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Books > Performing Arts > First Day First Show – Writings from the Bollywood Trenches
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First Day First Show – Writings from the Bollywood Trenches
First Day First Show – Writings from the Bollywood Trenches
Description
From the Jacket

For more than a hundred years now, Indians have watched movies made in the subcontinent, sung the songs, and gossiped about the stars. Bollywood has been a passion, a popular tradition, and a shared national conversation. In recent decades, as India has experienced economic and social change, both the film industry and the entertainment it produces have transformed themselves as well.

First Day First Show is Anupama Chopra's guide to this dazzling world of lights, cameras, and stars, but also to its shadowing darkness. She takes us into the lives of the stars, and into the struggles of those who never make it to centre stage; she lets us participate in the making of legendary hits like Sholay and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and also the hard—won successes of independent film-makers; she shows us the glamour as well as the murky links with the underworld. There is also the odd story of the royal bodyguard of Bhutan who became a scriptwriter; of the embarrassed Pakistani soldiers at Wagah border who could not allow their favourite Indian superstars to shoot.

This book has all the ingredients of a Bollywood hit: there is friendship, love, despair, hope, heartbreak and triumph.

Anupama Chopra has lived in and written about the Mumbai film industry for the last twenty years. Her articles, written during a crucial phase in post-Independence India, bring Bollywood alive for the reader; they are not only a study of an industry but also a tribute to a nation’s obsession.

Foreword

Let me begin by saying that I believe I am the right person to write a foreword for this book because Anupama and I share a similar perspective on the film industry. She has written a book on me. But more importantly, I am an outsider who is on the inside now. Anupama also started as an outsider. I first met her in 1995, when she was a journalist with India Today magazine. She did a profile of me titled ‘Darr-ingly Different, in which she described me as arrogant, volatile and energetic! Anupama was a serious journalist, by which I mean that she wrote about Hindi films in a serious way. Her writing reflected research. She didn’t gloss over facts and figures. Over the years, Anupama became more involved with Bollywood. She married a film—maker—Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Like me, she was an outsider who became an insider.

When you make a film, if you are an insider, you’re usually the last person to know that your film is not right. But when you are an outsider, you have a little more objectivity. I think a part of my success is that I am naturally objective. I am not an insider. In many ways, Anupama is the same. Through her husband and sister Tanuja Chandra, she is a part of the film industry. But there is a genuine and natural objectivity in her work. There is a certain “non—filminess’ to it. She will neither gush because she loves movies nor will she insert a personal agenda into her work. I may or may not agree with her view but I know that it is honest. I like the simplicity of her writing. I like that it is never over—elaborate.

In the last two decades, the Hindi film industry has undergone tremendous change. There has been an upheaval. In fact change has been our only constant. I still recall my first brush with Bollywood. I had come to Mumbai with my mother and sister. At that point of time, we were looking for a groom for my sister. It so happened that around the time she was to come here to see a boy, I was being called here to do a film. I got to know later that the person my mom met had told her that she would have to pay money if I was to become a star. Of course that film didn’t happen. One of the many reasons was that I was told that when I will be introduced in the press, it would he said that I am someone uneducated from a backward area. It would be said that I was a guy who had come from the galis of Jama Masjid to become the hero of the masses. But I would have to dress up a little better than what I did. It was very strange that my education was to be toned down, while my dress sense was to be toned up. That’s how Bollywood was.

Back then, I also made the mistake of asking ‘What’s the story? I was told the film would star Amrish Puri and Sushma Seth. The director asked, ‘Do you still want to hear the story? I said, (Yes! The response was that Sushma Seth and Amrish Puri are in the film and that’s the story. This was my first experience with Bollywood. When I finally said yes to movies, that is the impression I came with. What is the reason I decided to be radically different. I decided that I wouldn’t play the hero, I would play the villain. I would be casual and unkempt as I was. I remember most of the producers and directors who met me were a little shocked that I looked the way I did and I realized that a lot of importance was given to an actor’s appearance but not to the film’s story. In fact films were made without a story. They were more of a proposal than a creative thought.

The working method was something like this: You met a producer who normally was not in the limelight. He would just come and hang around. Then there was a director and a lot of singing and dancing. There were three shifts a day. I have shot seventy—two hours without a wink of sleep. I have shot for Kaman Arjun; I have shot for Ob Darling! Yeh Hai India, and this was the accepted way of working.

The more films you did, the more your chances of being a star were. There weren’t any bound scripts. At that time, what you really looked forward to was a good narration. Whoever narrated the story would mostly be trying to tell you how you were going to be in the film. They never told you how the film was going to be.

As everybody used to have access to me those days, I got to hear some very funny stories, two of which have stayed with me. One was narrated by this young, bearded, arty type of director. He told me the story of a man who loves a woman but can’t marry her. It was a very Scarface kind of story, where I become a bad guy and the woman gets married to another man who is a cop. He is after me and then he shoots at me. I am hurt but along with my lover manage to escape in a train, which is going back to the village where we fell in love. I am dying and I need water but there is no water in the train. The woman, who is pregnant with that man’s child, takes out her breast and puts her milk in my mouth, which quenches my thirst. Thereafter somehow their relationship changes to that of a brother and sister. I die after all that and she goes back. I told the director, ‘You know this scene is a little odd} He got very angry and told me that my mind was cI1eap.A woman feeding a child is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. I said, ‘Of course. But I End it odd that she is feeding me at the age of twenty—eight or twenty—nine. It seemed a little sexual to me. He got mad at my interpretation.

Another man narrated a story to me called Bangri, which I think means bangle. I don’t remember the entire story but essentially I am an playboy who sleeps with one woman after another. One night I am driving back with my new lover from Khandala and we have an accident in which she dies. Though I like her a lot I get over her and marry someone else and then, whoever I marry dies. I get married about seven to eight times. Each time I marry, on the suhaag raat, a chudail comes. The chudail breaks my bride’s bangri and kills her but I don’t learn. I keep on marrying without being able to consummate my marriages. Finally I do and I get it over with the last heroine, and she forgives me and I live happily afterwards with that other woman I marry. The beauty was that the many marriages would be with top heroines. Like it would be a Madhuri, a Juhi or a Sridevi. So many heroines and Shah Rukh. These were serious projects. These directors really believed in these stories and I heard them out as well. Finally I started insisting on a script and film—makers just wrote twenty pages. A twenty page storyline was considered the script. When I asked some people to give it to me scene—wise, they gave it to me with the climax written as ‘claimax’. I had to ask, ‘What happens in the ‘claimax’?

In those early days doing Hindi films was like doing street theatre. You made it up as you went along. One tries and despite screw—ups on the sets, you make it work. I have this strange attitude and it is not with any kind of ego. So I really enjoyed it. It was fantastic. I was never frustrated. I never cancelled a shoot. Slowly over the years the change began. I don’t know if I led it, though I did become a part of it.

So much has changed as the years have gone by. Banks have come in. The retail section is more organized, whether it’s through multiplexes or single—screen theatres. It’s a brave new world. But sometimes I wonder if we have lost a certain madness, a certain rawness and passion. Because I know of people who would become bankrupt making a film and have had to sell their house. I remember Yash johar had put his house on the line for Duplicate. It would have been sold if Kuch Kuch Hota Hai hadn’t become a success. So there was this madness in all that chaos. Maybe that is why money also used to come from shady sources. Films were made on hope and destiny. There was a strange love in that.

