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Film Festival - Bombay Melody

At the ArcLight Cinemas, Hollywood

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
9:00 PM - 10:00 PM
ArcLight Cinemas
6360 W Sunset Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

The UCLA Film and Television Archive & Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles present "Bombay Melody," a festival of Bollywood cinema, April 14 - 18, 2004.

How much fun can a high-minded film series afford to be? Bombay Melody is designed to test the limits. It highlights a feature unique to Indian popular cinema: the ubiquitous use of lip-synched "playback" songs as a vehicle of storytelling. All of the films selected are traditional Bollywood music dramas—"melodramas" in the original sense of the term. They are engaging, lively, tuneful movies, which can be offered with confidence to an audience of firangi ("foreigners"), without excuses and without footnotes.

The term "Bollywood" was created by smooshing together the words "Bombay" and "Hollywood." It is the almost universal slang term for the commercial movie industry of India, which is closely associated with (though by no means confined to) the teeming Northern coastal city now known officially as Mumbai. The word is sometimes uttered with a sneer, but not by us: we brandish it as a badge of honor, with all of its vexed implications of glitz, gossip and star power.

It may seem odd that a series dubbed Bombay Melody includes a Tamil-language production made in Chennai (formerly Madras): Mani Rathnam's ALAIPAYUTHEY (Waves). But in truth the so-called Bollywood idiom is a pan-Indian narrative style, and it is often employed with even more verve and sophistication in India's other regional languages than it is in Mumbai's Hindi-Urdu.

Tamil cinema has for many years turned out some of the very best Indian film music. The recent career of A.R. Rahman, who composed the rapturous tunes for ALAIPAYUTHEY, is the best indication yet of the potential global reach of this music. In addition to the songs for Ashutosh Gowariker's Oscar-nominated LAGAAN (2001), Rahman's recent projects have included the Broadway-bound Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Bombay Dreams, the songs for a London stage adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings and the score for a Chinese period swordplay epic, He Ping's WARRIORS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

Changes in the basic Indian film song sound may occur with glacial slowness, but they do occur. One of the films being screened here, the superhit KAL HO NAA HO (Tomorrow May Not Be), has a beautiful, buoyant song-score by the trio of young composers known as Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. In just a couple of years, since their breakthrough work on DIL CHAHTA HAI (The Heart Desires), S-E-L have joined A.R. Rahman and Ismail Darbar (DEVDAS) at the leading edge of a new generation of filmi sangeet ("film song") composers.

The film and pop music industries in India have always been intricately inter-connected, and S-E-L's infectious title tune for KHNH perched comfortably at the top of the Indian pop charts for several months, until well into 2004. The trio has perhaps the widest musical range of any of the top Bollywood composers. They have introduced a variety of new "world music"-flavored sounds to the repertoire, but they can also turn out infectious dance hits, and they can revert convincingly to an older Hindu-devotional style, without a trace of retro self-consciousness.

There have always been a few people within the Indian industry who have professed to hate the tyranny of the film song. The naysayers seem to regard the music in Indian movies as an embarrassment, a vestige of the stagy past that must be jettisoned if the industry is ever to compete for legitimacy with the products of the tone-deaf West. We contend, on the contrary, that music as infectious as, say, A.R. Rahman's is a perfect vehicle for carrying the Bollywood message to the far corners of the globe.

-Curated by David Chute

Festival Program

Ticket prices for screenings are $11 general, and $9 for students, seniors and ArcLight members. Tickets can be purchased beginning March 23 at the ArcLight box office or online at

