India Insight

Banning Bollywood item numbers is no solution

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last month has made many Indians take a hard look at how they behave as a society.

What is the Bollywood film industry’s role in creating or perpetuating that behaviour, particularly the callous treatment of women at the hands of men? Some argue that the film industry’s portrayal of women is derogatory, particularly in “item numbers” — songs with sexual overtones in movies, often inserted with no relevance to the plot.

But asking for a ban on item numbers and demanding that Bollywood tone it down are unreasonable. Doing so will not just take away creative freedom, it also fails to depict reality.

Many of my colleagues say Bollywood is not a mirror to Indian society and its mindset. The image of drunk men dancing around a scantily clad woman in India is hard to conjure up, let alone politicians doing so. But it does happen.

Kate Middleton topless photos: why it wouldn’t happen in India

People in Europe and the United States are blazing away over the topless photos of Princess Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. So they should. The ingredients in this recipe are:

1 royal
No clothes
Liberal dash of good looks, to taste
1 fancy title (Duchess of Cambridge preferred)
1 husband, must be possible heir to British throne.

In India, you could serve the same dish, but without the spice.

Here’s an example of a hot story: Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai took great pains to shield her daughter Aaradhya, AKA “Beti B” from the shutterbugs. But they found her! And took pictures! Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

No ‘Dirty Pictures’ please, we are Indian

Indians woke up on Sunday to front page newspaper ads announcing the TV premiere of “The Dirty Picture”, a National-award winning film that was both critically acclaimed and successful at the box-office.

The film, based on the life of soft porn star Silk Smitha, was one of the most popular Bollywood movies of 2011, and its success catapulted lead actress Vidya Balan into the big league.

It was a glaring example of how Indian audiences, torn between traditional values and rapidly Westernising cities, have come to accept films with bolder themes.

Bollywood stars kick up a fuss with real-life rumpus

Pow! Biff! Bang! Dishoom! Real life action by Bollywood celebrities has caught the nation’s eyeballs. Shah Rukh Khan was accused of roughing up Shirish Kunder some days ago and made ripples as he brought the media’s gaze from corruption scams and the election circus to the one thing that never fails to draw attention — a spicy brawl.

Now, Saif Ali Khan diverts attention from Vijay Mallya’s king-size woes for beating up a certain businessman in Mumbai’s Taj hotel. Saif was booked for assault, arrested and later bailed — insisting that he was only defending himself.

Salman Khan has lost his temper on many occasions, and so have many others from Bollywood. Shah Rukh and Salman engaged in a verbal duel some years ago, and it would have ended ugly had Shah Rukh’s wife Gauri and Salman’s then girlfriend Katrina Kaif not intervened.

from Photographers' Blog:

India’s touring cinemas under threat

The sleepy Indian village of Ond comes alive for a week every year when trucks loaded with tents and projectors reach its outskirts. The tents are pitched in open fields, converting the trucks into projection rooms for screening the latest Indian blockbusters to exuberant villagers, who otherwise have few chances to see a film at all.

Photographer Danish Siddiqui travels to these "talkies" to document the decades-old tradition. View the multimedia below for an in-depth look or click here to read the full story.

Travelling Talkies from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

from Photographers' Blog:

Come, fall in love

I first encountered the 52-year-old Maratha Mandir movie theater while I was on one of my walks to explore Mumbai. Being new to the city, I do this often. It was just a casual walk down the lanes of the city when I saw a huge billboard promoting a film outside the cinema. The billboard proudly advertised it as the longest-playing film in Indian history.

A cinema goer buys a ticket for Bollywood movie "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring actor Shah Rukh Khan, inside Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai July 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The film "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, is a simple romantic film shot in Europe and India, where a boy meets a girl and falls in love with her - girl is about to get married in India - boy takes the journey from Europe to India to win her over.

I still remember when the film was released in 1995, it became an instant hit amongst the youth. Fifteen years down the line it’s unthinkable that people still love to watch it and in a cinema to boot!

INTERVIEW – Supreme Court lawyer on Khushboo case

Pinky Anand, counsel for actress Khushboo in the Supreme Court, spoke to Reuters about the case and how the verdict would have a far-reaching impact.

The media and paid news: Who shall guard the guardians?

INDIA-MEDIA/The media watches everyone but itself, commented an argumentative friend the other day.

How many ‘sting operations’ has the media done on any of its own, say on the ‘Paid News’ controversy?

I was at a loss.

The morality of sting operations is a debatable topic but the larger point demanded a response.

Much ado over Indian Summer?

Universal Studios has shelved plans to shoot “Indian Summer”, a film based on the lives of Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.(UPDATE: On Friday, a studio spokesman was quoted as saying “Indian Summer” is continuing to be developed but will not go into production until the script, budget and cast are all in place)Filmmaker Joe Wright, who was slated to direct the project, was quoted as saying there were creative differences between the studio and the Indian government.Many people are not comfortable with national leaders being portrayed on celluloid in any way other than flattering.Most leaders are interpreted by their followers in a particular manner. Any alternative recounting especially on celluloid runs into controversy.Biopics of leaders are few and far between in Bollywood in spite of it being a vibrantly political and prolific film industry.Some say the Indian masses tend to deify their leaders and hence are less receptive to anything critical.And celluloid is a mass medium more than any book on history ever can be.In Pakistan, the movie “Jinnah” starring Christopher Lee and sanctioned by the Pakistan government had also run into controversy.But does public policy also contribute to this state of affairs?The Indian Express says in a report that ministries don’t transfer records to National Archives “which leaves modern, democratic India’s history shrouded in secrecy”.Does this contribute to a lack of public discussion on various facets of our leaders’ lives and policies and therefore an intolerance of alternative readings?As for the movie “Indian Summer”, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was to appoint a liaison officer to ensure the movie did not deviate from the approved script.Is imposing a government-sanctioned memory of events on people any different from Mayawati’s efforts to erect statues to herself?

Mumbai Holiday on a Vespa?

Think Vespa, and images of Audrey Hepburn and rides down cobble-stoned streets immediately come to mind.

How about families of four riding precariously on the choked streets of Mumbai or Delhi?

Piaggio, the Italian vehicle maker that has made the Vespa since just after World War II, has made a big success of its three-wheeler auto rickshaws and commercial vehicles in India, and intends to relaunch the iconic brand here soon.

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