Adventures in Reading

Revisted Reviews: Bollywood: A History
July 8, 2008, 9:22 am
Filed under: book reviews, nonfiction | Tags: , , , , ,

My Bollywood viewing rampage teased my literary senses into finding a book about Bollywood and while at work I stumbled across Bose’s A History. Though I’ve only seen a handful of Bollywood films, I’ve struggled to accurately describe what I’m seeing as there really are few (if any) direct comparisons to Western films (and personally I find comparing Bollywood to simply musicals something of a disservice). Even the language of Western films seem to completely fail at describing exactly what Bollywood is at times. Bose starts the book at the beginning: film has just been invented and initially displayed in Paris it travels quite quickly to India.

However, Indian culture (still in the empire at this period) had to cultivate movies in a rather different way than Western (i.e. the U.S. film industry) films and these roots of the industry give Bollywood the flavor it has today. Some specific cultural nuances: going from an arm of the British Empire to an independent state, the massive amounts of cultures that reside, the Hindu and Muslim conflicts, somewhat strict and traditional sex/gender dichotomies, the language barriers of one country, etc.

An amazing read that I enjoyed but unless you’re really into Bollywood or learning about Bollywood it’s probably not for you (it’s also a bit long winded in places and suffers from some sloppy editing). What I appreciated most about the novel, in addition to the development of Indian film, was (through necessity) the narrative development of the history of modern India.

I don’t know exactly what it is about Bollywood films that I love so. Only a few weeks ago I watched Lagaan for the first time and I cannot recall the last time I sat on the edge of my seat for a film (and this one was about three hours long!) before this. The language of film, a fascinating discussion, varies from country to country and I am enamored with how various film cultures address different technical story issues.

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