  • Saturday April 17 2004, 9:00 pm - Pre-"Bombay Melody" Bollywood treat co-presented by IFFLA and the Archive!
    (2004, India) Directed by Kamal Haasan
    ---One of the most powerful star performers in all of Indian cinema, actor-producer-director Kamal Haasan, is famous both for his habit of inflicting drastic physical transformations upon himself, and for pursuing daring and often violent reformist social themes in populist narrative formats. His latest home-production, in which he also stars, is a melodramatic crime drama with a passionate anti-death penalty message. The film harks back to the rural blood feuds and vendettas in one of Kamal’s best earlier productions, THEVAR MAGAN (Thevar's Son, 1992). Here he plays a blood-spattered village bully sentenced to death after a lethal encounter with a local power broker. Despite its serious themes the movies contains an astonishing 12 songs by long-time Tamil cinema favorite Ilayaraja, five of which feature lead vocal performances by Haasan himself. The man is nothing if not versatile!
    Producer: S. Chandra Hassan, Kamal Haasan. Screenplay: Kamal Haasan. Cinematographer: Keshav Prakash. Dialogues: Kamal Haasan. Art Director: Prabhakaran M. . Editor: Sudarshan . Animation: Kamal Haasan. Choreographer: Raghuram . Music Director: Ilayaraja . Cast: Napoleon , Nasser , Abhiraami , Pasupathy , Rohini . Presented in Tamil dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 175 min.
  • Sunday April 18 2004, 2:15 pm 
    (1960, India) Directed by K. Asif
    ---One of the most celebrated classics of the black-and-white "Golden Age" of Bollywood cinema, K. Asif's nine-year labor of love MUGHAL-E-AZAM is a lavishly mounted and rapturously romantic fable, set in the 16th-century imperial court of the Muslim emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor), a domineering ruler who objects strenuously when his only son, the dashing war hero Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar), falls in love with the slave girl Anarkali (Madhubala). The movie is celebrated for its visual scale and splendor, for the powerhouse performances of Kapoor and Kumar (who go head to head in several memorable scenes) and for the personal-best song score composed by Naushad (MOTHER INDIA), one of the most revered music directors in the history of Bombay cinema.
    Producer: K. Asif. Screenplay: K. Asif, Aman . Cinematographer: R.D. Mathur. Dialogues: K. Asif, Kamal Amrohi, Wajahat Mirza, Ehsan Rizvi. Music Director: Naushad . Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni. Cast: Dilip Kumar, Madhubala , Prithviraj Kapoor, Durga Khote, Johnny Walker. Presented in Urdu dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 198 min.  MUGHAL-E-AZAM screens on the closing day of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood.
  • Wednesday April 21 2004, 7:30 pm
    (2000, India) Directed by Mani Rathnam
    ---Writer-director Mani Rathnam is, among other things, contemporary Indian cinema's supreme visual stylist. It could be argued that his genius for the uniquely specialized Indian film craft of "song picturization" can be better appreciated here than in the more famous films of his so-called "terror trilogy," ROJA, BOMBAY and DIL SE. This modestly scaled, location-shot story is a deliberately low-key tale of a marriage in crisis that harks back to one of Rathnam's earliest breakout hits, MOUNA RAGAM (Silent Symphony, 1987), which was about the mutual adjustments required of a well-meaning husband and wife in an arranged marriage. Here it's an immensely likable and un-heroic young couple (Madhavan and Shalini) who conceal their impulsive marriage from their families; now the rift that develops when the secret is revealed threatens to undermine their relationship. The songs are some of composer A.R. Rahman's most seductive, and Rathnam's stagings are simply breathtaking: ebullient, lyrical and subtly erotic. (The film was re-made in Hindi in 2002 under the title SAATHIYA.)  Producer: G. Srinivasan. Screenplay: Mani Rathnam. Cinematographer: P.C. Sriram. Dialogues: Mani Rathnam, R. Selvaraj. Choreographer: Farah Khan. Music Director: A.R. Rahman. Lyrics: Vairamuthu . Cast: Madhavan , Shalini , Jayasudha , Aravind Swamy. Presented in Tamil dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 156 min.
  • Friday April 23 2004, 7:30 pm
    (2003, India) Directed by Nikhil Advani
    ---Naina (Preity Zinta) is a congenital grump, an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) whose troubled family set-up in suburban New Jersey includes a long-suffering widowed mother (Jaya Bachchan) and a venomously embittered paternal grandmother (Zohra Sehgal). Naina's mood is unexpectedly lightened by the appearance from abroad of Aman (Shah Rukh Khan), who has made a personal crusade of cajoling gloomy people into savoring life's all-too transitory pleasures. Complications arise when Naina begins to fall for Aman just as her best friend Rohit (Saif Ali Khan) is beginning to harbor some inconvenient tender feelings of his own. The expertise of writer-producer Karan Johar (KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI, KABHIE KUSHI KABHIE GHAM) in crafting entertainments in this glossy "Hindu Family Values" format is second to none, and Johar's script, coupled with charmingly explosive lead performances by three of the most personable stars in Hindi cinema, made KHNH one of the biggest Hindi-language hits of 2003, especially in the NRI communities in Europe and North America.  Producer: Yash Johar, Karan Johar. Screenplay: Karan Johar. Cinematographer: Anil Mehta. Dialogues: Niranjan Iyengar. Choreographer: Farah Khan. Music Director: Shankar- Ehsaan-Loy. Lyrics: Javed Akhtar. Cast: Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta. Presented in Hindi, Punjabi, Gujurati, and English dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 186 min.
  • Saturday April 24 2004, 7:30 pm
    (2003, India) Directed by Rajkumar Hirani
    ---Pure pleasure. Sanjay Dutt's impulsive and openhearted "Brother Munna" is a lovable lug of a Bombay gangster who has for years been running an elaborate scam to convince his village-bound parents that he has become a distinguished doctor in the big city. When his ruse is discovered, Munna attempts to make the lie come true by muscling his way into first-year classes at the local medical college. Needless to say, chaos ensues. This roguish and oddly uplifting hit comedy is one of the best-crafted Bollywood entertainments of recent years, from its expertly structured script to the pinpoint comic timing of brooding action hero Dutt in the title role. The star appears here for the first time with his living-legend father, Sunil Dutt (MOTHER INDIA), who heads a superb supporting cast of droll comedians.  Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Screenplay: Rajkumar Hirani, Lajan Joseph, Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Cinematographer: Binod Pradhan. Dialogues: Abbas Tyrewala. Music Director: Anu Malik. Lyrics: Rahat Indori, Abbas Tyrewala. Cast: Sunil Dutt, Sanjay Dutt, Gracy Singh, Arshad Warsi. Presented in Hindi dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 156 min.
  • Sunday April 25 2004, 7:00 pm
    (1999, India) Directed by John Matthew Matthan
    ---As an indication of how accommodating the Bollywood musical-melodrama format can be when it is used cleverly, here's a hot-wired police-procedural suspense picture that honors all of the central masala film conventions. It helps that John Matthew Matthan's tightly crafted debut was the first film made after the Indian government lifted a gag order forbidding by-name depictions of the ISI, Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency and its sponsorship of "cross-border" terrorism. Matthan is meticulous in detailing the nuts and bolts of both intricate criminal networks and of dogged police methods, and his characters live in surroundings that are visibly appropriate to their station in life, not in Bollywood's standard castles of fantasy. Matthan's concern with plausibility is well served by superstar Aamir Khan (LAGAAN), who brings an impressive, grounded ferocity to the central role of a police detective on a personal anti-terrorist crusade. The movie also explores with unusual subtlety the conflicted feelings of some Muslim citizens of India, from a dedicated Mumbai police officer (Mukesh Rishi), who resents the unjust suspicions of his colleagues, to a rich and famous Pakistan-born ghazal singer, played by MONSOON WEDDING's Naseeruddin Shah, who expounds on the common roots of the Hindi and Urdu musical traditions.  Producer: John Matthew Matthan, Manmohan Shetty. Screenplay: John Matthew Matthan. Cinematographer: Vikas Sivaraman. Dialogues: Hriday Lani, Pathik Vats. Choreographer: Farah Khan, Amed Khan, Raju Khan. Music Director: Jatin-Lalit . Lyrics: Israr Ansari, Nida Fazli, Indivar , Sameer . Cast: Amir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Sonali Bendre, Mukesh Rishi. Presented in Hindi and Urdu dialogue with English subtitles. 35mm, 155 min.

Part of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, April 14-18 at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood, featuring 25 features, shorts and documentaries from and about India by Indian and international filmmakers. For further program information, call 310-364-4403, or visit IFFLA's website at

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Cost : $11 general, and $9 for students, seniors and ArcLight members

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles310-364-4403

Sponsor(s): , UCLA Film and Television Archive & Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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