Toronto International Film Festival 2006

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Hurray for Bollywood

A panel discussion on Never Say Goodbye puts fans in a frenzy

Bollywood hits New York: Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) Maya (Rani Mukherji) are in love, but married to other people, in Never Say Goodbye (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna). (Yash Raj Films) Bollywood hits New York: Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) Maya (Rani Mukherji) are in love, but married to other people, in Never Say Goodbye (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna). (Yash Raj Films)

There are six security guards posted around the stage at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre and no doubt more scattered through the audience. They are enormous, thick-necked and wearing identical dark grey suits, except for one, who is even taller than the rest, bald and dressed entirely in black. The look on his face says, Don’t even think about it.

The actors they’re here to protect might not be household names in North America, but in global terms, they’re colossal. Combine the star wattage and sex appeal of Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jamie Foxx and pre-crazy Tom Cruise and you just might get close to what Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan represent to billions of fans in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, eastern Europe and the Middle East. Together, the two men star in the film Never Say Goodbye (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna), by popular young film director and talk-show host Karan Johar. Despite, or maybe because of, its controversial subject matter — infidelity, marital unhappiness, divorce — the film has become a huge hit in India and abroad. It may be contentious, but it still features dance numbers. It’s the first Bollywood film to be chosen for a prestigious gala spot at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s the subject of tonight’s panel discussion: The Making of a Bollywood Blockbuster.

Twenty minutes after the 5 p.m. start time, the 500-plus crowd is finally in its seats. In the front row, a young woman holds up a sign that reads “Sexy Sam,” a reference to the nickname of Bachchan’s playboy character in Never Say Goodbye. Thom Powers, a TIFF programmer, comes on stage in a Nehru jacket to introduce the panellists.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are in the hooooouuuuse!”

Squeals, shrieks and a standing ovation greet Khan, Bachchan and Johar as they settle into their seats to be grilled by Suketu Mehta, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author of the book Maximum City. “Asking why we love Bollywood films,” Mehta says, “is like asking us why we love our mothers. We don’t have a choice. They raised us.”

Johar, who has a reputation for making “clean family movies,” is asked whether there’s been any negative reaction to Never Say Goodbye. Mehta calls it “the most truly adult film from Bollywood.” Even showing a kiss is pretty much a no-no, so what have audiences in family-focused India made of a lovemaking scene in hotel room between a man and woman who are each married to other people?

Johar tells a story about an older woman who approached him at a screening in India and berated him for upsetting her daughter, who had just gone through a horrible divorce. “I wanted her to have a nice night out, to forget her troubles,” the woman said. “Well,” Johar replied, given all the press about the film and its subject, “what did you expect?”  “I expected a Karan Johar film!” she huffed before storming off.

Bollywood lion: Actor Amitabh Bachchan. (Yash Raj Films)
Bollywood lion: Actor Amitabh Bachchan. (Yash Raj Films)

The stars and their director are polite and amiable to a fault. Khan, currently Bollywood’s biggest and most bankable star, is a muscular leading man whose handsome face has been used to sell everything from watches to Pepsi. But the real attraction tonight is Bachchan, the lion of Hindi cinema. Famous for his “angry young man” roles in the 1970s and the low, sultry rumble of his voice, he’s still foxy in his sixties. He has a flawlessly trimmed goatee and, like Khan, he sports stylish, expensive trainers.

There is a lot of discussion of everyone’s brilliance and talent, which would seem like so much celebrity blah-blah-blah if Johar weren’t so obviously — and adorably — dazzled by the two actors. He explains that one of his first jobs in film was as a wardrobe assistant on a Khan film; Johar once spent two hours obsessing over which T-shirt to dress the star in. As for Bachchan, who happens to be a family friend, Johar tells a funny story about being so anxious about directing the legend in Never Say Goodbye that he couldn’t eat for five days. Just before he was about to shoot Bachchan’s first scene, a big song-and-dance number, Johar fainted from hunger and nerves. When he came to, Bachchan was holding his hand. “‘Don’t worry,’” the star reportedly said, “‘I’ll dance well.’”

