Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurray for Bollywood !

Every year India produces almost 1000 films, which is twice the number that comes out of Hollywood. The local film industry is called Bollywood (the B being for Bombay; before it changed its name to Mumbai). Bollywood movies often are quite long; 3 hours or more of dancing and singing around love as the main plot - although the screen quickly fades to black when there is a kiss eminent. More than 4 billion movie tickets are purchased in India in comparison to the 3 billion here in the United States (of course, the cost of a movie ticket is quite a bit lower in India! The average ticket price is about a dollar!).
But India cinema has more going for it than the mass produced Bollywood films; India gave us Mira Nair.
Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneswar, a city on the east coast of India. She was educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. She is definitely a director whose films are worth discovering and also someone whose future bears watching. She has just begun to direct!
Mira Nair films available at the Huntington Beach Public Library:

Salaam Bombay! : The film chronicles the day-to-day life of children living on the streets of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). Despite the movie's often dark subject matter, Salaam Bombay! is ultimately a tale of hope and perseverance.

Mississippi Masala: An Indian family is expelled from Uganda when Idi Amin takes power. They move to Mississippi and try to find a new life in America. When the Indian daughter falls in love with a black man (played by Denzel Washington) the acceptance of the couple by the respective families is complicated by family issues and past prejudices.

Monsoon Wedding (the most Bollywood-esque of Mira Nair’s films): Combine a stressed father, a bride-to-be with a secret, a smitten event planner, relatives from around the world arriving to attend the wedding, lots of music and festivities and what do you have? A fun and touching film that creates much ado about the preparations for an arranged marriage in India.

Vanity Fair: Growing up poor in London, Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon) defies her poverty-stricken background and ascends the social ladder alongside her best friend, Amelia. Mira Nair uses her unique touch to create this version of the Thackeray classic.

Her current film is The Namesake. It is a beautiful film based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same name. (This is one of those rare times that the movie is almost as good as the book!) You can still catch this in the movie theaters but if you miss it, hopefully it will be released on DVD later this year!