Sunday, March 14, 2010

Well I never! People watch Bollywood films in Britain!

Amazing! Fancy that! Nikki "My ex-husband was a Bond Villain" Bedi has helped introduce Radio 2 listeners to documentary Bollywood Britain, covering in 3 parts of 30 minutes each how People have watched Films-That-Are-Not-In-English, and - lordy - how Bollywood films are going to take over Britain. My! I never realised these existed! Glib doesn't even begin to explain it. Apparently, Bollywood films are all very cheeful (except when they are miserable and Serious) and all the people wear pretty costumes! And as Nikki "yes its True everyone! My ex-husband WAS a Bond Villain!" Bedi (to be honest, if Kabir Bedi is known for anything in the West its for playing Arab Sheikhs in episodes of Murder She Wrote in the 80's. Perhaps he prepared for this by attending the numerous parties held by gangster and Islamist go-between Daud Ibrahim alongside numerous other overpaid celebrities who then feign excessive patriotism by either siding with bigots like the Shiv Sena or making patronising comments about Indians' humility in the face of terror) pointed out, Bollywood films are a NEW alternative to the TYRANNY posed by Hollywood! Horray! Its like having the USSR to fight the dastardly Neocon Military Industrial Complex! Bollywood films must tell me EVERYTHING YOU ever NEED TO KNOW about THE ENTIRE SOUTH ASIAN SUBCONTINENT!

What you missed:
#token Britisher Simon Beaufouy making characteristically gormless comments like "I used to avoid these films when I watched at home in Yorkshire but actually all those pretty dresses and melodrama are actually just what India is all about! And don't they all look pretty!".

#Nikki "I know! Its amazing! My ex-husband was a Bond Villain! People always ALWAYS mention it and I ALWAYS confirm it EVERYTIME I AM ON THE RADIO" Bedi aswell as other know-nothing no marks Raj and Pablo painstakingly taking care to pronounce the names of Amitabh Bhachchan and Mumbai because they are OH So Desi.

# The aforementioned getting relentlessly namechecked, alongside endless (and increasingly unjustified) fawning over ageing ham Amitbh Bhachchan, with more relentless comparisons to him being like Al Pacino crossed with Elvis, and Michael Jackson, and simliar crosscultural twinning exercises to see Shah Rukh Khan likened to Jonny Depp, or someone else.

#Completely unquestioning promotion of the increasing influence of Bollywood. Its a radical alternative to Hollywood? What, you mean like Pepsi is the radical alternative to Coca Cola?

#Hilarious asides about how all the singing and dancing in Indian films has really high pitched voices for the women and all have happy endings. Alongside completely inaccruate accounts of how it was the Indian film industry that wanted to make more dark and complex films, against the demands of the mythical NRI target audience, rather than the other way round.

The thing is, there have been these 'Bollywood is coming' documentaries for at least 15 if not 20 years. Other than listing more recent films (Slumdog, inevitably) you never get any sort of knowing and intelligent information on the Indian film industry, and this extends to the crapness of the film reviews on Asian Network.

Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal is a dreadful cunt of a human being by all accounts, for instance, but at least he managed some nicely scathing articles and reviews of films for the Grauniad worthy of the sort of stuff that Neon magazine in its heyday.

Here's what they didn't get round to mentioning:
#The nexus between the few families that dominate Bollywood and politics. Most obviously demonstrated by the wierd stalker-like relationship between crackpot fascist Bal Thackeray from the Shiv Sena and ageing Ham Amitabh Bhachchan, and the complete silence of the movie fraternity, who find Shiv Sena thugs handy for keeping labour relations in check.

#The shift onto crap yoof culture most markedly since the millenium. Mostly these are just eye-rollingly bad and have been pw3ned before. What is puzzling though, is that nowadays films almost exclusively concentrate on the Indian Middle class (and you haven't cringed until you've seen an expensively educated son of a CEO trying to throw gangsta shapes and rap - in English - about being like, rilly pissed off yah?). The thing that endeared these films to wider audiences in the 50's was the sense that you had ordinary characters trying to make their way to a peaceful life against the relentless obstacles of poverty and society (Mother India, Boot Polish, Black Market, or the later cheap as chips films like Coolie).

#The fact that nowadays most films are full of patriotic guff about the sanctity of the extended Indian family. You would think that Bollywood Britain would have picked up on the rise of fatheaded family melodramas from Yash Chopra or starring the arch simperer Aishwarya Rai as having mirrored the rise of the BJP, culminating in the phrase 'India Shining', but no.

#Given they like gloating about the success of Bollywood in Africa, how come they still have the nerve to advertise skin lighteners?

Radio 2 are currently airing a 3 part documentary on ancient singer Al Bowley. You would think the Asian Network, if it was worth saving, would have managed, say, a 2 part documentary on the exquisite misery of Geeta Dutt, or the ethereal films of VN Shantaram, or maybe even something on RD Burman. No? Not part of the target 18-25 audience?

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