The evolution of Bollywood had three phases. The first was when I joined the industry. It was unorganized, there were no stories, the monies were unorganized and shootings could happen or not happen. There were days when you would come on the sets and there were days when you wouldn’t come on the sets. Nobody would show up. I have also done it. We all did three shifts, so you would wake up somewhere and say, ‘Abhi late ho gaya.’ There were no mobiles, so there was no way to even track someone. It was the time of the old guard: the Chopras, the Ghais, the Mehras, the Manmohan Desais. These directors were actually a little more methodical. But by the time I came many of these names were waning. The younger people had come and I think the organization actually came because the younger guys became friends and started to like working for each other. In the second phase, stars started doing one film at a time. I was working with Aditya and Karan. We became what is now derogatorily called a clique. But I think that helped. The production started getting a little more ordered. The younger directors started working with fully written scripts. You knew what the scene was and what had been changed or rewritten.

The third phase started when the scriptwriters came in. Writing software like Final Draft came in. I was one of the first few to actually start using it. Everybody started writing: (Cut to’, ‘Scene no. so-and—so’. Consequently production became more planned. Today Bollywood has come so far that we aspire to make a Hindi film that works globally.

I have participated in this change without being an insider. So has Anupama. I believe this is part of the reason for our success because insiders find change difficult. They resist it. First Day First S/mw is an inside-outside, outside—inside overview of the Hindi film industry. It is also an overview of a writer’s journey.

This book is a portrait of the industry with all its contradictions and instability. When you finish the book, you will discover that the more things change, the more they remain the same. There are some beliefs that haven’t changed at all. So we are still a little antsy about being called Bollywood. There will be actors who say `I hate it’ even though we are quite proud that Bollywood is being recognized the world over. So what else would you like it to be called? ‘Indian film industry’, ‘Hindi film-making country’. But finally Bollywood hi hai.

We have to accept these truths. The acceptance of truth actually makes the truth vanish. When you accept that you have a big nose, you stop hiding it. What makes this book beautiful is that it is an acceptance of truths. Yaar, hum Bollywood hi rahenge. This truth permeates through the whole book. I have a lot of love for Hindi films and I think First Day First Show is like a Hindi film. You have to see it like that: with its own intervals, its own screenplay. In places it will contradict itself. It will go wrong. It will peak in places and go down in places. It will be warm in some places and funny in others. After you’ve read it, the feeling will be that it is an experience that you have not had before. It will be a ride. It will be a true representation of what a Hindi film is.

Introduction

James Cameron and Aamir Khan: on a hot Delhi day in March 2010, Hollywood’s biggest film-maker and Bollywood’s biggest star sat on a stage together. It was the last session of the annual India Today Conclave. Over the past two days, power players from the worlds of politics, finance, technology and literature had pontificated about the coming decade. But the grand finale was Cameron, whose Avatar had recently created box office history by making more than 2.8 billion dollars, in conversation with Aamir, whose Him 3 Idiots had recently become the highest grosser in the history of Indian cinema.

However, James and Aamir did not discuss their astounding box office grosses or formulas for success. Instead, they exchanged notes on the process of film-making; how ideas, even seemingly crazy ones that require developing a unique camera, as James did for Avatar, become a reality; how stories and not special effects are the heartbeat of movies. James talked about staying humble before the craft. Aamir discussed the emotional journey he embarks on with each film. The largely unstructured conversation was intimate and insightful. It felt as though James and Aamir had met for a drink and the audience had been given the privilege to eavesdrop. When Indio Today’s editor-in- chief, Aroon Purie, who was moderating the discussion, asked Aamir how different Bollywood was from Hollywood, Aamir said he didn’t know since he had never worked in Hollywood. In a flash, Cameron replied, ‘We can change that.

I joined Indio Today as a correspondent in June 1993. My first story for the magazine was about the runaway success of a David Dhawan comedy called Aon/2/yen, which starred Govinda, Chunky Pandey and a monkey named Bajrangi. This cacophonous film revolving around three sets of twins was the biggest hit of the year. Aankhen was an apt reflection of the Elm industry itself—colourful, chaotic and resolutely unsophisticated. lf someone had said to me then that one day the world’s most successful f1lm—maker would come to India to discuss cinema with a Bollywood star, I would have laughed and then I would have laughed some more.

Back then, ‘Bollywood’ was a bad word. I had returned to India a year earlier with a master’s degree from one of the top journalism schools in the United States, the Medill School at Northwestern University. After graduation, I had worked for eight months at Harper’s Bazaar magazine in New York. I then returned specifically because I wanted to write about Hindi cinema. My first job in India was as reporter at the now—defunct Sunday magazine. Around six months later, I got a call from India Today. The interview was conducted by Mr Purie at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. He looked at my resume and asked incredulously, ‘So you came back from America with a journalism degree to write about Bollywood?’ The idea baffled him but he gave me the job anyway.

Then, few journalists at India Today, or indeed at any other mainstream magazine or newspaper, wanted to write about Hindi films. Bollywood was decidedly infra dig and film journalism was the domain of fan—focused magazines such as Film fare and the more salacious Stardust, where the topic of discussion was always the star, rarely a film or the craft or the business of cinema. In fact, educated young people didn’t even admit to seeing Hindi ‘fillums, much less liking them. The Elms in the early 1990s were only marginally better than the gaudy masala dishcd out through the dark ages of the 1980s. And the industry itself was a kind of desi Wild West.

Bollywood, then, was a world in transition. The old school, with its rigid hierarchies and conservative mores, was gasping for breath but the new order hadn’t been born yet. The cliché of the oily producer in a safari suit clutching a suitcase full of cash was very much based in truth. Stars worked on multiple projects and rushed like headless chickens from one set to another; distributors gave creative inputs, demanding a sensuous rain song or a bloody fist fight during the climax; and directors were almost always men above forty-five. Naturally the films were equally fossilized. Javed Akhtar once dourly told me that most directors came to him asking for ‘an original script, which had been done before’. My favourite anecdote from the time involves a busy writer who inadvertently mixed up scenes for two different films that were being shot simultaneously. Bollywood lore has it that both crews shot the wrong scene before realizing that it was from another film.

In August 1993, I wrote an article called {Cool Copycats’ about how writers were cheerfully stealing scripts. The feature estimated that over 90 per cent of the films in production at the time were either unauthorized remakes of Hollywood blockbusters, Hong Kong films, older Hindi movies or ‘a khichdi of every thing. The copying was blatant. I recall being on the sets of Maliesh Bhatt’s Criminal in Hyderabad The director had a VHS player on the set so he could copy shots from the Harrison Pord—starrer Tim Fugitive, which Criminal was ‘inspired’ from. His frequent collaborator, writer Robin Bhatt told me, ‘My talent lies in knowing what to steal and weaving it in such a way so as to appeal to everyone.

