Bollywood Glamour

Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry

by Ben Felsenburg

You can learn a lot about a country by paying a visit to the cinema when you’re there. Take the trip to the pictures that presenter Anita Rani makes in Mumbai as she begins her two-part exploration of Bollywood: The World’s Biggest Film Industry (Monday 13 August, BBC2, 9pm). Everyone stands in respectful silence for the national anthem, but then the audience turns raucous for the ‘masala’ film – a spicy mix of action, romance, comedy and dance – before a reassuringly old-fashioned ending in which the hero triumphs over evil and, of course, gets the girl. It’s hard to say exactly what this all means about modern India, but it has certainly given rise to a fertile entertainment industry, where Bollywood (that’s Bombay spliced with Hollywood) turns out three times the number of films made in the US, and two billion cinema tickets are sold every year.

A lifelong fan of Indian movies, Rani is a gleeful presence, excitedly shouting ‘I love you!’ at an ageing male star as he arrives at a premiere. Then she tries out a turn in front of the cameras, showing her moves with winning style for an exuberant dance number.

Behind the scenes, Rani uncovers the ceaseless invention that goes into the sound effects, and drops in on the costume makers to find the producers have clearly got the right priorities when it comes to glamour – a leading lady’s dress can take up to six months to create. Behold what just might be Indian cinema’s golden age.



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