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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 03:59 GMT
Indian films do not 'make the grade'
By Inderpreet Sahota
BBC Asian Network

Naseeruddin Shah
Naseeruddin Shah is a disappointed man
Leading Indian actor-director Naseeruddin Shah has fiercely criticised the originality and quality of films produced by the Bollywood film industry.

Speaking to the BBC Asian Network's Gagan Grewal show, Mr Shah said: "We just don't make films of an international standard."

He was speaking after the Bollywood film, Rang de Basanti (Colour Me Saffron) failed to pick up an award at this month's British Academy of Film and Television Awards (Baftas).

It was nominated in the Best Foreign Film category.

"I really don't think we make films that can match those from other parts of the world. And I am not referring to Hollywood - we make copies of Hollywood," he added.

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Comparing Bollywood to other film industries, Mr Shah said: "We can't match the types of films made in Iran for example, Poland, Japan, Mexico or Brazil, Vietnam or Korea.

"These countries are producing the most incredible movies and we are still plodding on with our boy-meets-girl safe, old formula. That is the reason I think our films aren't taken seriously".

Rang de Basanti was also India's nomination to the 2007 Oscars, but it did not make the awards shortlist. So far, no Indian film has ever won an Oscar.

Mr Shah made his acting debut in Shyam Benegal's film, Nishant, in 1975. Since then, he's acted in over 130 films and won three Filmfare magazine awards.

He has seen success in art films as well as mainstream Bollywood movies.

Successful actors

He has starred in international projects such as Monsoon Wedding and a film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where he played the role of Captain Nemo.

Mt Shah has also acted in an Indian adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, and recently in Omkara, the Indian adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello.

With a career that has spanned more than three decades, he is one of India's biggest and most successful actors.

Scene from Rang de Basanti
Rang de Basanti failed to impress at the Baftas

He made his directorial debut in the film Yun Hota to Kya Hota, which was released in 2006.

Naseeruddin Shah has been especially praised for his latest film Parzania, which revolves around the 2002 riots in India's western state of Gujarat.

The film has created controversy and received critical acclaim across the country except in Gujarat itself, where it is yet to be screened.

Mr Shah defended the film: "To an extent it does rake up old wounds, but it is a story that needed to be told. It is not a finger pointing exercise."

"People do not know the personal tragedies that affected uninvolved people in the riots," he said.

Mr Shah said there was something to be learnt by the film's production: "I don't know when Bollywood is going to wake up and learn, it's not the presence of big stars that pulls an audience to cinema halls, it's the whole, overall form of the film".

Ailing industry

Naseeruddin Shah is soon set to star in his first Pakistani film Khuda Ke Naam (God's name).

Powerful figures in the Pakistan film industry are desperately trying to step up pressure on the government to revive the country's comatose film industry.

He is equally scathing of the Pakistani film industry: "I think it's a diseased version of the Mumbai film industry, by that I mean, diseased by plagiarism.

"Pakistani film-makers are content to produce the same kind of shallow, melodramas that have populated the Indian landscape," he said.

"I think the Pakistan film industry has to find a identity for itself - which it never did."

Mr Shah said that he hoped more youngsters from Pakistan will soon emerge to make more up-to-date films.

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