‘Steal’ seemed to be the operative word in Bollywood. The business was essentially an overgrown cottage industry. Distributor Balakrishna G. Shroff called showbiz ‘andhere ka dhandha’, implying that just as a film was screened in the dark, its accounting was also best done in darkness. Contracts were rare, bound scripts were rarer, schedules were haphazard and cash was the preferred mode of payment. Some producers weren’t shady—they were downright dangerous. In January 1993, I wrote a story for Sunday magazine about mobsters moving into movies. “Into Production’ focused on a slew of unknown businessmen who had overnight become serious players in Bollywood. I remember interviewing Sudhakar Bokade at his home in Versova.

His young daughter played in the living room while I probed Bokade about accusations that he had forced Govinda to show up for a shoot by threatening him. The erstwhile cargo controller, who had risen to the industry’s top ranks with Saajan, was offended by my questions. At the time, Bokade was producing Dilip Kumar’s directorial debut, Kafinga. He asked, ‘VVii1 Dilip Kumar work with someone from the underwor.Id?” Intriguingly, Kalinga was never completed.

Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala, the bosses at Magnum Video, were even more vociferous in protesting their innocence. The two sat behind a mile-long desk in their plush Bandra office and denied having anything to do with the dreaded Don Dawood Ibrahim. Three months after l interviewed them, on 13 April 1993, they were arrested for involvement in the Mumbai bomb blasts. In February 2001, Hanif was shot dead in his office. In June 2007, Samir was sentenced to nine years' rigorous imprisonment for criminal conspiracy. But Hanif and Samir, whom l—during my interview—had envisioned as the Mumbai street version of the Thomson and Thompson twins from Tintin comics, weren’t the only ones consorting with Dawood. The Don was universally understood to be a powerful benefactor. A source told me that everyone who visited Dubai paid homage at his palatial house. There were stories of extravagant gifts and shopping sprees bankrolled by him. The industry’s attitude towards the mafia was shockingly cavalier. Mahesh Bhatt asked, ‘What is the problem if people are taking money from these people? Their money is not contaminated. It doesn’t matter as long as you make the film and repay them.

This illicit love affair came back to haunt Bollywood. On 12 August 1997, Gulshan Kumar, the ‘Audio King of India’, was gunned down in a suburban Mumbai lane as he returned from morning prayers at his favourite Shiv temple. The murder sent shock waves through the industry. In the studios, the panic was palpable. Leading actors and directors were given police protection. Others hired private security and, overnight, homes and offices were turned into fortresses with surveillance equipment. It was a depressing and bewildering time. I experienced the fear first—hand.

In June 1996, l married film—maker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. After p his film Mission Kashmir released in 2000, we received threatening phone calls and consequently security. An armed guard became our shadow. There was something surreal and darkly funny about all of ` this. One night, as we walked down a corridor in the Taj Mahal Hotel, a friend whispered: Don’t look now but a man with a gun is following your husband. At screenings, our guard sat with us, always on alert. I remember abandoning an Iranian film festival halfway because we I figured if we made him see one more depressing neo—realist Iranian movie, he would shoot us himself In those years of living dangerously, a bodyguard became a more popular accessory than a Louis Vuitton bag. At industry trial shows, the line of swanky cars was matched by the line of bodyguards. In January 2000, Rakesh Roshan was shot as be left his suburban office. The bullet grazed his arm and entered his chest but he miraculously survived the attack.

But even the mafia couldn’t contain the industry’s inevitable evolution. It began, as most things in Bollywood do, with the box office. First Sooraj Barjatya, then Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar rewrote box office grosses with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun .... !, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai respectively. These boys—each was under thirty when he made his blockbuster—forced a change of guard in Bollywood. Coming from leading film families, all three had grown up on both Hollywood and Hindi films. Aditya and Karan-especially Karan—were resolutely urbane and trendy. Assisted by the equally youthful Khan trinity—Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh—they reworked Hindi cinema into a new, contemporary avatar. In June 1999, l wrote an article called ‘The New Bollywood Brigade, which showcased the hottest talent in showbiz in all fields from direction to publicity design. In it, leading distributor Shyam Shroff categorically stated Bollywood’s new mantra: ‘It` you’re over Forty-five, you’re redundant.

Through the 1990s, there was a paradigm shift. New film—makers brought in new sensibilities. In 1997, the first multiplex opened in New Delhi. Slowly but inexorably, Bollywood went from crass to cool. The cultural landscape was saturated with Hindi cinema. Now the media couldn’t get enough of Bollywood—every leading paper produced a daily supplement that was, more often than not, brimming with stories about stars and new releases. Television, once perceived is a major threat to the movies, became an a1ly—television promoted films, and soon superstars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh khan were hosting their own shows. Even advertising couldn’t escape the all-encompassing hold of Bollywood: stars became, in the words of ad executives, ‘promiscuous brand endorsers', sometimes pushing as many as fifteen products simultaneously. Bollywood grosses ballooned and then the inevitable happened. Hollywood arrived, but-amazingly—to play on Bollywood’s terms. In November 2007, Sony Pictures Entertainment released the first Hindi Elm produced by a Hollywood studio, Saawariya.

Bollywood became a global story. I wrote about Hindi cinema for the trade paper Variety and for Las Angeles Timer. By July 2005, The New York Times—America’s pre—eminently respectable newspaper of record-was curious. I met Michael Cieply, then editor of the ‘Sunday Arts and Leisure’ section of the paper, at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He knew nothing about Bollywood but he was g intrigued enough to commission a story. The first feature I did for the ` paper was called ‘Bollywood’s Good Girls Learn to Be Bad’. It looked at how Hindi film heroines were moving away from the traditionally ` virtuous Sati Savitri image and becoming decidedly wicked in films ` such as Aitraaz, Murder and Fida. The story generated a buzz and I became a regular contributor. In November 2006, the paper sent V me to Pune to cover the shooting of Michael Winter bottom’s A Mighty Heart, based on Mariane Pearl’s book about the kidnapping and beheading of her husband, The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl. Angelina Jolie plays Mariane in the film. I spent forty—odd minutes interviewing her, which is perhaps the only time in my career that I’ve been seriously star—struck.

She towered over me--I’m five feet on a good day and almost I never wear heels—~but little about her suggested (superstar). She wore a shapeless grey tunic and track pants. There was little make-up on 4 her face and she was trussed up to look six months pregnant. Angelina » spoke passionately about the film, which her partner Brad Pitt’s company was co—producing (alas, he did not visit the location), and about why it was relevant. Her eldest son Maddox scampered around é the set. She continued to chat while eating lunch. When I asked if she I wanted to take a break, she said, {No, all mothers can multitask.

This kind of access to a Hollywood star is rare. In January 2007, I started scripting and hosting a weekly film review show called Picture This for NDTV. Since then, I’ve been on several Hollywood film junkets, in which we get three to Eve minutes, at maximum, with the talent. Even as we do the interview, a minder in the corner of the frame reminds us that we only have so many minutes left. Each journalist given face time is first vetted by the studio which is producing the Him. And there is an army of minders—personal publicists, managers, studio publicists—in between. Thankfully, Bollywood stars are more accessible. I’ve even done interviews via text message with Shah Rukh Khan. But with the explosion of media in India, the relationship between stars and journalists is becoming increasingly fraught. My very first foray into the world of Hindi cinema was working as a reporter for Movie magazine in 1989, before I went to the US for my journalism degree. I had just graduated from St Xavier’s College with a degree in English literature and had little idea of what I wanted to do next. One of my teachers, Munmun Ghosh, suggested Movie as a diversion while I figured out what to do with my life.

In those days, the journalist—star relationship was more casual and far less suspicious. There was very little professional distance between the subject and the reporter. There were only a handful of film journalists and everyone knew each other. Stars felt like our most attractive and powerful friends. I remember long sessions of tea and gossip at Dimple Kapadia’s house in Juhu; studio rounds during which the Movie magazine staff went from one shoot to the next at Film City or Filmistan, most of us giggling madly and barely doing any work, and photo shoots during which we spent more time hanging out with each other an actually taking pictures. Admittedly, it didn’t produce great journalism but it was great fun.

That camaraderie seems impossible now. For one, it would be highly unprofessional. And with the multiplication of media and journalists besotted with Bollywood, the relationship between stars and journalists has irrevocably altered. There are ten or perhaps fifteen stars who can sell magazines and hike up TRPs. Naturally; everybody wants a piece of them. Journalists struggle for access, which is controlled by publicists. When 200—odd journalists are vying for a sound byte from one star, the power equation becomes irreparably skewed. Though a full—blown paparazzi culture still hasn’t set in, we are treading on a slippery slope. In the future, I think there will broadly be two kinds of film journalism—puff pieces that are orchestrated by stars and their publicists (basically sugar—coated stories in exchange for access) and no-holds-barred tabloid journalism, largely fictitious stories gleaned from anonymous sources.

The upside is that we are no longer pariahs. When I first started working for Movie, my mother——herself a screenwriter—was embarrassed to tell her friends that her daughter, a gold medalist from Bombay University, had become a film journalist. We’ve come a long way. In 2008, I was invited to serve on the jury of Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival. I walked the famed red carpet at the Palais and posed for cameramen. It felt, in equal parts, unreal and inevitable. I felt a similar head rush when my third book, King of Bollywood; Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive Mr/d {Indian Cinema, made it to the Editors’ Choice list of the New York Time’s ‘Sunday Book Review’. On 14 October 2007, King Bollywood sat alongside Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost.

It’s been a long, fascinating journey. I couldn’t have come this far without the help of editors who believed in me enough to provide the platform: Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari, my editors at Movie— Dinesh employed me even though I giggled through the job interview and managed to get my long hair stuck in the back of the chair so when he asked me to leave, I couldn’t; Vir Sanghvi at Sunday; Aroon Purie, Inderjit Badhwar, Shekhar Gupta and Prabhu Chawla at India Today; Michael Cieply at the New York Timer; and Dr Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy at NDTV, who took a leap of faith and converted a print journalist into a television anchor. I thank them for their support and encouragement.

The pieces that follow are a snapshot of Bollywood’s evolution. They document the incredible changes in the Hindi film industry, which has moved, as an assistant director put it, from Bokadia to BlackBerry,. But one thing remains the same: the hold Hindi cinema has on its viewers. Bollywood isn’t just a style of film-making. It’s a culture and a religion. If anything, the passion has only amplified— industry estimates peg the annual global audience at over three billion. For me, Hindi cinema has always been a sort of melodramatic magic realism, a necessary comfort and a collective expression of hope. I love the colour and overblown emotions, the exuberance and fantasy, the unapologetic lack of cynicism and irony. In an article titled ‘Finding.

It at the Movies’, writer Louis Menand describes the type of film that American film critic Pauline Kael most admired: ‘They were genre pictures whose forms had been imaginatively opened up: pulp plus poetry.

Pulp plus poetry. I think that is a near-perfect description of Bollywood. Which is why, twenty years later, I am still seduced.

Content

Foreword ix
Introduction xv
Prologue: 1975
Is story mein emotion hai, Tragedy hai 3
Part I: 1993-1975
Into Production 19
Aankhen: Surprise Winner 29
Khalnayak: A Delectable Villain 31
Scriptwriters: Cool Copycats 34
The Madhuri Magic 38
The Bhatts: All in the Family 48
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa: Zany, Yes Silly, No 52
Audio Cassette Industry: Hitting the Right Notes 55
Costume Designing: Scene Stealers 60
Hindi Film Music: The Return of Melody 63
Naseeruddin Shah: A Man of Many Faces 67
The Modeling Business: Shaping Up 71
Star Earnings; It’s Rich Man’s World 82
Shah Rukh Khan: Darr-ingly Different 86
Goodby to Formula? 91
Cellular Phones: Upwardly Mobile 96
Film and Television Institute of India: Searching for Direction 100
Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin: Sparkling Thriller 106
Hindi Films: The Great Gamblers 108
Mrityudaata: Cosmic Comedown 113
Amitabh Bachchan: An Icon Tumbles 116
Border. Failure in Success 119
Independent Film-makers: Solo Success 121
Govinda: The Lovable Hero 125
Film Industry: Panic Sets In 132
Bollywood Wannabes: Fatal Attraction 136
Film Directors: Southern Invasion 141
Dil To Pagal Hai: Gossamer Dream 145
Bye-Bye-Bharat 147
The Great Govinda Hunt 151
Mithun Chakraborty: The B-grade Kind 153
Shah Rukh Khan – Lord of All He Surveys 156
Villains of a New Era 162
Aamir Khan: Mr Perfection 166
Satya: Nowhere Man 171
Sliced Succes 172
Two of a Kind 176
Neena Gupta: Breathless 180
Ajay and Kajol: Mr and Mrs Bollywood 183
Marana Simhasanam: Golden Windfall 188
The New Bollywood Brigade 191
Manoj Shyamalan: Night Has His Day 198
Columnists: Tattling Twitterati 201
Mother: Mother of All Flops 204
Overseas Territory: Golden Goose 206
Hum Saath – Saath Hain: More Family Values 210
Interlude
Come…fall in love 215
Part II: 2000-2010
IFFI: Cut to Yawns 237
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani: Out of Focus 241
Aishwarya Rai: Picture Perfect 243
Generation Next 247
Honey Irani: Sweet Taste of Success 254
Abhishek Bachchan: Missing Magic 258
Sassy Sirens 261
Karisma Kapoor: There’s Something about Karisma 265
Academy Awards: Waiting for the Oscars 265
Karan Johar: Cry Baby 271
Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham: Designer Saga274
Devdas: Bollywood Gamble 276
Temptress, Enchantress. Empress. Rekha 282
Ash: Global Goddess 287
Rani Mukherjee: Royal Reversal 293
Kareena Kapoor: Starry Heights 296
Saif Ali Khan: Hitting His Stride 299
Skin Is In 302
Lifting a Red Velvet Curtain 304
Dil Ne Jisse Apna Kaha: Heart Failure 309
From Item Girl to Stardom 310
Amitabh Bachchan Has a Cold 315
Tessri Aankh: Eye for an Eye 320
Umrao Jaan: Long and Limp 321
Battling Terror, with Paparazzi in Tow 322
Johnny Gaddar 328
Is That a Lama behind the Camera? 330
Jab We Met 334
Om Shanti Om 336
Intimate Strangers 337
Jimmy 341
Oye Luky! Lucky Oye! 343
Dev D 345
Agyaat 347
My Name Is Khan 349
Love sex Aur Dhokha 351
Raajneeti 353
Dabangg 355
Serial Endorsers 357
So Bad, They’re Good 359
Epilogue
King of Bollywood 363
Timeline of Notable Films 373

First Day First Show – Writings from the Bollywood Trenches

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2011
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First Day First Show – Writings from the Bollywood Trenches

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For more than a hundred years now, Indians have watched movies made in the subcontinent, sung the songs, and gossiped about the stars. Bollywood has been a passion, a popular tradition, and a shared national conversation. In recent decades, as India has experienced economic and social change, both the film industry and the entertainment it produces have transformed themselves as well.

