sold the fuzzy photo to Mid Day (Mumbai’s afternoon tabloid), and the whole thing has been front-page fodder ever since.
So what? I understand the whole privacy issue, but it was just a kiss!
Before I came over here people would tell me about how conservative Indian society is, and would often reference the non-kiss rule for Bollywood films. Bombay isn’t particularly conservative ? it is a city, after all ? but this “Kapoor-kiss-a” has really fed into the stereotype. Surely there’s got to be more news going on in the world than clandestine celebrity kisses? Well, there are also the occasional, sensational news stories about mass fires in the slums, mafia torture of a diamond dealer (whereby the victim was hung upside down and given a petrol enema), and disfiguring acid attacks on young women by jealous ex-lovers. But those pieces rarely merit as many column inches. (Ironically, this post is a case in point.)
I was semi-discussing this stupid Kapoor-Kapur story with an Indian friend last night and he brought up an amusing contradiction. At more than one billion people, India is poised to become the most populous nation in the world soon. Yet a kiss is taboo? You’ve got to wonder how this country was even populated at all.
Law 36 of the 48 Laws of Power states, “Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them Is the Best Revenge.” Admittedly, I have regarded the whole Bollywood scene with a bit of disdain, and I’ve tried my damnedest to ignore it. Of course, that was until Anthony and I had the chance to go to the premier of Swades, the new Shah Rukh Khan film, last night.
How did firangis like us get invited to the premier, you ask? Well, it turns out that Anthony’s voice has a bit part in the movie! In fact, his American-accented voice may have even landed him a commercial or two. That remains to be seen. At any rate, I’m completely jealous. But, at least, I get to accompany a rising star. Right?
I just got the October issue of Vogue and there’s a ton of stuff in there about Bollywood. Most notably, there’s mention of “Bride and Prejudice,” the new movie from Gurinder Chadha (the director of “Bend It Like Beckham”). The film comes out in L.A. and NYC on Christmas Day, but it just had its debut here last weekend…and we went to see it!
Okay, so the press here mostly lambasted the movie, saying it was too watered down. The critics over here are ruthless, too, some saying Aishwarya Rai (aka, “the most beautiful woman in the world” – warning! heavy flash on the website!) has never really been much of an actress so she shouldn’t bother trying the crossover to more English-language films and, ultimately, Hollywood. Pshaw! As much of a plasticky, Barbie doll type that she is, she did a fine job, and I think I may even be a fan.
But I digress.
“Bride” had a simple story line – adapted, of course, from “Pride and Prejudice” – so we knew what we were getting into as far as that was concerned. On the other hand, the entire movie-going experience was a treat. The opening weekend in Mumbai of a much anticipated Bollywood movie in a sold-out theater (for which we had to buy scalped tickets from the mob racket outside) – what could be cooler??
Apparently, I’ve been spending way too much time in front of the computer, so I’ve been cutting back. In surfing’s stead, I’ve been reading quite a few magazines and newspapers, which, around here, are chock full of entertainment news. In fact, one of the “hard” newspapers, The Times of India, had as an international headline, “Billy Joel weds 23-year-old fiance.” McCauley Culkin’s drug bust was also front page “international” news. There’s more than 1 billion people in this country, and more than 5 billion in the world and they lead with that?! Thank god I can read the New York Times online.
Alas, I’m not opposed to entertainment news. Not at all. In fact, I’ve come to love the Bollywood rag Filmfare (full disclosure: Filmfare is a subsidiary of The Times of India group…no wonder that paper’s so flimsy!). In the month or so that I’ve been here, I’ve tried to get some of the main Bollywood actor’s squared away in my head so if I do ever decide to go see a Hindi film, then I’ll know which stars to look for. In the interim, I’ve made a sort of personal scorecard.
The following is an abridged, slightly uninformed, and biased guide to some of Bollywood’s stars. First up, the men: