Hollywood Talent Soars Toward Bollywood While “Elite” Indian-Americans Remain Snobbish

We have many friends who love to say that they don’t watch Bollywood movies. These are typically people who came to America 20-30 years ago when coming to America was a big deal in India. Their immigration to America made them feel important when they returned to India to meet their families or for vacations.

These people love to tell others that they do not watch Bollywood films. As one of them said to us a couple of years ago “I admit, I am snobbish”. What was her standard for snobbishness? Watching a Renee Zellweger film rather than Bollywood films. It was difficult for us to suppress our derision. But the hosts were our friends and we politely ignored these comments.  

Most of these early Indian-Americans remained content with the careers they entered 20-30 years ago. At that time, their salaries were much higher than what their ex-colleagues made in India. Now they feel cheated. Today, they find that Indians in India make pots of money, often more than what these people make in America. In addition, they see that newer Indian immigrants work on Wall Street, Hedge Funds or Silicon Valley companies. These new immigrants have made much more money than the older immigrants and receive greater respect in American society. These new immigrants love Bollywood and Indian movies of their regions. They love their cricket as well as American football, basketball and baseball. 

We are not so worried about these old snobbish types. But we discovered recently that these older Indian-Americans  have passed on their snobbish attitudes to their next generation. We met a couple of young Indian-Americans, graduates of Ivy League schools, who kept turning their noses at Bollywood films. They also think that the Bollywood practice of including songs in each film is stupid. We simply could not make them see the light. They were absolutely unwilling to accept any possibility that they could be wrong. They laughed at our original theme for this Blog Are Bollywood interpretations better than their Hollywood originals?

We thought of these young graduates when we read the recent Bollywood Soars Toward Hollywood article in the New York Times. The article talks about the upcoming film “Kites” that stars superstar Hrithik Roshan and Mexican actress Barbara Mori as lovers on the run in New Mexico. See, we can already see these young graduates turn up their noses and curl their lips in contempt, another Bollywood film trying to shoot in America.

But here is where the story turns. The New York Times article describes how director Brett Ratner found echoes of his own smash hit “Rush Hour” in the unfinished version of “Kites”. Ratner felt that Kites had the potential to cross over to American audiences and he took a bold step. According to the New York Times article, Ratner “offered to re-edit “Kites” and make it more accessible for mainstream America.”  He “pared the 118-minute film to 90 minutes…and had the dialogue for all the characters, except the two leads, dubbed by American voices.”

The article reports that on May 21,  the original Hindi version and Mr. Ratner’s reworked English version of “Kites” will be released globally. 

Ross Katz, another proven Hollywood talent whose credits include the Oscar-nominated “Lost in Translation”, is co-producing “Road, Movie”, a whimsical tale of a traveling cinema in rural India. As Katz told the New York Times in a telephone interview, “ ‘Road, Movie’ is a celebration of the movies. There is an infectious quality in the film, which hopefully will translate to global audiences.” 

To Rasiks like us, the songs in a Bollywood film are the true soul of the film. We welcomed Will Smith as a Rasik when he said in July 2008 that “The songs and dances in Bollywood movies are just amazing,”.

Now, thanks to the New York Times, we find that Brett Ratner also digs Bollywood songs. What is Mr. Ratner’s next move? He says “I would love to make a movie in Bollywood….I would do American stars in an Indian musical. That’s my idea.”

Yet, the self-described “elite” Indian-American snobs keep their heads buried in the sand. Such losers, aren’t they?

Editor’s Note:

We have not seen “Road, Movie”, but its description reminds us of a classic Bollywood film named “Caravan”. This 1971 film was a thoroughly enjoyable tale about a music caravan that rolled from town to town in rural India. The songs of Caravan are smashing hits. We use the present tense because they remain huge favorites to this day. The “Piya Tu, Ab To Aa Ja” song of “Caravan” was one of the most popular songs of 1972. The “Monica, Oh My Darling” phrase in the song made the name Monica popular in India before a global leader made it world famous a quarter century later.

The iconic Helen is a bar dancer who is waiting for her lover to arrive. The clock strikes midnight and she is about to give up. Then she hears him calling out to her “Monica”. The song reflects her joy. Who else could sing this but the incomparable Asha Bhosle? This song has been remixed several times to faster and more contemporary beats, but the original still is the best. 

This song. like so many evergreen Bollywood songs, is completely incidental or even irrelevant to the film. But like other great songs, the film itself could be forgotten but the song remains immortal.

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