First Day First Show is Anupama Chopra's guide to this dazzling world of lights, cameras, and stars, but also to its shadowing darkness. She takes us into the lives of the stars, and into the struggles of those who never make it to centre stage; she lets us participate in the making of legendary hits like Sholay and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and also the hard—won successes of independent film-makers; she shows us the glamour as well as the murky links with the underworld. There is also the odd story of the royal bodyguard of Bhutan who became a scriptwriter; of the embarrassed Pakistani soldiers at Wagah border who could not allow their favourite Indian superstars to shoot.

This book has all the ingredients of a Bollywood hit: there is friendship, love, despair, hope, heartbreak and triumph.

Anupama Chopra has lived in and written about the Mumbai film industry for the last twenty years. Her articles, written during a crucial phase in post-Independence India, bring Bollywood alive for the reader; they are not only a study of an industry but also a tribute to a nation’s obsession.

Foreword

Let me begin by saying that I believe I am the right person to write a foreword for this book because Anupama and I share a similar perspective on the film industry. She has written a book on me. But more importantly, I am an outsider who is on the inside now. Anupama also started as an outsider. I first met her in 1995, when she was a journalist with India Today magazine. She did a profile of me titled ‘Darr-ingly Different, in which she described me as arrogant, volatile and energetic! Anupama was a serious journalist, by which I mean that she wrote about Hindi films in a serious way. Her writing reflected research. She didn’t gloss over facts and figures. Over the years, Anupama became more involved with Bollywood. She married a film—maker—Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Like me, she was an outsider who became an insider.

When you make a film, if you are an insider, you’re usually the last person to know that your film is not right. But when you are an outsider, you have a little more objectivity. I think a part of my success is that I am naturally objective. I am not an insider. In many ways, Anupama is the same. Through her husband and sister Tanuja Chandra, she is a part of the film industry. But there is a genuine and natural objectivity in her work. There is a certain “non—filminess’ to it. She will neither gush because she loves movies nor will she insert a personal agenda into her work. I may or may not agree with her view but I know that it is honest. I like the simplicity of her writing. I like that it is never over—elaborate.

In the last two decades, the Hindi film industry has undergone tremendous change. There has been an upheaval. In fact change has been our only constant. I still recall my first brush with Bollywood. I had come to Mumbai with my mother and sister. At that point of time, we were looking for a groom for my sister. It so happened that around the time she was to come here to see a boy, I was being called here to do a film. I got to know later that the person my mom met had told her that she would have to pay money if I was to become a star. Of course that film didn’t happen. One of the many reasons was that I was told that when I will be introduced in the press, it would he said that I am someone uneducated from a backward area. It would be said that I was a guy who had come from the galis of Jama Masjid to become the hero of the masses. But I would have to dress up a little better than what I did. It was very strange that my education was to be toned down, while my dress sense was to be toned up. That’s how Bollywood was.

Back then, I also made the mistake of asking ‘What’s the story? I was told the film would star Amrish Puri and Sushma Seth. The director asked, ‘Do you still want to hear the story? I said, (Yes! The response was that Sushma Seth and Amrish Puri are in the film and that’s the story. This was my first experience with Bollywood. When I finally said yes to movies, that is the impression I came with. What is the reason I decided to be radically different. I decided that I wouldn’t play the hero, I would play the villain. I would be casual and unkempt as I was. I remember most of the producers and directors who met me were a little shocked that I looked the way I did and I realized that a lot of importance was given to an actor’s appearance but not to the film’s story. In fact films were made without a story. They were more of a proposal than a creative thought.

The working method was something like this: You met a producer who normally was not in the limelight. He would just come and hang around. Then there was a director and a lot of singing and dancing. There were three shifts a day. I have shot seventy—two hours without a wink of sleep. I have shot for Kaman Arjun; I have shot for Ob Darling! Yeh Hai India, and this was the accepted way of working.

The more films you did, the more your chances of being a star were. There weren’t any bound scripts. At that time, what you really looked forward to was a good narration. Whoever narrated the story would mostly be trying to tell you how you were going to be in the film. They never told you how the film was going to be.

As everybody used to have access to me those days, I got to hear some very funny stories, two of which have stayed with me. One was narrated by this young, bearded, arty type of director. He told me the story of a man who loves a woman but can’t marry her. It was a very Scarface kind of story, where I become a bad guy and the woman gets married to another man who is a cop. He is after me and then he shoots at me. I am hurt but along with my lover manage to escape in a train, which is going back to the village where we fell in love. I am dying and I need water but there is no water in the train. The woman, who is pregnant with that man’s child, takes out her breast and puts her milk in my mouth, which quenches my thirst. Thereafter somehow their relationship changes to that of a brother and sister. I die after all that and she goes back. I told the director, ‘You know this scene is a little odd} He got very angry and told me that my mind was cI1eap.A woman feeding a child is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. I said, ‘Of course. But I End it odd that she is feeding me at the age of twenty—eight or twenty—nine. It seemed a little sexual to me. He got mad at my interpretation.

Another man narrated a story to me called Bangri, which I think means bangle. I don’t remember the entire story but essentially I am an playboy who sleeps with one woman after another. One night I am driving back with my new lover from Khandala and we have an accident in which she dies. Though I like her a lot I get over her and marry someone else and then, whoever I marry dies. I get married about seven to eight times. Each time I marry, on the suhaag raat, a chudail comes. The chudail breaks my bride’s bangri and kills her but I don’t learn. I keep on marrying without being able to consummate my marriages. Finally I do and I get it over with the last heroine, and she forgives me and I live happily afterwards with that other woman I marry. The beauty was that the many marriages would be with top heroines. Like it would be a Madhuri, a Juhi or a Sridevi. So many heroines and Shah Rukh. These were serious projects. These directors really believed in these stories and I heard them out as well. Finally I started insisting on a script and film—makers just wrote twenty pages. A twenty page storyline was considered the script. When I asked some people to give it to me scene—wise, they gave it to me with the climax written as ‘claimax’. I had to ask, ‘What happens in the ‘claimax’?

In those early days doing Hindi films was like doing street theatre. You made it up as you went along. One tries and despite screw—ups on the sets, you make it work. I have this strange attitude and it is not with any kind of ego. So I really enjoyed it. It was fantastic. I was never frustrated. I never cancelled a shoot. Slowly over the years the change began. I don’t know if I led it, though I did become a part of it.

So much has changed as the years have gone by. Banks have come in. The retail section is more organized, whether it’s through multiplexes or single—screen theatres. It’s a brave new world. But sometimes I wonder if we have lost a certain madness, a certain rawness and passion. Because I know of people who would become bankrupt making a film and have had to sell their house. I remember Yash johar had put his house on the line for Duplicate. It would have been sold if Kuch Kuch Hota Hai hadn’t become a success. So there was this madness in all that chaos. Maybe that is why money also used to come from shady sources. Films were made on hope and destiny. There was a strange love in that.

