Guys, I am off to the Turin Book Fair tonight. The focus is on India and I am so looking forward to one particular session in which Kiran Desai and I will be in conversation with readers and the media. My last book , 'Superstar India...." will be launched at the Fair in its Italian edition. Wish me luck!! The volcanic ash has spared Turin so far. Chances are my flight won't be cancelled. Sorry.... no laptop. So, blogging may not happen. Bear with me for a few days.... lots of masala on my return.
My Bombay Times column....
This is the deliciously loony season for Bollywood blockbusters of every conceivable hue – call it mid-summer madness, but the box office is going crazy with the most idiotic movies raking it in. After I survived ‘Housefull’ , I asked myself if I was ready for more lunacy. I was! If I possibly could have, I would have made it to the first day, first show of ‘Badmaash Company’. But my daughters decided to save it as my Mother’s Day treat. They asked me sweetly what I wanted to do by way of a fun celebration, and it took me under ten seconds to tell them nothing would please me more than to watch ‘ Badmaash…’ And that’s when they looked at me a little strangely. They’d been planning a chic girlie brunch…. perhaps a soothing spa treatment, or something equally posh. Forget it, I answered jauntily, let’s go watch a full on Bollywood masala film. Nothing serious, nothing arty, nothing pretentious . Just the real thing with absurd situations, fabulously choreographed ‘item’ numbers, hot bods performing impossible stunts , lots of catchy remix tracks, an OTT storyline, implausible plot developments, politically incorrect gags that offend various interest groups, cheap humour, sexually ‘out there’ innuendos, out of the world locations, garish styling, and most importantly – no logic. I’d define that as a perfect formula for stress busting – better than any hot stone , deep tissue massage. Nothing gets me to unwind as wonderfully as a tacky Bollywood film! You can call it a case of full blown Bollywooditis. I am hopelessly hooked and may require rehab. But not just yet.
The two other movies on my ‘must see’ list are ‘Ravaan’ and ‘Rajneeti’ , even though both remain strictly outside the realm of rubbishy yet compulsively watchable films. This has to do with the star cast, the respective premises and the hugely talented directors helming both projects. Let’s call them ‘quality Bollywood products’, not necessarily designed for mass consumption. Going by the slick promos, both movies promise a lot, but since our audiences remain frustratingly unpredictable ( just like our voters ) God knows how they’ll fare at the box office. The magic Bollywood ‘formula’ everyone talks about, has not been bottled so far. Had that been so, every second dhoom dhadaka film would have scored at the box office. Nobody has cracked this elusive formula – nobody can. But as the annual movie jamboree rolls out its red carpet at Cannes, it is important for India to assert itself on its own terms. I happened to run into the Hinduja brothers at a wonderful dinner hosted at the Raj Bhavan by our Governor. They are Cannes veterans who are known to throw lavish parties. We got talking as to why Bollywood has still to make its presence felt at this mecca of moviedom, where film makers from across the world gather to cut deals, hustle, flog their latest films, net work, schmooze, party. One of the Hindujas mentioned our lack of co-ordination and mainly the absence of clout. We are not taken seriously enough, which is a sad comment given the size of our film industry. We also do not present a cohesive, coherent picture of Brand Bollywood, nor do we have the foresight to hire the top P.R. people to advise us. Because of this, we lag behind much smaller countries like Taiwan, Iran, Hong Kong or Korea. It is time to stop being apologetic about our films. Bollywood will soon be recognized as a legitimate genre – like those old spaghetti westerns from Italy or the perennial kung fu films from Hong Kong. The world must accept us on our own terms – we make the best masala movies on earth. That is our brand equity. Why dilute it? The day a ‘Housefull’ receives international recognition and outgrosses a Hollywood romcom ( come on….. what was ‘The Bounty Hunter’ if not a Bollywood film in English?), we will know that we have truly arrived.
How I loved Hema Malini’s candid admission in her open letter on Mother’s Day to her daughter Esha, that all she wanted for her was to have a man in her life! “ Find the right guy,” urged Hema. How disarming and genuine that sounded compared to all the gyaan given by other celeb moms to their celeb daughters!