Bollywood Themes is a celebration of commercial Hindi cinema across the years. It explores the recurring themes and popular characters in Hindi films and offers a fascinating overview of the evolution of commercial cinema in India. Entertaining, insightful and sprinkled with anecdotes and trivia from the glitzy world of films, the book is a trip down Bollywood Boulevard. Embellished with rare photographs and visually stunning design, Bollywood Themes is a rich spread dedicated to the lovers of Hindi cinema across the world.
Whether it is talking about the ‘mother figure’, an inseparable element of Bollywood or the ‘great Indian joint family’ or the ‘singing and dancing’, the book deals with all the important themes recurring time and again in mainstream Hindi films. Browsing through the stories and the accompanying visuals, the reader can understand how intrinsically the rich emotional tapestry of Bollywood movies is woven into the warps and wefts of our day-to-day life and how these films are the perfect escape route from mundane reality into the dreamy, romantic and glorious world of Bollywood.
Tushar A Amin is a Mumbai based writer and media professional. He has worked in evolving capacities with the editorial, design and creative strategy departments of television, print and new media organizations. He was involved in the writing of books on the making of Santosh Sivan’s Asoka and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. A Bollywood fan, he knows he is not an expert. He knows the ones who are.
His interests include writing, travelling, visual communication and pop-culture. People, Places, Pictures, Pages…
He is inspired by the inherent potential or everyday experiences developing into intriguing universal narratives. He is the writer of The Goodbye Trip, his first story to be made into a Bollywood feature film.
Aaaah, Bollywood! Its grandeur, its sheer larger-than-life aura... I love every bit of this mad, chaotic fantastic world of movie’. And this hook by Tushar is a tribute to the very same elements that have shaped me and my movies.
In a sense, I am privileged, even blessed. I was born in a ‘film family’ as they call it. My dad, Kamran Khan, used to make those kitschy action-adventure films starring Dara Singh and Mumtaz back in the 1 950s and 1 960s which were great fun. (Believe me, they still are.) So, I was influenced by films right from my early childhood. In fact, my earliest memory is when I was two-and--a-half years old. That’s the time I watched my first movie. It was the horror classic Bees Saal Baad. And every time that hand with claws came up on the screen, I used to break into a wail. I remember the audience yelling “Sachchi ko baharlejao!” (Get that kid out of this theatred so someone had to walk out of the theatre with me in their arms. Every festive occasion at home, be it a birthday party or any family function, a white cloth would be hung up and converted into a parda (screen). The projector would be brought out, reels would be loaded and lights dimmed out. The entire neighbourhood would come to our house to sit and watch a movie. In fact, every thing in life revolved around movies. You come first in class, you were taken for a movie. If something was not right at home, you would go watch a movie. Movies were our elixir Somehow, I feel, love for movies was wired into my genes. On my mom’s side too, her sisters Honey Irani and Daisy Irani were immensely successful and popular child actors. When they got married, it was to screenwriters — Javed Akhtar (Sholay, Deewar, Zanjeer, etc.) and K K Shukia Amar Akbar Anthony, Suhaag, Naseeb, Coolie, etc.) respectively — who went on to shape the next generation of films. So, growing up in such a household, everywhere around me, there was only talk of movies, movies and more movies. And me being me, I had an opinion on everything. It was the golden age of Bollywood and I was born in the middle of it all.
Naturally, films were all I knew. I grew up wanting nothing but to be a filmmaker I joined Mansoor Khan as Assistant Director on Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander That’s when the choreography detour happened. One day, the choreographer did not turn up. Since I had a background in dance, I was handed the responsibility. It was a 12-year long detour and after some years. I grew tired of choreographing. In my heart of hearts, I always wanted to make my own films. I believe that my films are what define me. The bonus is, the hundred odd days that I was shooting a film — be it Main Hoon Na or Om Shanti Om - those days have been among the happiest days of my life. And I am not talking about the net results though both my movies have been blockbuster successes with record breaking box-office collections. For me, the best part is the making —just being on that movie set, directing that film, making things happen and seeing my script come to life.
In my experience, internationally, when you say Bollywood, it is these elements that are being referred to, nay celebrated. Be it sentimental Raj Kapoor movies or the kitschy 70s movies, that is what is Bollywood is recognised by. The over-the-top song sequences, the melodramatic emotions, the colourful costumes... that madness of Indian movies is what lures international audience. Yes, there is a midness about what is happening on screen but we are doing it with a certain belief and pizzazz, not to forget absolutely unabashedly and without a trace of embarrassment. That’s what make an Om Shanti Om work even internationally, be it in Germany or Latin America or Japan. The only reason Hollywood has not taken over Indian cinema like it has forced film industries to shut down completely in France, Russia or all over the world is because Hollywood cannot make movies we make. It is inherent to our culture, to our sensibilities, to our being over-emotional or to our being over the top. Cui movies are all that we Indians are. We love our music, we love our song-and- dance, And why r iot7 It: is easy for a highbrow critic to say that these songs are irrelevant. But it is this very song-and-dance that makes us stand out. When I am felicitated in London or in Berlin, people there know me because of this song-and-dance. They may not know our language but they will sing our song. It is our great legacy and we should be cherishing it instead of looking down up it. Call it cheesy, over-the-top, sentimental... but that is how we are.
Instead of trashing it, we have to find new ways to present it, take it to a higher plane, fresher grounds. I have used these elements very successfully in both my films Main Hoon Na and Cm Shanti Cm without resorting to a stale, done-to-death approach. I feel people are not being inventive enough with these elements. You can take these elements from say 70s movies but you cannot treat them the way they were treated back then. You have to push the boundaries. I cannot escape my influences so I channelise them in my films. And my efforts are seen in my films. Cm Shanti Cm premiered in Berlin and ran there for 8 weeks, which is unheard of In Cm Shanti Cm, I used all the elements that form part of the book but I turned them into spoofiness and I had fun with it. The audience had fun too. Not just here but across the world.
My films are nothing but tributes to the influences that shaped me as I grew up. And I grew up with 70s Bollywood. That is my area of specialisation. You can quiz me about anything from that period and I will beat you to the buzzer For me it is not knowledge but cultural influence. So, it will seep into my work. I am taking that essence and the fun from those movies. My films have that personality.
A personality that is also shared by this book. The themes that are covered in this book — be it the quintessential Bollywood mother who is the subject of the chapter Cinema or the colourful larger-than-life villains who grab centre-stage in Rogues’ Gallery, the sizzling vamps who sashay through Sirens And Seductresses or the surreal song and dance routine so close to my heart and central to Dancing With The Stars — these elements are what make Bollywood such an alluring, inviting, seducing form of cinema.
They say, all Indians share three passions — politics, cricket and Bollywood. Well, ask around and you will find some who have no clue about politics and some who do not follow cricket at all. But try as you will, you won’t find an Indian who does not have an opinion about Bollywood. Films are something you cannot escape in India.
So, 4’hether you are a die-hard Bollywood lover or someone who has just recently stepped into this land of dreams and fantasies, being an insider, I extend a warm welcome to you. Welcome to the family. This book you are holding is a great introduction to the colourful members of this family. You may feel shy for a while but very soon you will feel comfortable around the place. As I said earlier, I am blessed to experience the delights of Bollywood up close. Tushar too has been blessed with some unique experiences and first hand experience in Bollywood. With this book and Tushars way with words, you would soon experience the pleasures of this mad, magical, musical dreamland called Bollywood. Happy reading and see you soon with my next film at a theatre near you...
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