The evolution of Bollywood had three phases. The first was when I joined the industry. It was unorganized, there were no stories, the monies were unorganized and shootings could happen or not happen. There were days when you would come on the sets and there were days when you wouldn’t come on the sets. Nobody would show up. I have also done it. We all did three shifts, so you would wake up somewhere and say, ‘Abhi late ho gaya.’ There were no mobiles, so there was no way to even track someone. It was the time of the old guard: the Chopras, the Ghais, the Mehras, the Manmohan Desais. These directors were actually a little more methodical. But by the time I came many of these names were waning. The younger people had come and I think the organization actually came because the younger guys became friends and started to like working for each other. In the second phase, stars started doing one film at a time. I was working with Aditya and Karan. We became what is now derogatorily called a clique. But I think that helped. The production started getting a little more ordered. The younger directors started working with fully written scripts. You knew what the scene was and what had been changed or rewritten.

The third phase started when the scriptwriters came in. Writing software like Final Draft came in. I was one of the first few to actually start using it. Everybody started writing: (Cut to’, ‘Scene no. so-and—so’. Consequently production became more planned. Today Bollywood has come so far that we aspire to make a Hindi film that works globally.

I have participated in this change without being an insider. So has Anupama. I believe this is part of the reason for our success because insiders find change difficult. They resist it. First Day First S/mw is an inside-outside, outside—inside overview of the Hindi film industry. It is also an overview of a writer’s journey.

This book is a portrait of the industry with all its contradictions and instability. When you finish the book, you will discover that the more things change, the more they remain the same. There are some beliefs that haven’t changed at all. So we are still a little antsy about being called Bollywood. There will be actors who say `I hate it’ even though we are quite proud that Bollywood is being recognized the world over. So what else would you like it to be called? ‘Indian film industry’, ‘Hindi film-making country’. But finally Bollywood hi hai.

We have to accept these truths. The acceptance of truth actually makes the truth vanish. When you accept that you have a big nose, you stop hiding it. What makes this book beautiful is that it is an acceptance of truths. Yaar, hum Bollywood hi rahenge. This truth permeates through the whole book. I have a lot of love for Hindi films and I think First Day First Show is like a Hindi film. You have to see it like that: with its own intervals, its own screenplay. In places it will contradict itself. It will go wrong. It will peak in places and go down in places. It will be warm in some places and funny in others. After you’ve read it, the feeling will be that it is an experience that you have not had before. It will be a ride. It will be a true representation of what a Hindi film is.

Introduction

James Cameron and Aamir Khan: on a hot Delhi day in March 2010, Hollywood’s biggest film-maker and Bollywood’s biggest star sat on a stage together. It was the last session of the annual India Today Conclave. Over the past two days, power players from the worlds of politics, finance, technology and literature had pontificated about the coming decade. But the grand finale was Cameron, whose Avatar had recently created box office history by making more than 2.8 billion dollars, in conversation with Aamir, whose Him 3 Idiots had recently become the highest grosser in the history of Indian cinema.

However, James and Aamir did not discuss their astounding box office grosses or formulas for success. Instead, they exchanged notes on the process of film-making; how ideas, even seemingly crazy ones that require developing a unique camera, as James did for Avatar, become a reality; how stories and not special effects are the heartbeat of movies. James talked about staying humble before the craft. Aamir discussed the emotional journey he embarks on with each film. The largely unstructured conversation was intimate and insightful. It felt as though James and Aamir had met for a drink and the audience had been given the privilege to eavesdrop. When Indio Today’s editor-in- chief, Aroon Purie, who was moderating the discussion, asked Aamir how different Bollywood was from Hollywood, Aamir said he didn’t know since he had never worked in Hollywood. In a flash, Cameron replied, ‘We can change that.

I joined Indio Today as a correspondent in June 1993. My first story for the magazine was about the runaway success of a David Dhawan comedy called Aon/2/yen, which starred Govinda, Chunky Pandey and a monkey named Bajrangi. This cacophonous film revolving around three sets of twins was the biggest hit of the year. Aankhen was an apt reflection of the Elm industry itself—colourful, chaotic and resolutely unsophisticated. lf someone had said to me then that one day the world’s most successful f1lm—maker would come to India to discuss cinema with a Bollywood star, I would have laughed and then I would have laughed some more.

Back then, ‘Bollywood’ was a bad word. I had returned to India a year earlier with a master’s degree from one of the top journalism schools in the United States, the Medill School at Northwestern University. After graduation, I had worked for eight months at Harper’s Bazaar magazine in New York. I then returned specifically because I wanted to write about Hindi cinema. My first job in India was as reporter at the now—defunct Sunday magazine. Around six months later, I got a call from India Today. The interview was conducted by Mr Purie at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. He looked at my resume and asked incredulously, ‘So you came back from America with a journalism degree to write about Bollywood?’ The idea baffled him but he gave me the job anyway.

Then, few journalists at India Today, or indeed at any other mainstream magazine or newspaper, wanted to write about Hindi films. Bollywood was decidedly infra dig and film journalism was the domain of fan—focused magazines such as Film fare and the more salacious Stardust, where the topic of discussion was always the star, rarely a film or the craft or the business of cinema. In fact, educated young people didn’t even admit to seeing Hindi ‘fillums, much less liking them. The Elms in the early 1990s were only marginally better than the gaudy masala dishcd out through the dark ages of the 1980s. And the industry itself was a kind of desi Wild West.

Bollywood, then, was a world in transition. The old school, with its rigid hierarchies and conservative mores, was gasping for breath but the new order hadn’t been born yet. The cliché of the oily producer in a safari suit clutching a suitcase full of cash was very much based in truth. Stars worked on multiple projects and rushed like headless chickens from one set to another; distributors gave creative inputs, demanding a sensuous rain song or a bloody fist fight during the climax; and directors were almost always men above forty-five. Naturally the films were equally fossilized. Javed Akhtar once dourly told me that most directors came to him asking for ‘an original script, which had been done before’. My favourite anecdote from the time involves a busy writer who inadvertently mixed up scenes for two different films that were being shot simultaneously. Bollywood lore has it that both crews shot the wrong scene before realizing that it was from another film.

In August 1993, I wrote an article called {Cool Copycats’ about how writers were cheerfully stealing scripts. The feature estimated that over 90 per cent of the films in production at the time were either unauthorized remakes of Hollywood blockbusters, Hong Kong films, older Hindi movies or ‘a khichdi of every thing. The copying was blatant. I recall being on the sets of Maliesh Bhatt’s Criminal in Hyderabad The director had a VHS player on the set so he could copy shots from the Harrison Pord—starrer Tim Fugitive, which Criminal was ‘inspired’ from. His frequent collaborator, writer Robin Bhatt told me, ‘My talent lies in knowing what to steal and weaving it in such a way so as to appeal to everyone.

‘Steal’ seemed to be the operative word in Bollywood. The business was essentially an overgrown cottage industry. Distributor Balakrishna G. Shroff called showbiz ‘andhere ka dhandha’, implying that just as a film was screened in the dark, its accounting was also best done in darkness. Contracts were rare, bound scripts were rarer, schedules were haphazard and cash was the preferred mode of payment. Some producers weren’t shady—they were downright dangerous. In January 1993, I wrote a story for Sunday magazine about mobsters moving into movies. “Into Production’ focused on a slew of unknown businessmen who had overnight become serious players in Bollywood. I remember interviewing Sudhakar Bokade at his home in Versova.

