Lessons learned as IIFAA 2011 fades to black
- June 27, 2011 12:57 PM |
- By Eli Glasner
Shah Rukh Khan, right, performs with dancers during the finale of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards show in Toronto on Saturday. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
Although I'm a film critic, I admit coming into the 2011 International Indian Film Academy Awards weekend not knowing my Kapoors from my Shah Rukh Khans. Sholay and Slumdog Millionaire had been the extent of my encounters with Indian film. However, after a couple of weeks taking a crash course on Bollywood, a few impromptu dance lessons and meeting the "Black Eyed Peas of Mumbai" in Toronto, I've learned a few things that I'm eager to share.
"Bollywood" is just the beginning
Describing the entire commercial output of South Asia as Bollywood is like saying Hollywood makes "talkies." One look at the IIFAA best picture nominees and you get a sense of the range. Sure, there are classic masala-style stories like the blockbuster musical-comedy-action thriller Dabangg. Then there's the pure political intrigue and drama of Raajneeti. You also have one of Saturday night's big winners, My Name is Khan, a record-breaking film exploring intolerance in the U.S., post 9/11. Now, as India's movie industry matures and fragments, a new wave of independent filmmakers, sometimes called Hindie (as in Indie + Hindi), is finding a voice.
Hollywood is not the enemy
CBC's Eli Glasner, left, interviews rising stars Zayed Khan, centre, and Dia Mirza. (CBC)
In an industry that churns out approximately a thousand films a year, there's room for everyone. The rising stars I spoke to for a story on the increasing connections between L.A. and India don't see Hollywood's growing interest in Mumbai as a threat, but rather an opportunity. The entrance of new studios and injection of money from the West is shaking up an industry where, at one time, you were rarely guaranteed success unless you were born into an Indian film dynasty.
Open your heart. Your mind will follow
Okay. Let's face it. Some of the acting in Indian films is outrageous and bad. But is it any worse than the grunt-worthy performances in The Expendables or the sappy schmaltz of your average American rom-com? As one Bollywood fan advised, the key is to view Indian film as melodrama without irony. It's not camp or cute, but a supernova of emotion. Plus, on a sociological tip, watching this half-century-old industry smash into the 21st century is fascinating: you get Hindi phrases peppered with English slang and starlets who've lifted their urban outfits straight outta Bayside High.
Relax and have another chai
Chalk it up to cultural jet lag, but one of the big lessons learned was the difference between Eastern Standard Time and IIFA Standard Time. Essentially, there is a time when an interview/photo shoot/concert/awards ceremony is supposed to start and then there's the time the talent actually arrives -- which is whenever they feel like it. Although, when said talent does materialize, the eloquence and ebullience on display more than makes up for the tardiness.
And now -- talk about cinematic whiplash -- I'm going from playback singers and Raj Kapoor to wrestling robots and Michael "Appetite for Destruction" Bay. While I'm happy to return to my home turf talking about stars I've followed, after feasting on the flavours of Indian cinema, our summer blockbusters seem a touch plain. I may just have to throw Udd Udd Dabangg on the ol' .mp3 player a few times until the next IIFAA rolls around.
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