Tuesday, 18 May 2010


My own experience of a Bollywood film came as a result of a trip to India and a visit to the local cinema in Jaipur, one evening. Treated to a fantastical spectacle in a cinema decorated with incredible opulence, I enjoyed a film, which was totally contradictory to the harsh realities of life in India.

Named after a combination of the name of the city Bombay (now known as Mumbai) and Hollywood, this is the Hindi film industry. Featuring a cast of thousands these musical glitz and glamour productions, often with a ‘boy meets girl’, storyline are perfect in their use of opulence and total escapism.

Starting with the first screening in 1899, Bollywood as an industry has grown to such an extent that it makes up to 800 films per year, with 14 million Indian people visiting the cinema every day in India alone. The same popular actors are featured in most of the films, which results in an actor/actress often being busy filming for more than one film at a time.

Seemingly, Bollywood’s appeal is on the increase as this has led to big US film companies, such as Warner Bros and Twentieth Century Fox setting up offices in India with obviously an idea for future collaboration.

With an Oscar nomination for ‘Lagaan’, in 2002 Bollywood films have been gathering momentum and have managed to cross over to the extent that they are now not just viewed by Indian families alone, but are also being shown in cinemas throughout the United Kingdom. Here, in Groningen at the Noorderzon Festival, a performing arts festival (and shortly to be seen at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival), the ‘Bollywood Mysterie’ was to be seen. A musical and visual feast of Indian music and film as portrayed by Gerry Arling with support from The Mondriaan Quartet, traditional Indian musicians and the spiritual music of the Californian composer, Terry Riley.

It is so far that if one also feels inclined it is possible to take Bollywood dancing lessons.

First published in Connection #17 Autumn 2007

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