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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 February, 2004, 21:05 GMT
The changing face of Bollywood
Bollywood star Preity Zinta begins a series of columns for BBC News Online with an upbeat assessment of the coming months.

If you are a Bollywood buff, put your seat belts on.

This is because 2004 promises to be India's mainstream film industry's biggest year.
Preity Zinta
Preity - 'It feels good to be part of a changing industry'

Some of our main filmmakers are releasing movies with themes varying from the Raj, the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan as well as the usual love stories.

From the veteran director Yash Chopra to young one-film-old Farhan Akhtar, 2004 will showcase Bollywood's best and brightest.

It is going to be an exciting year because our young filmmakers are challenging the older order. They are instrumental in sculpting Bollywood's new, changing face.

Finesse and simplicity

We used to make amazing movies in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Remember Kaagaz Ke Phool, Mother India, Pakeezah, Half Ticket or Padosan? They were pure magic.

Preity Zinta

The performances were powerful, music flowed like poetry, the comedy was effortless and the filming style had technical finesse yet simplicity.

It was Bollywood's golden era. But then came the 1980s and the "action era".

The Bollywood heroine lost her strength and space to the hero.

She was reduced to being a glamorous prop, or to dancing around trees or to getting kidnapped, raped or killed.

Whatever happened - the hero would avenge her.

It was a formula which worked - most of the time.

The heroine would get the sympathy, the hero his revenge and God save the villain.

Madness

Only a few films, such as Umrao Jaan, Nikah, Ahista Ahista, managed to break free of the mould.

It was Bollywood's worst period.

Actress Namrata Shirodkar
Actress Namrata Shirodkar - displaying Bollywood elan

Anything and everything was possible. The hero could fight 50 villains, jump out of the 10th floor, get hit by a couple of volleys of gunfire and still manage to save his mother or girlfriend.

It was madness.

Even by the 1990s we were still making these formulaic films. The thinking was: "Get in some big stars, record some good music, pray to the gods and the films will work."

The only problem was they didn't.

The formula syndrome led to a string of flops and much of the industry going bankrupt.

I remember early in my career filmmakers would offer me a film by saying, "You are the solo heroine opposite this hero, you have five songs."

In those days actors signed up for eight to 10 films and worked simultaneously in all of them. They worked double shifts - each shift being an eight hour-day. A film would usually take one to two years to complete.

The result was routine films churned out for the masses.

Luxury of choice

The big change came when television in India opened up.

Suddenly, we no longer had one state-owned channel. There was cable and satellite TV. Then the internet came to help shape a whole new public perception.

Today the script is more important than the director or the actor

Finally, people had the luxury to choose their entertainment - and they chose ruthlessly.

Films flopped left, right and centre. Star power was no longer enough to persuade the audience to sit through a bad film.

The winds of change were blowing over the industry. It was the perfect time for our new generation of filmmakers to strike.

Even the demographics and character of the movie market in India changed.

The opening up of the overseas market, with more Bollywood releases abroad, and the explosion of multiplexes in our cities meant that film makers could now make interesting new, niche films.

2001 saw the release of Dil Chahta Hai (Do Your Thing). This film gave birth to contemporary Bollywood.

Sync sound (where the sound is recorded on set as it happens, rather than dubbed later in the studio) was reintroduced.

Dubbing became a thing of the past.

Bollywood elan

Today, when I'm approached about starring in a film, I get a full bound script.

The script is more important than the director or the actor.

Kajol  (left) and Sharukh Khan in Bollywood hit Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghum
Has Bollywood turned a corner?

It feels good to be a part of a changing industry. Now actors and directors prefer to do one film at a time which is usually filmed in three-four months.

That allows for consistency in your performance and continuity.

There's one film I remember where the hero's in a fight. He gets hit in his face and falls down. When he gets up, he's had a haircut - and everybody in the audience is screaming, "Hey, he's cut his hair!".

