Tuesday, January 17, 2006


In last weeks Newsweek magazine dated 16th January, there is in an interview on the last page by Malcolm Beith with Bollywood’s current number one star, Shahrukh Khan. Only an excerpt from the actual interview has been published and it is centered on a series of questions concerning escapism. The interviewer, Bleith, questions the seriousness of Hindi cinema and points out to Khan that Hindi film, including his own productions “feature songs, a la Bollywood”. Khan responds by likening song and dance in Hindi films to special effects in Hollywood films.

“You need to have songs, you need to have dances. There has to be escapism. You can’t tell (audiences) about the drudgery of everyday life, you need to tell them about fantastic things. And one of the simplest fantasies of Indians is that we can sing and dance when we feel like it.”

Hindi film is made for the people who save their money to catch a new release. If the songs are catchy and the dance sequences hot, these guys will sit through the movie 2 or 3 times even. You only have to take a ride in a cab or auto rickshaw in Bombay to see how ‘into’ these songs and films they are. This obsession brings color to the country and adds personality to the city. Many times while sitting in a cab I hear some old song that I have not heard in ages and before you know it Raju the driver and I have broken into a duet of “My Name is Lakhan”.

Beith then went on to ask Khan if he was “proud of providing escapism”. I found the response to be fucking awesome.

“Yes. Every story told is somewhere down the road to a fantasy film. Hollywood films don’t have songs and dance in them, but you have King Kong taking over New York, and that, I think, is an amazing fantasy. You have the president of the United States saving the world from a meteorite. Our fantasies are smaller. The fantasies of Indians are still achievable. Our economy, our country, and our lifestyle haven’t reached a level where we need to go out to space for fantasy.”

Ever since I was a kid, people have made fun of the singing and dancing in Hindi films. Even until I was in college I found my self in debates defending the fantasy of Hindi cinema and their over the top dance sequences. Reading this article I feel that Shahrukh Khan has explained the necessity of song and dance in Hindi films so tactfully.

His latest release if “Paheli” (riddle) which is also India’s nomination for an Oscar. It is supposedly about women and emancipation. Bollywood alone releases approximately 900 movies alone. That figure does not even include the numerous films that come out of South India. It would not be fair to say that all Indian movies are centered on escapism. I have written about Ram Gopal Varma in the past, who makes movies that are out to portray the reality and suffering that occur in every day city life. Apart from that there are also numerous art house films that come out of India so their films should not be identified with only what is mass produced, the same way that we should not judge all American films by releases such as Black Dog, Terminator 3, Revenge of the Nerds, or Revenge of the Tomatoes.


kubolo bway said...

nice feature on Bollywood bu, a good read that made me feel proud of my heritage! Fu-Fu met Shah Rukh and Preity last Friday in bombay, she said they were both really nice people to talk to.

Avi said...

you people are chopping life with the superstarsw while we are sweating in the bush!!! Loves to fufu.

AmitD said...

still ain't gonna watch a hindi movie goddamit...