Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Bollywood Vista

Encyclopedia of Bollywood—Film Actors, compiled by Renu Saran, Diamond Pocket Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi – 110020 (India), 260pp, Indian Rupees195, Soft (ISBN: 978-81-288-2899-7.
ollywood needs no introduction today. Its advent as world’s largest film industry and admiration by millions across the continents brings its worldwide popularity. Dubbing Hindi movies in other languages was tough nut to chew some five decades ago yet Hindi films were popular in the far off Russian and European regions. 

Boom in communication & information technology sectors proved a blessing in disguise for its easy reach to millions. Cinema lovers can straightforwardly recognize most Hindi film actors and actresses. New generation isn’t abreast of many talented actors of early period yet.

Hindi cinema—metaphorically denoted as Bollywood—attained several breakthroughs since inception. The huge entertainment industry from India’s finance capital Mumbai (earlier Bombay) appeals to global cinema lovers. Often denoted with Indian cinema’s sobriquet Hindi movies—Bollywood is the narrower version of India’s diverse film industry accommodating multilingual movie productions besides popular Hindi movies. 

Assamese; Bengali; Telugu; Tamil; Bhojpuri; Nepali; Brajbhasa; Rajasthani; Tulu; Punjabi; Bihari; Chattisgarhi; Oriya; Gujarati; Marathi; Haryanvi; Manipuri; Kannada; Malayalam; Kashmiri; Kosli and Konkani cinemas are the integral parts of India’s film medium.

Bollywood, as world’s largest film producer, maintains an undisputable ascendancy. A derivation from the erstwhile Bombay like Hollywood for the US film industry, it attained worldwide fame over the decades. Referred for regional Bengali cinema since decades until identified with the other regional cinema—Telugu in Telangana & Andhra Pradesh states, Tollywood inspired creation of Bollywood term in the 1970s while India overtook America as world’s largest film producer country. 

By 1932, Tollywood term was used in India as earliest possible Hollywood-inspired idea. It denoted with Bengali cinema from Calcutta’s (now Kolkata) Tollygunge area until Indian cinema had its nationwide polarity.   

Indian cinema began its journey with Dadasaheb Phalke directed country’s first silent feature film Raja Harishchandra (1913). Until 1930s, India produced at least 200 movies annually. Ardeshir Irani directed India’s first sound movie was Alam Ara (1931). It was a big commercial success and so did it bring new resurgence in the entertainment industry. Its success paved the way for creative filmmaking in the coming years. 

Themed on the Great Depression, World War II and India’s freedom struggle to partition violence plots, Indian cinema from early 1930s to late 1950s was educative and pathfinder for a big social change.

Eminent filmmakers incorporated social issues in the movie plots. Bollywood had its ‘Golden Age’ from the late 1940s to 1960s with the production of finest movies ever. Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957) & Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Raj Kapoor’s Awaara (1951) & Shree 420 (1955) were critically acclaimed movies with strong socio-cultural themes. 

Epic movies like Mehboob Khan's Mother India (1957) and K. Asif's Mughal-e-Azam (1960) are magnum opus even today. Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958) brought the reincarnation theme in Bollywood films. Producer-directors Kamal Amrohi and Vijay Bhatt gave the mainstream Hindi movies new direction. Such brilliant filmmakers nourished new talents over the period.  

Actors Dev Anand; Dilip Kumar; Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt ruled over Bollywood for several decades. Equally did these decades witness the emergence of many bright actresses like Nargis, Vyjayanthimala; Meena Kumari; Nutan; Madhubala; Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha et al. They showcased exemplary talents by 1950s while commercial Hindi cinema was already thriving.
Emergence of Parallel Cinema movement especially Bengali cinema left irrefutable impact during that era. Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar (1946) and Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin (1953) were early examples as Parallel Cinema movement’s brainchild. Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray emerged as greatest of the Asian filmmakers of all time with indomitable contribution to Indian cinema. They produced several exemplary Bollywood movies.

Bollywood had big transformation in the late 1960s and early 1970s with romance and action themed movies gaining momentum. Actors Rajesh Khanna; Dharmendra; Sanjeev Kumar; Shashi Kapoor and actresses Sharmila Tagore; Mumtaz and Asha Parekh dominated those decades. Mid-1970s Bollywood was at the zenith with the themes of romance, violence, gangster and banditries. It welcomed Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Anil Kapoor and Sunny Deol et al to rule over Bollywood actively till early 1990s. Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha remained the dominant actresses in that period. Filmmaker Shyam Benegal produced realistic Parallel Cinema films during 1970s. By then commercial cinema had equally become popular.  

Successful amongst commercial movies of that decade were Sholay (1975) and Deewar (1975) to bring Amitabh Bachchan into limelight. Family centric and love themed musicals Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988); Maine Pyar Kiya (1989); Dil (1990), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) projected new generation cinema in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Actors Aamir Khan, Salman Khan & Shahrukh Khan to actresses Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi and Juhi Chawla attained remarkable positions during that period. The decade was an entry point for the new actors and directors to experiment a distinct genre of Hindi films. Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, Manisha Koirala, Tabu and Urmila Matondkar gave extensive performances to get recognized as the critically acclaimed actors.  

Bollywood’s popularity increased further across the continents in the decade beginning with 2000. Manifold revolution in filmmaking from cinematography to innovative story lines and implementation of technical advancements like animation and special effects were projected through the movies Koi... Mil Gaya (2003); Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003); Veer-Zaara (2004); Dhoom (2004); Hum Tum (2004); Dhoom 2 (2006); Krrish (2006) and Jab We Met (2007) etc. They changed Bollywood’s filmmaking perspective.

Popular actors of today Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan et al and actresses Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra attained their respective positions in Hindi cinema in the mid-2000s. Beginning from 2010s, the rise of new generation actors Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor to actresses Vidya Balan, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma and Parineeti Chopra reflected Bollywood’s new talent pool.

Bollywood attained popularity in Canada and the US in last one decade due to admiration of large chunk of South Asian communities. Several Indian movies do more business in the US today than those from rest non-English speaking countries. Fiji; Sri Lanka; Australia and New Zealand are the countries where Bollywood movies are immensely popular. Salaam Namaste (2005) was the first Bollywood film shot entirely in Australia and which was a huge success Hindi movie that year. Likewise, Heyy Babyy (2007); Chak De! India (2007) and Singh Is Kinng (2008) were the rest box office successes abroad.  

The book Encyclopedia of Bollywood—Film Actors is a compendium of Bollywood actors. Ironically it doesn’t cover the niche areas of Bollywood’s vastness but still interest cinema lovers to maximum extent. Alphabetically summed brief biographies of famous and infamous actors inform about the film actors. Ironically, not a single actress has been included in this book. Brought cursorily, biographies showcase struggling phases of actors to attaining remarkable positions in the entertainment industry—Bollywood.

This book has many old and new names together from Amitabh Bachchan to Dilip Kumar to Mukri to Jeetendra to Dharmendra and Amjad Khan to name a few out of 172 film actors included. Contemporary actors John Abraham, Arbaz Khan, Sunil Shetty, Abhishek Bachchan and Aamir Khan have been highlighted for their contributions to bring Bollywood on the global canvas. Non-inclusion of actresses is the biggest setback and therefore disappoints sincere readers. 

Revised edition of this book should have mandatory inclusion of actresses to increase reader interest. Its reprint with the updates from Bollywood’s evaluation since silent movies era to todays’ technologically empowered films would prove valuable contribution on Bollywood literature for the future generations. 

This review article first appeared in Ceylon Today, April 16, 2017 edition. 

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