Politics also comes up. Bachchan was a member of Indian parliament for a brief period in the 1980s, but he returned to acting because he felt it was inappropriate to use his popularity as an actor to get votes. “I spent 20 years trying to woo my audience with my craft as an actor, then I had to woo them with my political opinion. I felt that was unfair. I realized that I shouldn’t be doing that to my audience.”

Mehta jokes, “If only Ronald Reagan had felt the same way.”

Khan is asked about being a Muslim star of Hindi cinema and about his fans in Pakistan. “Making a film is a secular project,” he responds. “Our country is immensely secular. And when I’m abroad, I can’t tell the difference between someone from Pakistan and someone from India. We are all one people.” The largely South Asian crowd applauds in agreement.

Finally, Khan is asked about his love scene with co-star Rani Mukherji. Johar was busy elsewhere and asked Khan to direct the scene himself. It was very awkward, Khan says. “I am very shy with women…”

“And I am definitely not!” roars Bachchan.

“That’s why I called Amitabh and asked him to direct us over the phone,” Khan says.

The crowd freaks out. A couple girls shout “Sexy Sam! Sexy Sam!” A grandmotherly lady sitting beside me in a dark burgundy sari winks and pretends to fan herself.

At this point, a TIFF volunteer cuts the discussion short. She’s been prowling the aisles in a futile attempt to stop the audience from photographing the stars — flashes from cell phones and digital cameras have been flickering non-stop — and she’s finally had enough. The crowd groans. Bachchan offers to give the audience some time for photographs later, but the security guards are already beginning to hustle them off stage. Thom Powers returns and asks everyone to stay in their seats until Bachchan and Khan have left the building. Nice try. Half the crowd escapes through the one unguarded door, to the back of the theatre where a fleet of black SUVs with tinted windows is idling.

A middle-aged woman in an elegant green silk tunic, who’s been waiting by the red carpet out front, races up to me, dragging two reluctant teenage girls in tow.

“Did you see them? Are they in the back?” I point to where the cars are parked. “Girls! Girls! They’re back there!” she squeals and rushes off. They don’t budge. One rolls her eyes and moans, “Mo-om.”

Suddenly, the crowd surges in tighter. A man pushing an eight- or nine-year-old girl in a wheelchair picks her up so she can see over the knot of fans. Khan and Bachchan, circled by security guards, step quickly through the doors of the theatre, wave to their admirers, get into their cars and drive off.

Rachel Giese writes about the arts for CBC.ca.

CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites - links will open in new window.



More from this Author

Rachel Giese

Mad refuge
André Alexis's new novel Asylum finds sex and scandal in 1980s Ottawa
Eternal youth
Novelist Meg Rosoff explores her inner child
Talking back
Persepolis takes a brat's-eye view of Iran
Jumping off the page
2007: The year in books
Whoa, baby
Ellen Page and Diablo Cody deliver big laughs in Juno
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Updated California warehouse fire kills at least 30, search for victims could last days video
The death toll has risen to 30 in a fire that ripped through a late-night dance party in a converted warehouse in Oakland, Calif., and officials say they expect that number to climb as the search continues.
CBC IN CUBA 'I never stayed to see if they were dead': Natalia Bolivar, 82, unsentimental about role in Cuban Revolution video
At 82 and with an upper-class pedigree, Natalia Bolivar doesn't seem like the typical Cuban revolutionary. That is, until she matter-of-factly begins to recount how she stormed a Havana police station wielding a machine gun, smuggled arms to opposition groups and had all her ribs broken during a police interrogation.
More snow expected in Hawaii as winter hits the Big Island
More snow is expected to fall on Hawaii mountaintops as a storm warning goes into effect through Monday morning.
more »

Canada »

