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November 18, 2007

Press For Devi Brown

Sandip Roy writes about the new Bollywood (The New Bollywood: Slick, Sophisticated and High-Tech) in New American Media and we're in it! Go read the article, it's good. Not because we're in it mind you but because it's a succinct summary of the current state of affairs in filmiland. First, some excerpts to set the context:

“The films are definitely far more slick and technically really smooth,” says Ivan Jaigirdar, artistic director of 3rd I, whose annual festival of South Asian cinema opens today in San Francisco. A festival that showcases “independent South Asian cinema” might once have turned its nose up at Bollywood’s crass commercialism. But no longer. “Bollywood is definitely part of the language of cinema coming out of South Asia,” says Jaigirdar.

And

Globalization has been good for Bollywood,” says India-West’s Tsering.

It’s opened up a whole new market in the diaspora. It’s also opened up the industry to a new pool of talent. Indians, like Manish Acharya, who went to film school in the United States, are returning to India with new ideas and tech savvy.

That's a good thing. In addition to there being more Acharyas in the industry (sadly, Manish is no relation - although I am certain if we spoke at greater length, somewhere some connection might emerge, particularly if he goes on to attain Shyamalan levels of success :-), the influx of talent from abroad and the emergence of multi screen film complexes has allowed the proliferation of multiplex films, something I've talked about before.

However, there are consequences. In addition to increased audience fragmentation,

“Rural India has fallen off the map,” says Shyam Benegal, probably India’s most famous art house director, who made a landmark rural quartet of films in the seventies. “When your revenues come from overseas or from the cities, it influences the kinds of films that are being made.”

Finally, there are issues such as external audience perception and others that crop up regularly in dishumdishum entries. This is where we come in:

But the bigger issue is Bollywood’s image. “Even the term Bollywood implies it’s a copy of something,” says filmmaker Soam Acharya. Bollywood’s image in the West is still all about camp and kitsch. Soam gave up on Bollywood years ago until his wife Shari reintroduced him to the films as a condition of their marriage.

Now their short film, Devi Brown, a blaxploitation-style twist on Bollywood action films of the seventies, plays with everything that he once hated about the industry. Stripping the macho hero out of the plot and overdubbing it, the Acharyas created Devi Brown, kickass heroine out to avenge the loss of both her honor and “her famous egg biryani recipe.” At four minutes, Soam says Devi Brown is “the deconstructed Cliff notes version” of a Bollywood film that has mayhem, romance and everything else. But more importantly, it’s been a way for a new generation to come home to an old faithful.

To be mentioned in the same column as Shyam Benegal and other industry heavyweights? We're still pinching ourselves.

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- November 18, 2007 9:49 AM // Bollywood , Devi Brown , Diaspora , Film