Bollywood tackles modern India, without a song and dance

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From Islamic extremism to the life of call center workers, Bollywood is branching out from its traditional song and dance based genre to tackle contemporary issues that reflect the modern India.

The concept has been taking hold steadily since the success of Khosla Ka Ghosla (Khosla s Nest Egg) in 2006, about a middle class elderly man and his struggle to fulfill his dream of retirement to a new home in the countryside.

Four films this year – Black and White, Aamir, Mumbai Meri Jaan (Mumbai My Life) and A Wednesday – have focused on extremism, including the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings that killed more than 180 people.

Now the lives of India s call centre workers are to come under the spotlight with the release on Oct. 10 of Hello, based on Indian author Chetan Bhagat s best-selling novel One Night @ The Call Center.

Director Atul Agnihotri said it was a logical step to adapt the book for the big screen.

It is very topical. In India you have so many youngsters who work at night.

Our film, too, has been shot at night and many of them will be able to relate to this subject, he said.

Chetan Bhagat s book is also one of India s best-sellers and many people liked it. So, I thought, why not make a film on this subject?

Bhagat s debut novel from 2004, Five Point Someone, about three students struggling to cope at an elite engineering institute, is also getting the Bollywood treatment and is in production under the title Three Idiots.

The acclaimed producer and director of Black and White, Subhash Ghai, said every filmmaker wanted to make serious and meaningful cinema and cinema-goers were now more receptive to real-life scenarios.

Audiences are accepting contemporary themes in our films which was not the case five years ago, he said.

Black and White, for example, tells the story of a young jihadi who comes to India with the intention of blowing himself up at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, as the prime minister gives his annual Independence Day address.

Ghai said he wanted to explore the motivations and aspirations of extremists, and convey an uncompromising message, after seeing bomb attacks across India.

I have put in my film that there is no dialogue between a civil society and terrorists. We need to educate them. Therefore I named my film Black and White because life has other shades of color too, he added.

A number of Bollywood s big production companies have recently set up spin-offs to make smaller budget films that treat contemporary themes.

They include Ghai s Mukta Searchlight, Percept Picture Company s Cause Cinema and UTV s UTV Spotboy, which has three real-life films in the pipeline, including one true story about a talented runner turned gangster.

The head of the UTV Spotboy project, Vikas Behl, said: Our motto is clear in filmmaking and that is to surprise the audience and make them happy with our films. We believe the script is king.

Behl was behind Aamir – a thriller about a medical doctor targeted by Islamic extremists who want him to set off a bomb in Mumbai – and Welcome to Sajjanpur, a satire on rural Indian life. Both did well at the box office.

He was unapologetic about his aims and those of his contemporaries.

If audiences are looking for the same Bollywood songs and dances then sorry, we are not for them as others can provide them with that subject. We are here to do films that are based on good scripts that we believe in, he said. -AFP

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