His young daughter played in the living room while I probed Bokade about accusations that he had forced Govinda to show up for a shoot by threatening him. The erstwhile cargo controller, who had risen to the industry’s top ranks with Saajan, was offended by my questions. At the time, Bokade was producing Dilip Kumar’s directorial debut, Kafinga. He asked, ‘VVii1 Dilip Kumar work with someone from the underwor.Id?” Intriguingly, Kalinga was never completed.

Samir Hingora and Hanif Kadawala, the bosses at Magnum Video, were even more vociferous in protesting their innocence. The two sat behind a mile-long desk in their plush Bandra office and denied having anything to do with the dreaded Don Dawood Ibrahim. Three months after l interviewed them, on 13 April 1993, they were arrested for involvement in the Mumbai bomb blasts. In February 2001, Hanif was shot dead in his office. In June 2007, Samir was sentenced to nine years' rigorous imprisonment for criminal conspiracy. But Hanif and Samir, whom l—during my interview—had envisioned as the Mumbai street version of the Thomson and Thompson twins from Tintin comics, weren’t the only ones consorting with Dawood. The Don was universally understood to be a powerful benefactor. A source told me that everyone who visited Dubai paid homage at his palatial house. There were stories of extravagant gifts and shopping sprees bankrolled by him. The industry’s attitude towards the mafia was shockingly cavalier. Mahesh Bhatt asked, ‘What is the problem if people are taking money from these people? Their money is not contaminated. It doesn’t matter as long as you make the film and repay them.

This illicit love affair came back to haunt Bollywood. On 12 August 1997, Gulshan Kumar, the ‘Audio King of India’, was gunned down in a suburban Mumbai lane as he returned from morning prayers at his favourite Shiv temple. The murder sent shock waves through the industry. In the studios, the panic was palpable. Leading actors and directors were given police protection. Others hired private security and, overnight, homes and offices were turned into fortresses with surveillance equipment. It was a depressing and bewildering time. I experienced the fear first—hand.

In June 1996, l married film—maker Vidhu Vinod Chopra. After p his film Mission Kashmir released in 2000, we received threatening phone calls and consequently security. An armed guard became our shadow. There was something surreal and darkly funny about all of ` this. One night, as we walked down a corridor in the Taj Mahal Hotel, a friend whispered: Don’t look now but a man with a gun is following your husband. At screenings, our guard sat with us, always on alert. I remember abandoning an Iranian film festival halfway because we I figured if we made him see one more depressing neo—realist Iranian movie, he would shoot us himself In those years of living dangerously, a bodyguard became a more popular accessory than a Louis Vuitton bag. At industry trial shows, the line of swanky cars was matched by the line of bodyguards. In January 2000, Rakesh Roshan was shot as be left his suburban office. The bullet grazed his arm and entered his chest but he miraculously survived the attack.

But even the mafia couldn’t contain the industry’s inevitable evolution. It began, as most things in Bollywood do, with the box office. First Sooraj Barjatya, then Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar rewrote box office grosses with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun .... !, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai respectively. These boys—each was under thirty when he made his blockbuster—forced a change of guard in Bollywood. Coming from leading film families, all three had grown up on both Hollywood and Hindi films. Aditya and Karan-especially Karan—were resolutely urbane and trendy. Assisted by the equally youthful Khan trinity—Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh—they reworked Hindi cinema into a new, contemporary avatar. In June 1999, l wrote an article called ‘The New Bollywood Brigade, which showcased the hottest talent in showbiz in all fields from direction to publicity design. In it, leading distributor Shyam Shroff categorically stated Bollywood’s new mantra: ‘It` you’re over Forty-five, you’re redundant.

Through the 1990s, there was a paradigm shift. New film—makers brought in new sensibilities. In 1997, the first multiplex opened in New Delhi. Slowly but inexorably, Bollywood went from crass to cool. The cultural landscape was saturated with Hindi cinema. Now the media couldn’t get enough of Bollywood—every leading paper produced a daily supplement that was, more often than not, brimming with stories about stars and new releases. Television, once perceived is a major threat to the movies, became an a1ly—television promoted films, and soon superstars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh khan were hosting their own shows. Even advertising couldn’t escape the all-encompassing hold of Bollywood: stars became, in the words of ad executives, ‘promiscuous brand endorsers', sometimes pushing as many as fifteen products simultaneously. Bollywood grosses ballooned and then the inevitable happened. Hollywood arrived, but-amazingly—to play on Bollywood’s terms. In November 2007, Sony Pictures Entertainment released the first Hindi Elm produced by a Hollywood studio, Saawariya.

Bollywood became a global story. I wrote about Hindi cinema for the trade paper Variety and for Las Angeles Timer. By July 2005, The New York Times—America’s pre—eminently respectable newspaper of record-was curious. I met Michael Cieply, then editor of the ‘Sunday Arts and Leisure’ section of the paper, at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He knew nothing about Bollywood but he was g intrigued enough to commission a story. The first feature I did for the ` paper was called ‘Bollywood’s Good Girls Learn to Be Bad’. It looked at how Hindi film heroines were moving away from the traditionally ` virtuous Sati Savitri image and becoming decidedly wicked in films ` such as Aitraaz, Murder and Fida. The story generated a buzz and I became a regular contributor. In November 2006, the paper sent V me to Pune to cover the shooting of Michael Winter bottom’s A Mighty Heart, based on Mariane Pearl’s book about the kidnapping and beheading of her husband, The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl. Angelina Jolie plays Mariane in the film. I spent forty—odd minutes interviewing her, which is perhaps the only time in my career that I’ve been seriously star—struck.

She towered over me--I’m five feet on a good day and almost I never wear heels—~but little about her suggested (superstar). She wore a shapeless grey tunic and track pants. There was little make-up on 4 her face and she was trussed up to look six months pregnant. Angelina » spoke passionately about the film, which her partner Brad Pitt’s company was co—producing (alas, he did not visit the location), and about why it was relevant. Her eldest son Maddox scampered around é the set. She continued to chat while eating lunch. When I asked if she I wanted to take a break, she said, {No, all mothers can multitask.

This kind of access to a Hollywood star is rare. In January 2007, I started scripting and hosting a weekly film review show called Picture This for NDTV. Since then, I’ve been on several Hollywood film junkets, in which we get three to Eve minutes, at maximum, with the talent. Even as we do the interview, a minder in the corner of the frame reminds us that we only have so many minutes left. Each journalist given face time is first vetted by the studio which is producing the Him. And there is an army of minders—personal publicists, managers, studio publicists—in between. Thankfully, Bollywood stars are more accessible. I’ve even done interviews via text message with Shah Rukh Khan. But with the explosion of media in India, the relationship between stars and journalists is becoming increasingly fraught. My very first foray into the world of Hindi cinema was working as a reporter for Movie magazine in 1989, before I went to the US for my journalism degree. I had just graduated from St Xavier’s College with a degree in English literature and had little idea of what I wanted to do next. One of my teachers, Munmun Ghosh, suggested Movie as a diversion while I figured out what to do with my life.