I am proud to be a part of today's Bollywood. I love dancing and lip syncing (miming) to our songs. I love our dream sequences and I love the costume changes.

Only Bollywood can pull it all off with elan.

Film almost killed me

This year I am looking forward to my film Lakshya (Aim), which releases mid-2004.

It is based on the India-Pakistan fighting in Kargil, Kashmir in 1999. Lakshya is close to my heart because it shows how young people experience and are affected by war. It's not just about people screaming and killing each other.

I believe people blend better than governments anyway. My sister-in-law is half-American and half-Pakistani. We don't look at boundaries.

Lakshya also exemplifies new Bollywood. It was the toughest film of my career.

We went up to 17,800 feet altitude in the mountains to shoot.

We made a world record, putting up the highest camera crane in the world.

Men and women crew members worked in the freezing cold at -15 degrees Celsius.

I am looking forward to it because the film almost killed me - and what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Just like Bollywood beating back the bad times and coming back with a bang to cinemas near you.

To read Preity Zinta's future columns, bookmark bbcnews.com/southasia

Here is a selection of readers views about this column.


Comes across as a honest appraisal of the cinema that's being churned out by the contemporary Bollywood brigade! Good for a starter. Hope the industry people who are still asleep wake up to Preity's call for the sea of change that is already taking place. However, this trend is one that's being traced by every publication in India. What makes this column, a good read is the first-hand autobiographical value it has on account of the anecdotes!
Chintan Modi, India

Preity, best of luck - write freely, lightly just like you.
Sandee, India

Mr Tony please wake up from your dream. There is no way that hollywood can compete with bollywood in INDIA. It might happen in your country that Hollywood has taken total control of British Cinema. But for that to happen in India it might take Another 100 Years.
Mohammed, Udupi

I think what Preity wrote is absolutely true! she's done an incredible job, and i hope she continues for a long time! the movies of the 80's n 70's were before my time but i do know that heroines were used as props back then!its great to see the change in bollywood..! im truly a hindi film fan. its good that somebody who's actually experienced it all is writing here!
Reema, Pakistan

Interesting article. However, the formula movies are still strong in Bollywood. The boy always gets the girl and the movies are highly predictable. Well written article, though. Keep it up!
AM, Richardson, Texas, USA

Nausherwan Lahori's comment from Lahore, Pakistan compelled me to write. The writer from Lahore has embarrassed me as a Pakistani and as a Lahore. I mean has he ever seen the nonsense being produced by Pakistani film industry or Lollywood, as it likes to call itself? To begin with, Indians are making cinema; whereas what we are producing needs classification, it certainly cannot be called cinema.
Hadia Khan, Pakistan

Hi Priety Z, Your views on the future of Bollywood are quite optimistic. Bollywood it seems is indeed heading (finally) in the right direction, thanks to new blood like Karan Johar whose films appeal to asians outside as well as within India. In my view however, if Bollywood is going to succeed in the long term, then the scriptwriters are going to have to come up with original ideas and not copycat storylines borrowed from successful films from Hollywood etc. All too often, we begin to watch a Bollywood movie and realise that we have seen it before (usually a Hollywood film) thus spoiling the rest of the movie because the plot is exposed and we feel cheated and let down. The same is true for the music (western hits churned out in Hindi by "joke" versions of the original artists. Please, give us paying customers our moneys worth! Let us leave the cinema panting for more.
Nisar Sheikh, Birmingham U.K.

