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 »

PHOTOS California blaze dubbed Erskine wildfire kills 2, destroys 150 homes
A massive wildfire burning out of control in the foothills of central California has left at least 150 homes in ruins and damaged another 75, officials said on Saturday, warning that more residents may be forced to flee the advancing flames.
CBC IN COLOMBIA 'I'm filled with joy': Colombians celebrate as dream of peace comes step closer to reality
Hundreds of people crowd the steps of Museo de Antioquia, Medellín's largest museum. From a distance, they're loud and holding white flags high in the air. But move closer and you see their pure joy. Drums rage. People embrace. A conga line even starts up. They're convinced Colombia's 52-year war is about to end.
Hotel attack in Somali capital leaves at least 14 dead
At least 14 people were killed when gunmen stormed a hotel in Somalia's capital and took an unknown number of hotel guests hostage, police and medical workers said Saturday, before security forces hunted down the attackers and ended an hours-long assault.
more »

Canada »

CBC Investigates Pathologist found that Nadine Machiskinic likely didn't go down laundry chute 'on her own'
An autopsy report into the death of Nadine Machiskinic concluded she was severely intoxicated due to a cocktail of drugs in her system, which “would make it unlikely that she would have been able to climb into a laundry chute on her own.”
Fiery crash on Hwy 400 leaves at least 4 dead, vehicles 'completely unrecognizable'
At least four fatalities and several injuries were reported in a fiery multi-vehicle crash Friday night on Highway 400 in north Toronto when a car drove into the back of a transport truck.
Mom of boy with Down syndrome shares 'happy ending' after birthday party exclusion
Jennifer Kiss-Engele penned a heartbreaking post after her son was excluded from a birthday party. After her post went viral, her son Sawyer now has an invite and he's 'beaming.'
more »

Politics »

U.K. wants free trade deal with Canada, high commissioner says audio
Britain's high commissioner is open to signing a free trade deal with Canada now that the United Kingdom has opted out of the European Union.
Analysis Rebuilding conservative coalition in Alberta a job like no other in Canadian politics
While conservatives wait to see if Jason Kenney will quit federal politics, the prospect of what he seeks to do in Alberta is a daunting one. Can Kenney succeed where Jim Prentice failed?
Analysis Life after Brexit: What happens to Canada's trade deal with Europe? video
Keep calm and carry on, eh? After a long and rocky road, Canada believed it was on track to ratifying its trade deal with the European Union by early next year. But then: came Brexit. Does that sink the ship?
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»

Class-action lawsuit against Jeep manufacturer triggered by Anton Yelchin death
A proposed class-action lawsuit prominently citing Anton Yelchin's accidental death has been filed against Fiat Chrysler, the manufacturer of the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee that pinned the Star Trek actor in his driveway last week.
Aziz Ansari takes on Donald Trump, Islamophobia and gun control in new essay
Comedian and actor Aziz Ansari is calling for a stop to Muslim hate speech and demanding changes to gun laws in a new essay called Why Trump Makes Me Scared For My Family.
Whitney Houston auction rakes in $525,000 from personal items
More than a hundred personal items that once belonged to Whitney Houston have sold for a combined total of more than $500,000 US.
more »

Technology & Science »

Analysis Why ad blocking hangs like a dark cloud over online advertising audio
Just about any time advertisers and publishers get together these days, the question of what to do about ad blocking is usually high on the agenda, Ira Basen writes.
Tape over your laptop camera? Why it might not be as paranoid as it seems
A curious photo circulating online of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's personal laptop has ignited a conversation about data security, and how people can protect themselves against hackers.
What's a teraflop? Xbox's E3 gaming buzzwords, decoded
HDR gaming. High-fidelity virtual reality. Six teraflops of power. Are these terms harbingers of a newer, brighter era in gaming graphics, or just buzzwords meant to empty our wallets?
more »

Money »

TransCanada formally seeks NAFTA damages in Keystone XL rejection
TransCanada Corp. is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages.
5 ways Brexit could hurt Canadian pocketbooks
We may not be headed for another global financial crisis. But financial experts warn that Brexit could affect everything from Canadian housing prices to your retirement savings.
Brexit rocks the markets and CPP to grow: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP
From the U.K.'s market-shaking vote to quit the EU to the revamping of the Canada Pension Plan it was a busy week in business news. The CBC's Jacqueline Hansen is here to get you caught up in her weekly video recap.
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]
Blue Jays give up 7 HRs, still hold on to defeat White Sox video
The White Sox tied a team record with seven home runs, but it wasn't enough as Edwin Encarnacion drove in four runs, Devon Travis homered and the Toronto Blue Jays held on to beat Chicago 10-8 Saturday.
Live International Wheelchair Rugby: 2016 Canada Cup
Watch live Saturday at 8 p.m. ET as Great Britain takes on Japan at the Canada Cup International Wheelchair Rugby competition in Richmond, B.C. The event is the final international competition ahead of the upcoming Rio Paralympics.
Analysis NHL draft: No shortage of storylines on Day 1
There were several compelling stories in Buffalo on the first night of the 2016 NHL draft, but as Tim Wharnsby writes, the most emotional story of the evening arrived at the end of the first round, when the Anaheim Ducks selected Sam Steel with the 30th pick.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »