We love our heroes dancing

BOLLYWOOD’S SHOWCASE of its best films at its annual awards weekend turned the spotlight away from India’s traditional song and dance fare to movies with a Hollywood sensibility and international appeal.

Contemporary films tackling terrorism, corruption, action thrillers and science fiction won all the attention at the gala ahead of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards yesterday in Bangkok.

“Ten years ago you would find what you define as Bollywood, song and dance and running around trees — kitsch cinema,” Sabbas Joseph, director of Wizcraft, which organises the IIFA Awards, told AFP. “Indian cinema has grown beyond that. It’s constantly changing.

“We’d like people from around the world to see Indian cinema in it’s holistic form, not just the traditional Bollywood bit.” The new global face of the 2.3-billion-dollar Indian film industry includes Mission Istaanbul, an action flick about a terrorist plot centred on a news station called al-Johara, a loose reference to Al-Jazeera.

The big premier of the weekend was Sarkar Raj, a political conspiracy starring all three of the Bachchans, India’s most famous acting dynasty.

Also showcased were underworld thriller Contract, action movie Acid Factory, and sci-fi romance Love Story 2050. Only one of the six films previewed here, romantic comedy De Taali, conforms to the traditional Bollywood format.

Some actors, such as Acid Factory star Fardeen Khan, want words like ‘Bollywood’ exorcised altogether.

“Bollywood is derogatory, to the point you don’t take our films seriously,” he told an IIFA press conference.

“It’s not all song and dance. We want to be known as serious filmmakers capable of competing on the world stage.” “Indian cinema’s ready for anything,” action director Apoorva Lakhia told AFP. “It’s an fantastic place to be, especially for young filmmakers with bright ideas. They’re breaking out of the cliche of the song and dance routine and they’re willing to experiment.” Lakhia’s new film Mission Istaanbul toys with themes of terrorism and media conspiracies — a prime example of the grittier realities that new Bollywood directors want to take on.

But where that leaves the traditional song-and-dance formula is still up for debate.

Godfather of Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan, credits his career with the traditional style — so while his new movie is a grim tale of corruption, he does not want to see Indian film’s heritage lost.

We’re very happy that we haven’t changed that Bollywood style, he told AFP. “This is the way it needs to be acknowledged and loved.” And while new types of film leave song and dance behind, music remains central to any Indian film’s success, with soundtracks put out in advance laying the ground for every movie release.

“We love our heroes dancing,” Lakhia admits.

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