The column has got the substance. I look forward to read many more such columns in the future. Umesh
Umesh, Singapore

Your article is very interesting, but I missed references to some of the great Bollywood figures like Raj Kapoor, whose lasting impact on the industry should not be underestimated, and Shyam Benegal, whose new-wave approach and daring themes definitely had an influence on Bollywood productions plus their perception in the West.
Vikas Sonak, The Netherlands

Preity, have you ever thought of writing a screenplay? I am hundred per cent sure, after reading your article, that you have that special gift - lucidity in narration and thoughts. Don't let it go west. Utilize it in a screenplay. You are a great actress, but who knows, you may be a greater sreenplay writer.
Dipak Soliya, India

Indian film industry is second largest in the world and number one in number of movies produced annually. It has very bright future.
Peter Gagliano, Canada

Hi Preity, Many congrats on such a brilliant attempt. Well i don't have much to say but 'The Power Of Work And The Power Of Creativity,Can Be Your Salvation. Good Luck For The Future!!!!!
Aley Naqui, Pakistan

Preity, You've done a great job. I hope to see more of your articles. The way you've scanned the past of Bollywood is wonderful. I definately believe that Bollywood has a bright future.
Mano, Pakistan

The new Bollywood is particularly disappointing, but what can one expect from an industry whose name itself is a caricature of the West. I would suggest you start looking at some Japanese or Chinese film to see what it means to be have an identity of one's own rather than cheap Hinglish imitations that are churned out. We have a tremendous source in Indian literature to draw from (the last classic I remember was Utsav), yet we keep making patchwork quilt of "Bollwoodized" Hollywood scripts with overacting.
Sankrant, USA

As an insider writing on Films and Industry,one would expect your article to intelligently capture the close-lens insights and stories that cannot be had through the Sunday columns. Disappointingly, this one read like an indifferent summary of our cinmatic trends.
Anubha Verma, India

Preity you done your first article well in BBC. I wish many more. Changing times and an actress impressions are talked nicely. What I felt you could have focussed more is how is present day cinema vis a vis 80s. Entire world (particularly West) percives our cinema is always a love story and hero can do anything types. Present days cinema is much better and the 80s image should change. In the times to come I am sure there will be a good competition to Hollywood from Bollywood. Keep good work.
Prakash Bharatam, Germany/India

India is a amazing nation and of its artistic culture is supposed to be one of the top of the world. Brazilians experts too like the Indian movies very much.They are great and deserve to be respected and their films, enjoyed.
Maynard A. Conde, Brazil

Im a 15-year-old Bollywood 'buff' as you put it from all the way down under and I certainly agree that the bar has risen, recently, in terms of the quality of films being churned out of bollywood. This may be attributed to the widening audiences that view bollywood movies (i.e. those of non-indian backgrounds are also enjoying the 'masala trip' of hindi movies these days) but, in my opinion the roots of this new found spark in hindi cinema can simply be tied down to the fact that directors, producers and actors are starting to think outside the square when developing movies. They have updated their understanding of the content matter that audiences can relate to and handle, and perhaps they have taken a page from history and tried to rediscover the magic that films like 'mundee' produced. Whatever is it, its simply wonderful.
Ritika, Australia

It is great to see Preity Zinta, one of the most renowned actors to pen by herself few words on the BBC.Certainly I feel she is well qualified to give views on Bollywood and variety of subjects relating India,arts and future talks.It is inspiring and motivating me to read through Preity's columns.
Paval, India

Though the points aren't novel to an Indian audience, what deserves appreciation is that it comes from someone who is a present day practitioner of the films she is talking about. Feverishly upbeat, the column deserves a view. Good work, preity, way to go.
Mayank Shekhar, India

I hate watching Bollywood films or even the TV shows on Sony and Zee TV. Why? - simple. Its pre-occupied with the fact that to be "modern", "advcanced" in India you have to have light skin, wear the latest design gear, made up like your were attending an awards show and have to speak pigeon English. It's incredible. My wife loves it but it so false - I travel India a lot and what Bollywood/TV tries to present is a million miles from reality on the ground.
Jay Patel, UK

This article is very good and portraying Bollywood's image very sharply. Preity can also be such a good writer nobody could believe. Congratulations Preity... keep it up.
ashish khandelwal, Rajasthan, India

