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The BBC's Joanne Gilhooly
"Cutting free from Bollywood's influence"
 real 28k

Friday, 30 June, 2000, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
'Cool India' cinema in London
English August
English August: Confused feelings of urban elite
By Joanne Gilhooly

A new style of Indian filmmaking is to be showcased in a week-long festival in London.

The six films on display are designed to shake Indian film out of the fantasy land of Bombay's commercial cinema - Bollywood - and Raj-obsessed colonial "easterns".

Kaizad Gustad
Kaizad Gustad: "Our films reflect new India"
Instead, these films represent an India that is fast changing and a culture that is new and hip.

The films contain more sex, more often and more graphically.

"There has been no representation of modern India in cinema in my opinion," says Kaizad Gustad, director of Bombay Boys, which rips into Bollywood.

"We have propagated the same myths to the West that the West wants to see about India. If it's not snake charmers, it's gurus....... cobras of reincarnation, oppression of women," he says.

English August

The dilemma of identity in a vast and diverse country lies at the core of Dev Benegal's English August.

Based on Upamanyu Chatterjee's book of the same name, it is the story of a young man who journeys into small-town India to train as a civil servant.

On show
English August (1994)
Bombay Boys (1998)
Hyderabad Boys (1998)
Rockford (1999)
Split Wide Open (1999)
Godmother (1999)
Fresh and quirky, English August captures the confused feelings of a young urban elite who speak English better than their native tongues.

"I just feel that over the decades there has been a growing frustration among artists and filmmakers, particularly those who want to present things as they see them," says Kaizad Gustad.

"In the last three years, what started as a trickle is now a movement."

Urban attitude

Dr Rachel Dwyer, who has written extensively about Indian cinema, says the films are distinctly urban and resonant of an Indian Pedro Almadovar.

While Bollywood reflects people's fantasies, imaginations and aspirations, these films appeal to an urban audience.

Bombay Boys
Bombay Boys satirised Bollywood
"I think they are trying to portray a kind of India which is real for some people - the people who live in wealthy metropolises," says Dr Dwyer.

But she says the suggestion that they will do for Bollywood what Spike Lee did for Hollywood is premature.

Cutting free from Bollywood's influence to create something new and distinctly Indian was never going to be easy.

But these films may be the first to give vent to an increasingly frustrated section of Indian society which feels constrained by cliché.

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19 Nov 99 | South Asia
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