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Friday, 13 June, 2003, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Bollywood Changes
When the films Monsoon Wedding and Devdas were released they brought the Indian movie industry great international acclaim, but had the opposite impact at home, where Indian audiences are deserting in droves.

Indian movie-goers prefer what they say is real-life drama on offer from western movies, and the rampant sex that often goes with the territory.

Now Bollywood like the rest of Indian society is yielding to pressure from outside influences - influences which some claim are destroying Indian culture.

Adam Mynott reported.


KIRSTY WARK:
When the films Monsoon Wedding and Devdas were released, they brought the Indian movie industry great international acclaim, but had the opposite impact at home, where Indian audiences are deserting in droves. Indian movie-goers prefer what they say is real-life drama on offer from Western movies, and the rampant sex that often goes with the territory. Now Bollywood, like the rest of Indian society, is yielding to pressure from outside influences - influences which some claim are destroying Indian culture. Here's Adam Mynott.

ADAM MYNOTT:
Always sentimental, always predictable. Chaste heroines, never been kissed. Pursued around the mountains by handsome crooners. But the successful Hindi movie formula is turning sour. The Bollywood dream factory now cannot sell its product. Old style Hindi films are shedding audiences in their thousands. This industry has sung and danced its way into deep crisis. But the movie moguls say they now have the answer. It's up on hoardings all over Mumbai. An attempt to stop the Bollywood rot with sex. From three-hour kiss-free movies to this... The latest release, Khwahish, marketed around 17 kiss scenes, packed into 90 minutes.

UNNAMED WOMAN #1:
Go get a condom.

UNNAMED MAN #1:
Condom?

ADAM MYNOTT:
In conservative India, ground-breaking. This new, raunchy, no-holds-barred Bollywood is not just about a fresh way to market films using sex. It's also a symbol of a new generation in this country wanting to be more honest and open about the way they lead their lives.

MTV PRESENTER:
Please welcome Mallika Sherawat!

ADAM MYNOTT:
The star of Khwahish is on MTV, youth's global mouthpiece India-style.

MTV PRESENTER:
Can you dance?

MALLIKA SHERAWAT:
Yes, I can.

MTV PRESENTER:
You're a Bollywood actress - of course you can dance.

ADAM MYNOTT:
The new Bollywood babe, Mallika Sherawat, is pushing the movie to the new generation in India, consumers of pop videos, cable TV and foreign films. It's done with sex appeal.

MTV PRESENTER:
I want you to seductively devour this apple. Would you do that for us? I know you are very comfortable, very, very comfortable with your body.

ADAM MYNOTT:
No longer the forbidden fruit. Bollywood, once the realm of the demur woman, now promotes the one with attitude.

SHERAWAT:
I think Indian society is very biased. They have different rules for men and different rules for women. If a guy wants to do anything, he is called a stud, macho. But if girl even wants to kiss, she is called a slut. Why should there be a disparity like this?

ADAM MYNOTT:
The Gulf between Indian and Western social mores remains wide. The sex in Bollywood movies is relatively tame. But it is confronting real issues. It is also running headlong into sections of the conservative ruling elite who say it's dragging India down.

ANIL DESAI:
(Shiv Sena politician) We'll be a spoilt community. They will have no bounds. They will have no limits, like parental feelings. Whatever sacraments are there, whatever Indian culture there is, it will be all lost. That should not happen by way of a medium which is of a great importance.

ADAM MYNOTT:
So important that anything offensive is not tolerated. The hard political right believes it's guardian of Bollywood's moral standards. Cinema halls showing the film Fire, which explored lesbian relationships, were smashed to pieces. The latest crop of raunchy movies has not inspired such fury. But Indian film producers are under pressure to push at the boundaries.

MANESH BHATT:
(Bollywood producer) Anything which is not sensuous, which does not appeal to your glands, will not find takers. So we need to realise this and we need to consciously package the films, make them look more like what the guys in the West are doing. Otherwise there is a certainty that the younger lot, which has been brought up on the MTV Channel culture will just not go into the halls and buy a ticket.

ADAM MYNOTT:
Bollywood films have given hundreds of millions of Indians a chance to escape from the rigours of life, to step back and dream. Deeply woven into the fabric of modern India, Bollywood's ties to its audiences have loosened. It's a struggle now to fill cinema halls. Universally panned by the critics, Mallika Sherawat's film has been a sell-out.

SHERAWAT:
People are waiting for something nice, for something inventive, innovative to come out. So when if we want to go and see a movie, we want to see something which is honest which we can relate to, which has happened in our lives and stuff like that. We are sick with fantasy and all that, those old formulas - it's very boring now.

UNNAMED MAN #2:
Goddamn it!

ADAM MYNOTT:
Social change is challenging India's traditional morality. It's a revolution that Bollywood producers are being compelled to exploit.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

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