Heavy snowfall warning, low visibility in Calgary and parts of Southern Alberta
Winter is finally upon us, with the temperature forecast to plummet and a snowfall warning in effect for Calgary.
Britain to get 1st major exhibition of Canada's Franklin artifacts
Upward of 22 unique artifacts from HMS Erebus, the sunken Arctic ship from Sir John Franklin's 19th-century expedition, will be on display in Greenwich, England, next year even as their ownership remains in dispute in Canada.
'Lives are on the line' as changes needed for Nutrition North, argues researcher
As the Federal government begins reviewing the results of its Nutrition North community tour, Tracey Galloway says her independent five-year program review shows the program doesn't work.
more »

Politics »

Analysis What we're talking about, and not talking about, when we talk about 'elites' audio
Pity the poor elite, so dismissed and scorned these days by the righteous politician. In 2016, they're an easy target for blame and a handy tool of distraction.
Britain to get 1st major exhibition of Canada's Franklin artifacts
Upward of 22 unique artifacts from HMS Erebus, the sunken Arctic ship from Sir John Franklin's 19th-century expedition, will be on display in Greenwich, England, next year even as their ownership remains in dispute in Canada.
MMIW commission won't hear testimony from families until spring 2017
Three months after the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women officially began, advocates worry that families have been "left in the dark" about when they might be expected to testify and are feeling disengaged from the process that is supposed to give them a voice.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Trevor Noah defends controversial Tomi Lahren interview video
Daily Show host Trevor Noah sits down with The National's Wendy Mesley to discuss U.S. race relations, his childhood under apartheid in South Africa and his controversial interview with right-wing pundit Tomi Lahren.
Video Programmed to thrill: sci-fi hit Westworld's finale 'satisfying,' promises star Jimmi Simpson video
For Westworld fans trading wild theories about where the headline-grabbing HBO series is headed, Jimmi Simpson has been in your shoes. 'I've seen all of them and they're amazing.' The actor talks show controversy, bonding with co-star Evan Rachel Wood and what's in store for the sci-fi hit.
Photos If I Ran the Zoo sculptures reveal the Dr. Seuss you never knew
New exhibition at Toronto's Liss Gallery presents 17 of Dr. Seuss's little-known sculptures together for the first time.
more »

Technology & Science »

Blog A planet's worth of human-made things has been weighed
The collected weight of everything human beings have made — from buildings to ballpoint pens — is staggering.
Killer whales eating their way further into Manitoba
The food chain in Hudson Bay is drastically changing as killer whales take advantage of less sea ice and eat their way into Manitoba, a researcher in Arctic mammal populations says.
New Explosive advances in DNA testing raise hope, ethical questions audio
A Calgary author and university professor says advances in DNA testing available to the average person are taking off, but along with that comes ethical questions Canadians will be forced to address.
more »

Money »

Analysis Beyond the hippie stereotype: A closer look at the opposition to Trans Mountain video
The roots of the opposition to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion run deep.
MARKETPLACE Using Air Miles for overseas flights? It may not be a great deal
Millions of Canadians collect Air Miles reward points on everything from groceries to gas, with many saving their miles for travel. CBC’s Marketplace looked into whether using Air Miles to score flights is always a good deal.
Air Miles caves and botched broccoli: The Marketplace consumer cheat sheet
If you've been too busy this week to keep up with health and consumer news, CBC's Marketplace is here to help.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Live Road to the Olympic Games: Alpine skiing from Lake Louise video
Some of the world's best skiers are in action at Lake Louise on Sunday on Road to the Olympic Games, our weekly show spotlighting the best high-performance athletes from Canada and around the world.
Player's Own Voice Humphries: 'I'm proud of my body'
Canadian star Kaillie Humphries will be the first to tell you her body isn’t shaped in a conventional way. But her strong and tattoo-filled frame has made her a two-time Olympic champion and bobsleigh icon.
Opinion Gender equality in sport can't be achieved by women alone
Serena Williams' call to action should be applauded, but gender equality in sport won't be achieved by women alone, writes former Canadian Olympian Deidra Dionne.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »