Friday, December 3, 2010

Bombay Talkie

Merchant Ivory, 1970, 97m, English/Hindi, script by Ruth Prawer Jhabwala

This is a Bollywood movie in the Hollywood mold or vice versa if you prefer. It belongs to the sparsely populated genre of Anglo-Indian films, films in which Indians speak in English, in this case with a liberal mixture of Hindi.

It is a four cornered romance set in the ambiance of the Indian film industry and with an entirely Indian cast including Jennifer, Shashi Kapoor'e Indian born English wife. It is a spoof about the Indian film industry and the life of it's matinée idols. The flavor is authentically Indian and the inanities generally found in Western movies about India are entirely missing, presumably thanks to the presence of Ismail Merchant. It is a reasonably good movie, a spoof which might as well have been made by an Indian.

There is a scene in which Lucia, the American novelist, and her paramour the film-star Vikram, ride through the streets of Mumbai on a carriage, both sozzled as they celebrate the birthday of Lucia. They are buried in a pile of balloons which bob up and down as the carriage moves. This is an image which well symbolizes this light, foamy, air bag of a romance, signifying little in its blare and flurry. It's unusual genaeology is justification enough to see it, at least for us Indians, starved for even passable movies about our own surroundings.

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