In those days, the journalist—star relationship was more casual and far less suspicious. There was very little professional distance between the subject and the reporter. There were only a handful of film journalists and everyone knew each other. Stars felt like our most attractive and powerful friends. I remember long sessions of tea and gossip at Dimple Kapadia’s house in Juhu; studio rounds during which the Movie magazine staff went from one shoot to the next at Film City or Filmistan, most of us giggling madly and barely doing any work, and photo shoots during which we spent more time hanging out with each other an actually taking pictures. Admittedly, it didn’t produce great journalism but it was great fun.

That camaraderie seems impossible now. For one, it would be highly unprofessional. And with the multiplication of media and journalists besotted with Bollywood, the relationship between stars and journalists has irrevocably altered. There are ten or perhaps fifteen stars who can sell magazines and hike up TRPs. Naturally; everybody wants a piece of them. Journalists struggle for access, which is controlled by publicists. When 200—odd journalists are vying for a sound byte from one star, the power equation becomes irreparably skewed. Though a full—blown paparazzi culture still hasn’t set in, we are treading on a slippery slope. In the future, I think there will broadly be two kinds of film journalism—puff pieces that are orchestrated by stars and their publicists (basically sugar—coated stories in exchange for access) and no-holds-barred tabloid journalism, largely fictitious stories gleaned from anonymous sources.

The upside is that we are no longer pariahs. When I first started working for Movie, my mother——herself a screenwriter—was embarrassed to tell her friends that her daughter, a gold medalist from Bombay University, had become a film journalist. We’ve come a long way. In 2008, I was invited to serve on the jury of Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival. I walked the famed red carpet at the Palais and posed for cameramen. It felt, in equal parts, unreal and inevitable. I felt a similar head rush when my third book, King of Bollywood; Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive Mr/d {Indian Cinema, made it to the Editors’ Choice list of the New York Time’s ‘Sunday Book Review’. On 14 October 2007, King Bollywood sat alongside Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost.

It’s been a long, fascinating journey. I couldn’t have come this far without the help of editors who believed in me enough to provide the platform: Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari, my editors at Movie— Dinesh employed me even though I giggled through the job interview and managed to get my long hair stuck in the back of the chair so when he asked me to leave, I couldn’t; Vir Sanghvi at Sunday; Aroon Purie, Inderjit Badhwar, Shekhar Gupta and Prabhu Chawla at India Today; Michael Cieply at the New York Timer; and Dr Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy at NDTV, who took a leap of faith and converted a print journalist into a television anchor. I thank them for their support and encouragement.

The pieces that follow are a snapshot of Bollywood’s evolution. They document the incredible changes in the Hindi film industry, which has moved, as an assistant director put it, from Bokadia to BlackBerry,. But one thing remains the same: the hold Hindi cinema has on its viewers. Bollywood isn’t just a style of film-making. It’s a culture and a religion. If anything, the passion has only amplified— industry estimates peg the annual global audience at over three billion. For me, Hindi cinema has always been a sort of melodramatic magic realism, a necessary comfort and a collective expression of hope. I love the colour and overblown emotions, the exuberance and fantasy, the unapologetic lack of cynicism and irony. In an article titled ‘Finding.

It at the Movies’, writer Louis Menand describes the type of film that American film critic Pauline Kael most admired: ‘They were genre pictures whose forms had been imaginatively opened up: pulp plus poetry.

Pulp plus poetry. I think that is a near-perfect description of Bollywood. Which is why, twenty years later, I am still seduced.

Content

Foreword ix
Introduction xv
Prologue: 1975
Is story mein emotion hai, Tragedy hai 3
Part I: 1993-1975
Into Production 19
Aankhen: Surprise Winner 29
Khalnayak: A Delectable Villain 31
Scriptwriters: Cool Copycats 34
The Madhuri Magic 38
The Bhatts: All in the Family 48
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa: Zany, Yes Silly, No 52
Audio Cassette Industry: Hitting the Right Notes 55
Costume Designing: Scene Stealers 60
Hindi Film Music: The Return of Melody 63
Naseeruddin Shah: A Man of Many Faces 67
The Modeling Business: Shaping Up 71
Star Earnings; It’s Rich Man’s World 82
Shah Rukh Khan: Darr-ingly Different 86
Goodby to Formula? 91
Cellular Phones: Upwardly Mobile 96
Film and Television Institute of India: Searching for Direction 100
Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin: Sparkling Thriller 106
Hindi Films: The Great Gamblers 108
Mrityudaata: Cosmic Comedown 113
Amitabh Bachchan: An Icon Tumbles 116
Border. Failure in Success 119
Independent Film-makers: Solo Success 121
Govinda: The Lovable Hero 125
Film Industry: Panic Sets In 132
Bollywood Wannabes: Fatal Attraction 136
Film Directors: Southern Invasion 141
Dil To Pagal Hai: Gossamer Dream 145
Bye-Bye-Bharat 147
The Great Govinda Hunt 151
Mithun Chakraborty: The B-grade Kind 153
Shah Rukh Khan – Lord of All He Surveys 156
Villains of a New Era 162
Aamir Khan: Mr Perfection 166
Satya: Nowhere Man 171
Sliced Succes 172
Two of a Kind 176
Neena Gupta: Breathless 180
Ajay and Kajol: Mr and Mrs Bollywood 183
Marana Simhasanam: Golden Windfall 188
The New Bollywood Brigade 191
Manoj Shyamalan: Night Has His Day 198
Columnists: Tattling Twitterati 201
Mother: Mother of All Flops 204
Overseas Territory: Golden Goose 206
Hum Saath – Saath Hain: More Family Values 210
Interlude
Come…fall in love 215
Part II: 2000-2010
IFFI: Cut to Yawns 237
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani: Out of Focus 241
Aishwarya Rai: Picture Perfect 243
Generation Next 247
Honey Irani: Sweet Taste of Success 254
Abhishek Bachchan: Missing Magic 258
Sassy Sirens 261
Karisma Kapoor: There’s Something about Karisma 265
Academy Awards: Waiting for the Oscars 265
Karan Johar: Cry Baby 271
Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham: Designer Saga274
Devdas: Bollywood Gamble 276
Temptress, Enchantress. Empress. Rekha 282
Ash: Global Goddess 287
Rani Mukherjee: Royal Reversal 293
Kareena Kapoor: Starry Heights 296
Saif Ali Khan: Hitting His Stride 299
Skin Is In 302
Lifting a Red Velvet Curtain 304
Dil Ne Jisse Apna Kaha: Heart Failure 309
From Item Girl to Stardom 310
Amitabh Bachchan Has a Cold 315
Tessri Aankh: Eye for an Eye 320
Umrao Jaan: Long and Limp 321
Battling Terror, with Paparazzi in Tow 322
Johnny Gaddar 328
Is That a Lama behind the Camera? 330
Jab We Met 334
Om Shanti Om 336
Intimate Strangers 337
Jimmy 341
Oye Luky! Lucky Oye! 343
Dev D 345
Agyaat 347
My Name Is Khan 349
Love sex Aur Dhokha 351
Raajneeti 353
Dabangg 355
Serial Endorsers 357
So Bad, They’re Good 359
Epilogue
King of Bollywood 363
Timeline of Notable Films 373
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