Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Bollywood goes to Pakistan, Rajendra Nath, Mallika Sherawat in Christ film…

Bollywood has enslaved hearts for decades with its melodrama. The primarily Hindi language cinema that grew out of Bombay, often called “Magic City”, travelled to far away lands from Russia to Africa and from Canada to New Zealand spreading thrill and joy through its beautiful characters, make-believe moods and exotic locales.

But Bollywood could never cross over to India’s immediate neighbour, Pakistan. And this seemed sad because, Bollywood owes its origins to the Pakistan city of Lahore, where a vibrant film industry thrived before the Indian subcontinent was partioned in 1947. Hordes of movie men came away to Bombay to set up what became Bollywood.

Bereft of talent, Lahore’s Lollywood could never become a Bollywood, but Pakistan is all set to lift a 43-year-old ban on Indian cinema. Pakistan’s parliamentary committee on culture has just recommended that the ban be lifted, and Cabinet approval is to follow soon. "We have devised a mechanism for allowing the import of Indian pictures for a period of one year, after which the arrangements can be reviewed," Senator Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry, who heads committee said.

The ban was imposed in 1965 when the two South Asian neighbours went to war over Kashmir, a region both claim to be their own. However, nothing could really stop the march of Bollywood; its movies were smuggled into Pakistan, and pirated VCDs and DVDs were sold in a huge clandestine operation. But once the ban goes, Pakistanis would be able to watch the latest masala from Mumbai in about week after its India opening.

Bollywood is sure to give a fresh leash of life to the moribund Pakistan film industry. Today, the country has fewer than 300 screens, compared to about 1500 in the early 1970s. Indian cinema may not only help a revival of cinemas, but may well provide the much-needed inspiration to Lollywood, listless and languishing for years.

But, the question now is will the ultra-radical clergy allow Bollywood with its see-through rain-drenched body-hugging saris that ravishing Indian stars wear to titillate the male fantasy?

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Once comedy was king in Indian cinema. We had great comedians such as Johnny Walker, Mehmood and Rajendra Nath. In fact, directors also gave them song sequences. Remember Sar jo tera chakraye by Mohammed Rafi in Guru Dutt’s “Pyasa” (1957) that is picturised on Walker. The song continues to be as popular today as it was half a century ago.

Rajendra Nath, who died on Wednesday, began his career in 1938 with the Hindi movie “Vachan” and went on to act in films like “Patang”, “Hum Sab Chor Hain” and “Dil Deke Dekho”. His role of Popatlal in the 1961 box-office hit, ”Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Ha”, became a big hit and the title of Popatlal stuck to him. With the death of all three comic actors, Bollywood has certainly lost its innocent fun.

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I can only sympathise with Salman Khan. He seems to have had a string of broken relationships. As I was beginning to think that he had finally settled down with Katrina Kaif, the affair appears to be off. Reports talk of Katrina bagging a Rs six-crore deal for two movies with Studio 18. Katrina has already done two films, “Namaste London” and “Welcome” with this production house, and the third one is to be released soon.

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Tailpiece: Nothing can be more incredible than this: Mallika Sherawat will play Jesus Christ’s confidante in an American film, “The Aquarian Gospel”, to be helmed by Drew Heriot. The Bible is silent about what Christ did between his 13th year and 30th, and one theory has it that he visited Kashmir. Sherawat will essay Saraswati, a yogini whom Christ met in India!

(Webposted February 14 2008)