A Bolly Good Show; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), September 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Bolly Good Show; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION

Have any Bollywood stars gone on to have successful careers in Hollywood?

BOLLYWOOD is the generic name for the Indian film industry, taking its mantle from the colonial name for Mumbai (Bombay).

It is, in fact, only part of a greater Indian film industry, and it is often, incorrectly, used to refer to the whole of the country's films.

The term has only been in existence since the Seventies and is an offshoot from the earlier Tollywood film industry of Bengal which was coined by the Kolkota (Calcutta) based youth magazine Junior Statesmen in 1932.

Bollywood, then is not a place in the same way as Hollywood but a collective name, spawned when the Indian film industry overtook its Western counterpart as the biggest in the world in the Seventies.

The West's attitude to Asian actors has traditionally been to set them in period films and so David Lean trawled Bollywood for authentic actors to play alongside Westerners for the film version of EM Forster's classic A Passage To India in 1984.

Fans of the film will remember a particularly memorable portrayal by Victor Banerjee of Dr Aziz Ahmed.

Similarly, the Oscar-winning Ghandi once again shone the spotlight on the mystical world of India.

And though the main character was played by an Englishman of Indian extraction, Ben Kingsley, the figure of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was taken by Rosan Seth.

Seth, to his credit, while instantly recognisable as the Indian leader, burst out of that stereotype to perform in the 1994 action flick Street Fighter.

But while Western audiences are most familiar with these epics, film buffs will recall the pioneering work of Persis Khambatta in the late Seventies.

Persis showed her versatility and demonstrated that Indians had a greater range than mere period drama actors when she took on the role of the bald-headed Deltan navigator Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.

Persis had first appeared on the small screen back home in India in commercials before branching out into beauty pageants, winning Miss India in 1979 and going on to Miss Universe.

Her Hindi film debut came in director KA Abbas's Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein in 1967 where she played the part of a cabaret singer, Lily, who croons the film's title track.

At the height of her film success with Star Trek, Persis was seriously injured in a car crash in Germany the following year.

Although she survived and became a totemic figure for the Indian film industry, bad health plagued her and she died, aged only 49 in 1998.

These days India is much more in vogue with Slumdog Millionaire making a huge star of Freida Pinto, who has broken out of the Indian setting to also star in the Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes as a primatologist.

Similarly, a rich and varied career surely awaits Suraj Sharma following his outstanding performance as the shipwrecked youngster who shares a boat with a tiger in Ang Lee's Life Of Pi.

None of the current crop of Indian actors and actresses would surely have been able to make this breakthrough without a brave actress who boldly went where no Indian had gone before in Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.

Peter Duffy, Cork.

QUESTION

I was in a Glasgow pub when Dignity by Deacon Blue was played on the juke box. Everyone stopped talking and began singing along. Are there any other songs that have a similar effect elsewhere?

A SIMILAR phenomenon might be observed in pubs in Edinburgh when Sunshine On Leith by The Proclaimers is played.

Peter Mackie, Edinburgh. IN 2000, my husband and I went to Dublin for the weekend and went to a pub in Temple Bar. Music was playing on CD rather than a jukebox, and one of the tracks caused the same thing to happen.

We asked the barman what was playing and he told us it was Made In Dublin by Aslan (neither of which we had heard of). …

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