Dear Ms. Zinta, It is indeed heartening to see that our filmmakers are no longer relying on the cliched and hackneyed formulae of the past. But with the filmmakers becoming bold in the themes they tackle in their movies, another sorry trend has started - catering to the niche audiences. For example, Sunny Deol's movies will do the best in N. India, SRK's most profitable territory is overseas, Subhash Ghai caters to the overseas audiences forgetting totally about the teeming billions in India. I mean what happened to the universally popular films like Sholay,Pakezaah and all the others that you mentioned from yesteryears? I think our industry is in the right direction, but the need of the hour is to do more in terms of making movies which caters to a more universal populace. I believe only then the films could be more a celebration of a filmmaker's style and story than being a 3-hour timepass activity.
Raja, USA

Change is only constant thing in the world, good to see Hindi cinema changing with time. Good luck to Hindi cinema and Preity Zinta.
Sanjeev Manral, India/Korea

I really enjoyed the article. It was to the point and it was the truth. The audience does want more and we know that our film makers can produce. Excellent Preity. You hit the nail on the head. Looking forward to more from you. I just want to say that I love the dance sequences and costume changes and all the ingredients of a good masala movie so i hope that that doesnt change. Just the stories and the way in which it is told should change. Like what karan Johar did with the typical story of a father not wanting a poor daughter-in-law.he worked it in a different way.end result.fantastic.
Yasheera Rampersadh, South Africa

Brilliant for a first column, keep up the good work Preity!
Preeti Chana, London, UK

The only thing good about Bollywood are the songs. Wouldn't it be nice if actress Pretty Zinta could sing her next article to us? That would be more bollywood-like!
Vipul Seth, Mozambique

Dear Friend, I am struck by the depth of this article, how it has traveled over the past years, and scanned the current era and given a new dimension to the present and future. It is remarkable to read so much in such a short piece. Congrats and Cheers. Selwyn.
Selwyn.J.Mukkath, Afghanistan

Absolutely! - When people ask me why I don't g for Hindi films - the reasons were spelt out in the column. What's exciting about their films - nothing, same theme all the time, same colourful dancing and singing; often around trees and parks; same old 'boys meet girls' - overcome adversity/objections from crooks, relatives, old boyfriends/fiends, etc., and finally, live happily ever after. You've seen them once, you've seen them all; and because the Indian masses who pay a few rupees and want their films to last forever - can we the modern, demanding and discerning audience sit through two hours or more of such movies - of repeatative themes and dance scenes. Give me Star Wars, The Lord of the Ring, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, The Silence of the Lambs, etc, etc, etc, any time! But please spare me the likes of Hindi movies, like Love in Tokyo or Love in Rome, or similar, what have you!!
Don Too, malaysia

How does the Bollywood nonsense pass for "movies"?
Nausherwan Lahori, Lahore, Pakistan

Well done Preity for writing about Bollywood in BBC column. What I would like to see is that you writing about national identity of Bollywood or Indian cinema. I am a Film post graduate and in University we always had debates about national idetity about bollywood. The west believe that Indian cinema lacks in national identity. Go ahead and explore this as bollywood definitelt have its own national identity and I am quite sure that very soon West will dance on Bollywood tunes. Best Wishes
Jaswinder Singh, London UK

I do not believe bollywood has a bright future. As literacy levels improve in South Asia (English becoming more popular), people will make a choice between new bollywood films versus hollywood which can technically blow the former 'out the water' and mostly have better scripts. Preity talks about the bad old 80's bollywood films based on a hero and a heroine, but in reality very little has changed. In fact her own film she is currenlty involved in, is based on the old formula of pakistan-bashing and jingoism (from some of the excerpts revealed), not far from the many other films churned out by bollywood. Bollowood's problem is an absence of good quality scripts, which in turn have the fraternity 'running' for the next crowd-puller, patriotism. What they don't realise, that may be a good thing within their respective countries, but they inherently reduce their market scope (outside their borders), and also leave a bad taste in their audiences, in the longer term.
Tony, UK




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