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Dhaka Tribune

Bollywood celebrates 100 years

Update : 29 Apr 2013, 08:19 AM

One hundred years after the screening of a black-and-white silent film, India’s brash, song-and-dance-laden Bollywood film industry celebrates its centenary later this week.

The milestone will be marked with the release of “Bombay Talkies,” made up of short commemorative films by four leading directors, while India will be honoured as “guest country” at next month’s Cannes festival.

Exhibitions in the capital New Delhi are showcasing a century of cinema, including onscreen kissing scenes that originally fell foul of the censors.

It is also a time for reflection on how the industry has evolved, from its early screen adaptations of Hindu mythology to the garish romantic escapism of modern blockbusters. Bollywood plotlines today can involve stars breaking into song, often in picturesque far-flung locations, apropos of nothing — a style that may bemuse a Western audience, but one that helps to set Indian cinema apart.

The “golden age” of cinema was the 1950s, when movie greats emerged such as Satyajit Ray, India’s most renowned filmmaker, who hailed from the alternative film hub of West Bengal.

The 1970s and 80s saw a growing commercialism with the rise of the “masala” movie — a family entertainer that typically mixed up romance and action, songs and melodrama, a comedy touch and a happy ending.

Parallel Cinema continued to focus on realism, with films such as Mahesh Bhatt’s “Arth” (Meaning) in 1982, a gritty tale of an extramarital affair that presented strong female characters.

Bollywood’s escapist fantasies have long held mass appeal because “there is enough realism in the common man’s life,” said Bhatt. But with ever more TV shows, the Internet and easily available global films, such movies may no longer meet the demands of the educated middle-class.

Trade analysts say the growth in multiplex cinemas has also encouraged mainstream films to diversify: a surprise hit last year was “Vicky Donor,” a story about sperm donation.

Raj Nidimoru is co-director of upcoming “Go Goa Gone,” one of India’s first zombie films, and he believes the move away from staple Bollywood is only just beginning.

“This is just a ripple right now, it’s going to become a wave.”



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